Online learning, an answer to hazy days

A security guard closes the school gate due to unhealthy API readings. — File photo

CLOSE to two million students in over 2,000 schools were recently affected by school closures in several states, following the worsening haze condition.

A total of 2,459 schools in several states were closed, following the Air Pollutant Index (API) exceeding 200 in these areas.

Many colleges and universities also affected by the haze had to call off days of lectures and activities.

Such conditions have impacted millions of students and parents nationwide in different ways and cost the entire education sector dearly, with many students needing to sit for final exam papers at the end of the year.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching indicated last week that the ministry has instructed teachers to provide online lessons to students should the haze situation worsen, signalling the growing importance of e-learning in these crucial times.

The ministry has also encouraged its teachers to utilise its new digital learning platform based on Google Classroom – which has recently replaced the Frog VLE used by schools up until June this year.

Digital online learning is useful when students are not able to attend physical classes and teachers can still interact and share learning materials with them via the Google platform. Teachers are also able to assign homework and track each learner’s progress.

“Teachers and students can engage with one another in a secure and user-friendly environment offered by Google Classroom, where teachers can post contents like educational YouTube videos, animations and quizzes for students to learn from and use, ” said the ministry’s Educational Resources and Technology Division principal assistant director Dr Wagheeh Shukry Hassan.

In terms of learning content, the ministry has a large repository of digital educational resources, including informative and instructional videos, in its EduwebTV series that is also accessible by both teachers and students through Google Classroom.

Aside from the vast offerings of the ministry’s Google Classroom and its associated electronic resources, students can also take advantage of the freely available curriculum-based content from websites.

The current situation has provided the impetus to providers to offer other innovative e-learning solutions that have also been deployed due to school closures.

“We provide our English lessons through live Internet video streaming to students while their schools are closed, ” said Sunago Education co-founder Sean Chee, a Cradle Fund endorsed company that offers live streaming video lessons conducted by native English language teachers.

“We found that static online learning materials are often not fully utilised by students because of their passive nature.

“Many education technology companies offer live online tutoring models where students can have access to quality teachers and materials without having to leave their homes – especially when the haze hits.

“Our live tutors ensure that sessions are interesting and highly engaging by retaining the spontaneous human interaction students like to have, ” said Chee.

While there are options for classroom substitutes in this digital era, students can expect to learn more than just the contents of their lessons.

Online learning develops critical thinking and creativity outside academic disciplines as students explore and synthesise the various content available to digest.

It also promotes communication and collaboration in situations where students work together virtually on tasks and project, befitting the students of today who are digital natives.

Although it has taken unfortunate circumstances like the haze to bring to light the benefits of online learning for schools and students, it is abundantly clear that the government and private sector are inevitably moving towards digital education for the benefit of students and teachers.

There are many options available and it is up to consumers to choose the best platform for the future.

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