For the past week, 12-year-old Colleen Hung has kept her bedroom door shut. It’s not just because she is a teenager keeping her two pesky younger sisters out, but also because her bedroom is now her classroom. From the start of the movement control order (MCO), Colleen and her classmates have gone online for their lessons.
“Even before the MCO, our teachers had asked us to download Google Classroom, Google Meet and Zoom. Now, they email us to tell us when our class is, and we join in at that time. My teacher teaches us using PowerPoint, like she does in school. I also have online classes with my tuition teacher, ” says the Year Six pupil at Chong Cheng Primary School in Sg Ara, Penang.
Colleen and her 35 classmates have quickly adapted to e-learning, although some had problems with their apps and Internet connections initially. They get their homework assignments in Google Classroom, and submit their work there. Lessons are conducted on Zoom, a web-based video conferencing tool, as are discussions with the class.
Even Colleen’s six-year-old sister Callie is on Zoom with her teachers and classmates at Tzu Chi Kindergarten. For her first meet up, she was in pyjamas but since then Callie has woken up early and put on her school uniform for her Zoom classes, excited to learn with her teacher and friends.
“Our lesson is usually about an hour long. But a Zoom meeting is only 40 minutes, so we have to rejoin the class. Last week, I did about 10 hours of class because I also had tuition. When there is a clash with my school schedule, my tuition teacher will reschedule, ” says Colleen, who has been kept occupied with her online classes and homework.
But there’s still plenty of time for her to do the things she likes, such as reading and watching YouTube videos, she says.
Sometimes she nods off during online classes, and sometimes her sisters distract her, but she also likes the convenience of having lessons in her bedroom.
“I can wake up 15 minutes before class, ” says Colleen, who wishes that her teachers wouldn’t schedule classes so early.
But she hopes to go back to studying in school with her friends soon.
“I like studying with my friends. It’s much nicer to be together.”
Maths teacher Khor (who only wanted to reveal her surname) was among the first few teachers at her secondary school in Petaling Jaya to initiate online classes for her students last week.
Khor took more than three days to prepare PowerPoint slides before using Google Meet to connect with her students.
She also conducted online class training for other teachers last Saturday but less than half of her colleagues managed to join in due to various reasons like lack of Internet access and laptops.
“All of them have been briefed and have gone for Google Classroom training. But many do not know how to conduct online classes using Google Meet.
"Teachers, especially those from the older generation, may struggle to go online as they are not familiar with using apps.
“But I think most are also under a lot of stress because they need to do so many things at home, ” she says.
Khor, 42, adds that another problem is the majority of students cannot log in as they face issues such as lack of Internet access and devices at home.
“I think this will really affect our students’ preparation for their exams with lessons postponed for many weeks,” she emphasises.
"As a teacher, I will definitely try my best to prepare and guide our students. No matter how many students join the online classes, we will still give out homework and guide them. But we cannot do anything if students refuse to do the work given or do not join the classes. Students’ attitude in the learning process is important, together with parents’ support and teacher’s effort
Parents are appreciative of these online lessons.
“It is very committed of Puan Khor to take the initiative to conduct the online lessons. She had to create many PowerPoint slides for the first two units of Maths lessons. She utilised her time working from home and did not waste taxpayers’ money. Seriously, she is a rare gem, ” says Amelia Law. Her son Joel, 13, has also has been joining online classes.
Law, 52, hopes more teachers will conduct such classes and use technology to reach out to students.
“Such classes will get the students into some sort of a study routine instead of merely spending time on gadgets,” she adds. "It’s difficult to keep nagging my son to study on his own. It is different when their teachers teach on Google Meet. Students are more willing to log in as their classmates will be attending virtually as well
Justin Leong, 13, is a Form Two student who has been attending the online classes held by Khor.
“So far, it has been quite helpful. The slides are easy to understand and we can catch up on our studies,” says Leong. “I also like it because I can interact with my friends and teachers instead of studying alone at home. At least this way, we are doing something productive during the MCO.”