How is the “Real” Reading Compromised in Online Learning?


Is everything fine with your ‘new’ reading routine? No. Don’t worry. Read up.

With the onset of the you-know-which pandemic, literally everything went online. You really don’t seem to have any problem relaxing in your comfy PJs, working, and having a warm mug of coffee in your hands. But a time comes when you doubt the new reality and face an existential crisis i.e. “what’s the purpose of my life? Am I being productive enough?” etc. Ouch! Maybe that’s enough for you, as readers and human beings, to evaluate the repercussions of staying at home and learning more online. One problem, and presently the purpose of my article, is lagging in learning qualitatively rather than quantitatively. I don’t intend to minimize the effort put in by learners and teachers in online courses but remember the plea of the curious souls that “real” reading and learning is on the downhill ever since the online classes began with no face-to-face interaction of students and course instructors. Haven’t all of us heard students saying: “We don’t feel like studying anymore”, “Study used to be better in previous on-campus days”. Regarding this,

Have you ever wondered how many times we skim pages of an e-book, or a website instead of actually taking out time to read that material thoroughly?

Look at the example of a surface level reader given by Robert Fisk in his article “Journalism and ‘the words of power’” [1]:

“…I was on a plane the other day, from Paris to Beirut — the flying time is about three hours and 45 minutes — and the woman next to me was reading a French book about the history of the Second World War. And she was turning the page every few seconds. She had finished the book before we reached Beirut! And I suddenly realized she wasn’t reading the book — she was surfing the pages! She had lost the ability to what I call ‘deep read’. Is this one of our problems (as journalists), I wonder, that we no longer ‘deep read’? We merely use the first words that come to hand.”[my emphasis added]

What is the major factor involved in decreased learning output these days? It’s an overdependence on Google and Internet services rather than utilizing our time to read through a paperback/hard-copy. We are accustomed to do less effort ourselves and getting assisted by Artificial Intelligence while learning and trying new things. People usually advocate that the software has set goals and can achieve them without getting tired. (Un)fortunately, the humans of the digital era have enough sense of pride and learning with them to let the software overtake them in all matters requiring human effort. Students nowadays seem to be too busy to read a full-length novel and prefer to scan hundreds of pages for the sake of finishing the book before a deadline or simply to get good grades. For instance, many literature students take the shortcut and lift the material from multiple websites to create plagiarized work after all. Imagine putting in one’s effort and unique mental skills to harvest much more than mere passive learning, as there will be fewer people to compete with for generating original work. All you need to do is to sit down, read the book as many times as you can, and then shape your views. Stephen King, the well-known American author who has written over 60 books, shared in an interview that the secret to learning and self-recognition is “to read more and write more, as much as you can, especially so in the Covid times.” [2]

The shift from hard-copy books to reading online or in pdf format is the second contributing factor towards the diminishing love of books and reading. There’s no second opinion about the fact that the touch and smell of a book boost the emotional connection with it and stimulates us to read more. You can read whenever you want to and at your own pace. Those reading stuff on-screen complain of eyestrain, shorter concentration spans, and an inability to pursue reading lengthy books. If we survey the trendy and user-friendly reading websites, we can find that the quality of the stories and books available suffers largely. The pages are flooded with popular stories, which are deemed by many literary scholars to mislead millions of young people by telling low-quality love stories. To actually get your hands on a critically acclaimed book, buy it online or go to your favorite bookstore. Well, very few people take the pains to get a paperback in their hands.

Reviewing the present situation, I can confidently say that whether it is online studies or pleasure reading, there is an ever-increasing need to consult books and to read more preferably in hard form. Because when the book is in your hands, you can highlight, take notes and spend some quality time with your favorite book. There’s a reason that Rowling presented Hermione as a book lover in the famous Harry Potter series. Why only she can decipher and decode the mysteries of the magical world of Hogwarts while using her ‘bookish’ knowledge and intelligence.

 

References:

[1](Journalism and ‘the words of power’)

[2] Stephen King: Are you afraid of the dark?


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