ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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​The Architecture of Online Classrooms

The online classroom, with its emphasis on intangible concepts and symbols, opens up unseen relationships between time, knowledge, culture, and society in determining a student’s identity.

Accepting the compromise of online classrooms, webinars and virtual meets—an increase seen over the past year—as the reality of the foreseeable future, various digital platforms have simulated the physical classroom in such a way that both teacher and student can perform almost all the activities that they would otherwise carry out in a physical space. Teachers have been used to physical teaching–learning spaces like universities and classrooms since the beginning of civilisation. Despite the proliferation of the internet in the late 1990s, the online classroom has, at best, been tolerated—always subordinate to the real classroom experience. Our obsession with and preference for the physical space is so deep that it has elbowed out all possibilities of even envisioning alternate learning spaces. Luckily, the current global crisis gives us an opportunity to rethink and redefine the fundamentals of what may be considered a learning space, and conduct a rigorous inquiry into the forms of space that can offer themselves as alternatives.

In his seminal work The Production of Space (1974), Henri Lefebvre presents three types of space: perceived space, conceived space, and lived space, together called the spatial triad. These are that which is seen (real space, as seen, generated and used by us), that which is thought (ideas, concepts, abstractions—the space of planners and thinkers), and that which is felt (space that is experienced, lived as a result of social relations). So far, we have been largely preoccupied with considering only perceived space as the space for learning, giving it the form of classrooms, libraries, common rooms and playgrounds. Lefebvre’s contention is that perceived or visible spaces facilitate the performance of routine activities and ensure a minimum level of competence. These spaces are structured and laid out in such a way that they connect places of work to spaces of leisure and residence. They are a reflection of the contemporary economic and social order, even if it is not easily visible. Perceived spaces surround us all the time and in the process occupy all our senses, becoming so overwhelming that they prevent the conceptualisation and consequent formation of alternate spaces of learning.

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Updated On : 3rd Apr, 2021

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