The Covid-19 resulted in schools being shut down all across the world. According to the World Economic Forum over 1.2 billion children were out of the classroom during this pandemic. And because of this we have seen a dramatic change in education and evidenced the rapid rise of e-learning. Teaching for a change was done remotely using digital technology.
Even before Covid-19, online education existed but was never given due recognition.
Those who always wanted to study in a more flexible manner were now being catered to. Countries that had earlier totally ruled out online / distance education and deemed it inappropriate were now forced to find effective ways of conducting it whether they liked it or not. Online learning apps, virtual tutoring platforms etc. that struggled earlier to survive now grew exponentially.
Here’s how things changed for me as a teacher:
After the first outbreak in February, within days positive cases increased and thus came the decision of first and foremost closing schools only for students. We teachers went to school and started to begin the E-Learning fiasco. Little did we know that this would become the norm of teaching all around the world. It began with just us teachers going to school without the students (yayy!! that was awesome). We emailed the parents few worksheets that the children could solve at home, they would send it back to us and we corrected and returned it to them. But, this in no way helped us achieve our purpose of teaching.
We had no idea that this would become the most challenging thing we had ever done.
A series of workshops were quickly organized to teach us how to create Google Classrooms and to create online worksheets, videos etc, but this wasn’t enough. Most of what we did was self learnt and a result of collaboration among us teachers.
Here are a few ups and downs of online teaching / E-Learning entirely according to me.
- Teaching online was less of a herculean task now as compared to teaching in a classroom. There was no need for classroom decorations or set ups or activities that needed to be organized everyday. All that was needed was a virtual platform and your students connected to you. Simple activities could be done during the online class.
- Because of the above, such a class took less time to organize, specially for primary students where topics were simple and online resources were readily available.
- It gave students (specially at middle and high school) more independence to learn at their own pace. Unlike in a class where each and every action had a time limit, online learning provided more scope for research and self learning. Students were given fewer tasks with a time limit of about 2-3 days to complete. So now students had the autonomy to organize the completion of their tasks according to priority.
- I noticed that the slow learners in my class performed much better. They answered better during the online sessions. This was so because they weren’t pressurized to complete the task as per classroom deadlines. For example in the classroom, each activity and each problem solving task had a specific time limit. We would activate timers in class and expect them to finish on time. Many a times slow learners failed in completing such tasks and then we had to give extra support during the break or after school hours. This was not the case now. If they didn’t understand a concept we provided one on one online support. They were able to take their time in completing the tasks in the comfort of their home. There were also times in class when the slow learner would face peer pressure in the group. That was not there now and hence they responded better in the online classroom.
- Ample tasks were given to high achievers for more practice. Teachers were there as support to contact whenever they had a query. Online resources could easily be sent to high achievers to nurture their abilities.
- Students learnt a lot of valuable life skills while learning from home. Responsibility and accountability were things that we teachers always wanted to instill in students. Parents finally understood that teachers weren’t always responsible for low grades. Parents now understood that the final grade depended on their child’s performance. This time the teacher and parent worked hand in hand in making the student complete the tasks. Hence, the student learnt responsibility and accountability for his/her performance.
- In my experience, this tech savvy generation loved online learning. They quickly adopted this mode and enjoyed studying from their personal devices. They felt pride in telling their younger siblings that it was now time for them to study online on their tab/phone. They were excellent at accessing and solving the online assignments by themselves. There were times when they even taught me a thing or two about using the Zoom app.
All the above was well and good but here are a few downs that I faced at the same time.
- The transition to online teaching was too quick and unplanned. Without proper training, proper internet connections and proper preparation the result was a poor user experience. In many ways this could have been avoided if (like always) teachers weren’t expected to provide for themselves. Not many teachers had sufficient bandwidths to conduct appropriate quality of online teaching that the students deserved during this pandemic.
- Teachers were always available for support but the onus was now on the parents. Parents were truly over burdened as they had to manage the study of 3-4 children at home while managing their own work from home. In few cases this resulted in the good students not achieving the grades that they would have if they in the classroom.
- As parents ourselves this was a lot for us too. We had to manage our teaching schedules together with the online learning schedules of our children as well. This meant that there were times that we were contacted for online classes that our children missed because we were too busy teaching our students online. This also meant that we were contacted at all odd hours by parents – way too early in the morning or way too late at night.
- Students, especially at the primary level thrive in an environment of collaborative learning. It’s the relationships they build at school and the constant interaction that broadens their thinking and learning process. For example, I know for a fact that my students have learnt better at times when a concept was explained to them by a friend in class and they also had more fun learning that way.
- Independent learning is not very effective without a set routine. Parents may not have had time to build such a routine as they themselves were busy working from home. Schools provide a structured routine where children know what is expected of them and when. It’s like well oiled clock work.
- Man is a social being and children are even more. Chanting together in class, doing activities together, solving problems together, learning with the class outside, conducting experiments with their friends etc., these are the ways students learn best. The hugs and the kisses, the disciplinary thoughts/lectures by the teacher, the sharing and caring, the personal one on one conversations with their teacher, this is what builds the child’s personality. Online learning can never replace all of this.
The major question on everyone’s mind is, is this shift in education here to stay? Well only time will tell. As long as the virus is here, my guess is education will continue more or less like this. What we can do is try to make the best of it. We can teach our children how to best take care of themselves and how to connect with their friends virtually.
During this summer break let’s teach them how to make the best use of E-Learning. As tensions ease a bit around the world, take out time to integrate their online learning with field learning. Remember that at the end of all this what will matter most is that we kept ourselves safe and turned into better human beings.