Myths around online learning during a global crisis
Governments across the world are trying to tackle the pandemic leading to lockdowns seeing no end near in sight. With schools closed and no concrete answer to when they will be able to reopen, a large number of them have begun to transition to virtual classes to ensure that the lagging effect on learning is minimal. Parents that were initially resistant to exposing their young children to technology now have no other option to enroll them in to avoid their child from missing out on the education being offered by schools.
However, as schools begin to roll out their online learning schedules and begin to tackle challenges, there are several myths surrounding online learning that have been doing the rounds. There are zillion questions in parents minds about the effectiveness of these online classes in general and in this article we acknowledge and debunk these myths.
- Online learning makes teachers lazy and less accountable
It is true that in any education system, be it online or offline, the most important factor is the faculty. Teachers are at the centre of any learning system. However, this myth that an online system will necessarily make them lazy and less accountable is anything but the truth. Teachers will undergo a major upskilling, wherein there is more effort required from their side to tackle technology challenges and to be able to teach without the materials usually present with them in real classes. Additionally, they will need to be more creative with their teaching approaches and let go of the status quo of ‘chalk and talk’ – now, with a lot more student data and definite analytics at their fingertips, they will be able to use multiple digital learning tools to incorporate a more new age style of teaching – in the form of augmented learning and the flipped classroom approach. As observed from Alphakids and Bellwether online classes, we are seeing a tremendous amount of effort being put in by teachers as they spend their time in creating teaching and learning aids and are so enthusiastic and passionate about it that their families are also joining in to help them!
When it comes to accountability of teachers, organizations can record the online lectures as a setting on the digital platform and teachers are able to review their own classes as well as that of their peers on a weekly basis and provide constructive feedback. By doing this, the preparedness of the teachers immediately shoots up and they are even more cautious resulting in much better lesson delivery. We are in the process of incorporating such procedures in our online classes, so that the management can effectively use the record feature to evaluate the class as and when required.
- Online classes are not as effective as a ‘real class’
It is now much easier than before to access the performance of teachers as well as students. With the click of a button, digital tools can be used to assess students performance very accurately. However, for these classes to be as effective, there are other factors at play : parents will now have to play a much more important role in the child’s learning. Depending on the age of the child, parents will have to attend online classes, and provide supervision when the child is taking a test. They will also have to ensure the child is doing homework and engage with them on pre-learning activities. The parent therefore becomes an extremely important facilitator who is crucial in making online classes as effective as a real class.
- You have to be extremely tech savvy to take online classes
Online learning may seem intimidating especially for parents and teachers who aren’t too tech savvy in general. However, many known digital platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others have an extremely easy user interface which requires little to no training. As long as the schools are able to handhold and guide their teachers by taking them through demos, teaching them how to create meeting links, share their screens and have interactive sessions, the rest becomes self-explanatory. The key here is for schools to be patient and acknowledge the fact that this is new for even teachers and that they may take a few days to get a hang of it. Similarly, the process is actually even easier for parents – all that is required of them is to have an active internet connection and a tablet or computer – and they need to usually just click on the link sent to them by teachers for them to be able to join the online class. It does not get easier than this. Infact, since Alphakids and Bellwether chain of schools cater to a majority of the parents in tier2-3 cities, we were initially quite apprehensive about the use of technology for online learning. However once we rolled it out and gave sufficient support to both parents and teachers, within 3 days of launching our virtual schooling, we already had 100+ enrollments from various branches. This number has been increasing everyday. Always remember, this is a “black swan” event for all stakeholders involved: it is extremely unforeseen and unexpected. Hence, patience is key.
- Online learning is all lectures and very boring
Again, this very much depends on the teachers, their experience in teaching and therefore the quality of their instruction. If the teachers generally have a teaching style of lecturing even in non-virtual classes, then virtual classes will be no different. However, if their teaching approach is generally interactive and engaging then virtual classes have to be no different! Classes can be made extremely interactive by asking questions, reviewing homework, adding notes, using the chat feature to ask doubts and assigning activities in the virtual classroom. Teacher training and evaluation of classes for further improvement and constant feedback from parents is key to conducting fun, engaging and interesting online classes.
- There are no interactions with classmates and my child will lose interest
This is not true. While face-to-face schooling involves a ‘real’ coming together of people and therefore leads to the development of important life skills, and this can definitely not be compared to the interactions during online classes, it does not mean interaction has to be completely missing. We have made it mandatory for parents to keep their videos switched on during online classes so that children can see their peers during the class. The mute option is also usually turned off unless the teacher is lecturing, so that children can listen to one another and therefore get encouraged to participate even more. We have seen that this has resulted in children getting excited about attending online classes and if they see their peers participating, this instigates them to follow and get even more engaged.
- Schools and teachers are not able to monitor children’s learning effectively during online classes
As mentioned earlier, teachers can be effectively monitored through online classroom recordings and the management should take the responsibility to do a review and evaluation as well as encourage self review and peer reviews so that teachers can keep bettering their approach. On the other hand, it is also important to monitor students. This can be done in various ways: teachers keep a list of the attendance and are able to easily monitor participation, punctuality and attendance of students in a similar way that they do in real classes. Asking questions during the lecture and using the chat option for students to answer, is a good way to monitor how well the child is grasping topics during the lecture. Assigning homework which the student has to complete and submit online allows ways to ensure discipline as well as practice. Finally, administering online tests is important for teachers to finally grade the child and understand the impact of their overall learning. However, online test taking comes with its own challenges. Parents are required to cooperate and supervise the child while they are taking the tests. If the school management is able to guide teachers to be able to manage and evaluate in class learning, ensuring enough practice in the from of homework as well as smoothly administer tests, then digital learning does not become a barrier in monitoring children’s learning at any cost.
While the above are all myths and are easy to debunk, it is important to note that for online classes to be as effective as possible it finally depends on the role of the parent. The parents role as a stakeholder in the child’s learning becomes much more important now than ever before. However, the silver lining in the education domain is definitely that ultimately, most students, teachers & parents will have the tools necessary to be able to teach and learn regardless of their location. Learning will therefore become far-reaching, ubiquitous and will become a much more life-long process without limitations.
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