THE use of online learning tools has increased and triggered new ways of learning, and two academics reveal in their research how timely and relevant digital education is especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Assoc Prof Phawani A. Vijayaratnam and lecturer Wan Noor Farah Wan Shamsuddin from Inti International University’s Centre of Liberal Arts and Languages, in their separate findings, said online learning had its own set of positives and negatives.
They were also of the view that by understanding this, institutes could create strategies for more efficient delivery of online lessons to ensure an uninterrupted learning journey for students.
“The pandemic was an unavoidable disruption that brought the teaching fraternity together to think of novel ways of using technology to transform online teaching and learning, making it a positive learning curve for the community, ” said Phawani on one of the positive points born of the crisis.
“Institutions in their own ways have sought various Learning Management Systems (LMS) to replace traditional face-to-face learning.
“They are also proven to be efficient supporting platforms for students all around the world.”
Although learning platforms used by institutions differed, Phawani’s research showed that instructors used a structured academic approach revolving around interactivity and action to address each student’s varying needs.
Her research revealed that educators designed comprehensive and creative plans to keep students continuously engaged with course content besides giving room for remote collaboration among classmates.
Consideration was given in providing a rewarding student experience as well.
It also showed that teaching innovation stepped up to promote learning continuity among lecturers and students.
“The findings reveal that the use of creative instructional strategies has taken teaching innovation to a different level.
“The voices from faculty revealed novel teaching techniques they employed although the techniques came with challenges and frustrations, ” Phawani revealed in her research with her counterparts from Inti and HELP universities.
Meanwhile, Farah –- in studying the benefits and setbacks of online learning especially when the movement control order was announced last year -– highlighted that Blackboard, an LMS used by Inti years before the pandemic broke out, provided students with learning convenience.
The user-friendly interface helped local and international students to access information almost right away.
“A majority of students believe that Blackboard is the right tool to replace face-to-face lessons during lockdown.
“Apart from its flexibility and accessibility, Blackboard has helped students easily grasp new information taught in their online classes, ” she elaborated.
While students in the past have raised concerns about moving from a traditional classroom to a virtual platform, the pandemic has shown its advantages, such as allowing students to be closer to home while still working towards getting a recognised qualification.
Farah’s research also showed that having a comfortable virtual learning experience had become a vital enabler for students to still continue their academic and professional development, especially in higher education institutions around the world.
“However, the study I conducted with my colleagues also found the drawbacks of online learning during the lockdown.
“These include Internet connectivity issues, lack of motivation to concentrate during online classes and lecturer competence in conducting online lessons, ” she said, while reiterating that it was important for instructors to consider these factors.
This finding, however, applied to the earlier part of the MCO, in which both students and lecturers were still transitioning from face-to-face to online mode.
Interestingly, Phawani’s research, which was conducted some time later, found that these drawbacks had taken a positive turn, especially with more professional training provided to equip lecturers on how to improve their online teaching.
Both findings concluded that during these challenging times, online learning was a means of empowering young learners for education continuity.
Flexibility, a plus point of online learning, allows content to be accessed over and over again at any convenient time — a factor that is especially helpful not just for first semester students but also those in their final year.
Each individual differs in the way they absorb knowledge, and for some, learning from home may be more appealing than in a classroom full of people and distractions.