Facilitating Student-Centered Learning or Violation of Equality? Student Attitudes about Online Sociology Lessons at the University of Colombo During the Pandemic
This study explores student attitudes on online teaching that took place during 2020 in three sociology courses at the University of Colombo. A sample of 44 students who volunteered to write an essay about their online-learning experience was chosen for study from among the First, Third and Fourth/Final Year students. These essays were. analysed thematically to see the students’ level of engagement, enjoyment and challenges faced. In general, a positive attitude was identified among students regarding online learning. The positive attitude emerged mainly from a sense of enjoyment that has been lacking in the traditional classroom. The e-library containing materials in Sinhala and Tamil was appreciated as it helped students overcome the barrier of not having access to the physical library. Students also expressed some negative attitudes and they were mostly related to challenges encountered. These challenges which included lack of internet access, affordability and lack of IT knowledge clearly violated the equity principle rooted in the country’s free education policy. In the absence of these facilities, educational loss has been inevitable for some. The study proposes the need to improve infrastructure and students’ IT skills in order to secure maximum benefits of the online programme and to sustain equality among different socio-economic groups in society. The need for developing a unique style of online teaching that takes into account the medium of instruction, students’ IT knowledge and disability status while promoting asynchronous activities is noted. Financial assistance to students for overcoming affordability issues is also recommended.