At present ‘Modern Times’ is not evocative of the 1936 film by Charlie Chaplin. But it echoes the vulnerability of industrialization and technology. As of now, the ‘modern times’ is of a pandemic, a disaster. It destroys society and wipes out the population. In the history of human civilization, the repeated appearance of pandemics devastated the technopolis. Apart from very ancient history and documentations in religious literature, the Athenian plague (430 − 426 B.C.), the Antonine plague or ‘Plague of Galen’ (16–180 AD), the first pandemic plague, i.e., Justinian Plague (541–600 AD), the bubonic plague (1334–1400 AD) killed between 70–95% of the patients till antibiotics reduced this rate to 11%. Interestingly, the origin of the last true pandemic (Spanish flu, 1918-’20) too is still unknown. Like Covid-19, the Spanish flu had long-lasting effects like more physical disability, reduced mental activity etc. [1.].
The present SARS-CoV-2 is the seventh member of the family of Coronavirus that infects humans [2.] not only through direct, indirect or close contact but also through aerosol transmission [3–5]. This SARS-CoV-2, being an RNA virus can make small changes within through rapid mutations and a research paper from 2020 suggested that the virus might be mutating in a more transmissible form. In the later part of 2020, new variants of SARS-CoV-2 were found in the UK and South Africa with the capability to spread more rapidly than others [6.]. So, from its first new appearance as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Lambda, Mu, Delta, Delta + and now Omicron variants have been evolved [7.] through mutations with more transmissibility, different features and variable intensities.
The homoeopathic mode of treatment, one major and popular system of medicine [8.], explains logically that certain acute infectious diseases always recur invariably in the same manner (i.e., Fixed miasm which may attack once in a lifetime or frequently) [9.]. Combating these diseases either through ‘genus epidemicus’ (used in homoeopathy as curative medicine as well as prophylaxis) or through vaccination is easy. But whenever the nature and pathogenetic expression of the organism is changed (mutation), the same vaccine becomes ineffective. A group of scientists claim echoes that rapid mutations along with a change in disease symptoms and intensity call for new vaccines [10.]. This supreme challenge to develop and make it accessible to every human in this world could not be met till now. Thus the global health sector has to design the first line and probably the most effective rapid defence to combat the present pandemic, i.e., using masks, sanitization, maintaining physical distancing. To curb the rapid spread of infection it has been unavoidable to restrict people’s movement which led to the lockdown.
On the other hand, the impact of lockdown is very deep, universal and multidimensional. The health crisis partially transformed into an economic crisis resulting in a predicted 2% depression in the global economy in 2020 [11.] and unprecedented joblessness, increasing financial inequality, poverty and psychological depression [12.]. In long term, the most affected sector is education. Because of the closure of educational institutes, a much-extended form of existing distant learning through the virtual platform has been evolved as a universal tool for education, digital learning. A study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that a significant number of school students of some countries could not access the scope of digital learning platforms offered by those respective governments [13.]. Decreased enrollment and attendance in search of livelihood, declining academic engagement, decreased motivation and interpersonal relationship among peer groups, increased screen time and anxiety etc. are inevitable byproducts of this online education among school students [13.]. At the same time, school closures demanded more parental care at home which further burdened their livelihood. Though school students cannot impact the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) directly, a dip in quality of education will reduce the potential of human capital to the extent of 20% for future earnings [14.].
There have been many studies on digital learning in college or universities including various technical and professional curriculums. Medical education, which is consisting of theory and bedside teaching, is not any exception. The impact of the digital platform on this medical education has been sufficiently studied across the world [15–23] on its different dimensions. These studies showed many challenges like fragmentation of integrated and cohesive learning, lacking group discussion and compromised quality of teaching in the clinical side , weaknesses in communication, use of technology tools, technophobia , non-compliance of virtual classroom etiquette by the students , insufficient interaction among peers , concept perception & behavioural challenges , infrastructural and technical challenges , etc. Amidst such challenges, there are many advantages too. In a study, it was found that online education is well accepted and it has enhanced utility of time. Most of the participants preferred online learning in future . Another study showed participants’ satisfaction with quantity and quality of curriculum, significant flexibility and unchanged or higher attendance . One study informed that 70.7% of participants felt boosted up by this digital medical education . In another study, > 80% of students experienced an improvement in stress levels . In a study in Iran some remedies, like making and maintaining a standard of teaching before presenting, training to faculty members, monitoring and reviewing the lessons and teaching, etc. have been advised . “Three fundamental factors that could lead to a solid recovery in the post-pandemic era are structural reform, new technology and re-integration” . This pandemic has been also a scope to innovate new strategies and utilize digital tools for evidence-based medical education .
To our knowledge, there has been no preceding analytical work on digital education of homoeopathic curriculum in India. Similarly, there are known and discussed differences of opinions among the genders in students group and teaching faculties. But such reflection has not been found in any similar work. Thus, this present study may supplement all the above observations including the presentation of its dimorphic nature (students and teachers as well as both the genders).
This study aimed to assess the fitness of the digital education system into the homoeopathic curriculum during this pandemic situation and beyond through direct feedback from the users (students and educators). The objectives were: 1) to evaluate the effectiveness of this online system of teaching and learning in homoeopathic education (at graduation level), 2) to examine the acceptance of this digital mode of education among the students and teachers as well during and beyond the pandemic era, and 3) to find out different challenges or demerits the users have faced during last two years. The study focused on gender-specific responses among the students’ and teachers’ groups to assess any gender-specific trend and variation of attitude towards online education within these specific groups and participants in general.