Are online extracurricular programmes effective?

Are online extracurricular programmes effective?

A teacher takes an online class for school students. PTI Photo

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, schools across the country made unprecedented efforts to quickly move on to virtual interactive learning platforms in order to reach out to students and provide them continuous learning opportunities. Due to the absence of the physical and fun filled school and social life, children have been affected. Understanding the importance of the extra and co-curricular activities to provide a wholesome learning experience, schools proactively designed and integrated diverse virtual activities to make teaching and learning meaningful, interesting and engaging for the students. Although the physical school atmosphere cannot be replaced by the virtual platform, some of the outcomes achieved through the initiatives taken by the schools have been beneficial, providing much required solace to the students from the digital strain.   

Considering the tremendous impact of virtual learning, schools are creatively looking at various ways to reduce the stress level and motivate students by hosting various events for them. The provision of student engagement activities go beyond the conventional opportunities and now include mindfulness and wellness workshops which have been helpful in boosting confidence and enhancing communication skills. Through these activities, students were encouraged to become reflective, aware, mindful and empathetic to those around.  These activities aptly offered the required break for children from their regular lessons.

Yet another aspect that came to the fore during these times was skill development and discovery of new hobbies by the students. Virtual learning enabled students to take ownership of their learning and therefore a lot of life skills were developed in the process. In addition, the personality development activities and workshops coupled with vocational courses enabled students to get hands-on learning experience along with their academic progress. Also online competitions and cultural activities and peer learning opportunities encouraged children to discover their innate talent and showcase them on screen, providing them space to express their talents in a non judgmental atmosphere.   

Online activities are just as helpful to students to relieve their stress and also to provide an expression to their hidden or undiscovered talents to the fore as stated earlier. In the given scenario, virtual interactive activity has helped students to certain extend but because we are created to be social beings, the lack of social dynamics definitely shows in their longing to be physically present in the school settings. Simple things such as eating together or playing together or working together in a group with a given time frame during the subject period has a unique place in their schooling experience and therefore some experiences cannot be replaced. Holistic development through extra-curricular, one-on-one communication, experiential learning and activities with teachers as mentors will continue to remain an extremely integral part of a child's education. There is anticipation in focusing on skill development from the foundational and primary years with arts and sports integration in order to enable our students to become more relevant for their future careers.

(The author is MD of an international group of institutions)