As the world adjusted to the reality of Covid-19, virtual learning became the norm, especially in institutions of higher learning. My son’s enrollment in university coincided with the pandemic.
Everything, including his enrollment, has been online. He’s been holed up in his room, coming out occasionally for ‘fresh air’ and food.
The second semester is ending and, with only 10 per cent face-to-face study time, I wonder how the young man will turn out after his online degree programme. Virtual learning denies students the non-curricular aspects of human development, only achievable through physical interaction.
College years are the most transformational for the youth. It is a critical phase in their mental, intellectual and social development. Sharing a lecture hall, working in groups, playing together and living in hostels exposes them to practical experiences and real-life situations that cannot be replicated anywhere else. It is in an interactive environment that gifted youth discover unique talents and skills.
These social dynamics are non-existent in virtual learning. Interpersonal skills, creative spirit and competitive sports blossom and thrive during social engagement. College years is when valuable lessons are learnt first-hand and the exuberance of youth manifested fully. These are the opportunities our young people are missing out on in online classes.
I am also worried because we live in a world that increasingly needs people skills. Manpower experts emphasise the importance of soft skills in all fields of professional calling. Engineers, doctors and corporate executives must have the skills to inspire their teams to get the best out of them. And they cannot fully hone such skills in the current set-up.
The deficiencies of virtual studies will eventually manifest in the world of work, when the first crop of learners with limited or no social skills hits the market. We might end up with educated zombies who cannot communicate or manage people in a work situation. This should bother any old-school parent who went through the traditional college education.