COVID-19 and the movement control order (MCO) have made remote and distance learning the buzzwords in education.
Suddenly, the entire teaching and learning process had to move online and many teachers found it difficult to adjust even though online-based learning has been on the Education Ministry’s agenda for years.
These skills needed to be learnt fast and thankfully, an upskilling programme was already in the works for the teachers.
Teaming up with Arus Academy – a social enterprise that provides after-school classes – PricewaterhouseCoopers Malaysia (PwC Malaysia) ran an upskilling programme called “Komuniti Guru Digital Learning+” for teachers.
Launched on June 29, the four-month programme is part of PwC global network’s “New world. New skills” upskilling initiative.
There are 54 teachers currently signed on to the virtual programme, all of whom will undergo a series of virtual workshops on how to adapt their approach to teaching.
It is supported by the Kedah, Perlis and Sarawak state education departments and covers six subjects – Mathematics, Science, Basic Computer Science, Design and Technology, and Geography – for Forms One to Three.
Arus Academy co-founder Alina Amir said the teachers learn planning strategies and how to use technology effectively for remote or distance learning.
“They explore different approaches to remote learning, for example, an approach that requires a stable Internet connection, or approaches that could still work with intermittent Internet or just a mobile phone.
“By providing options through different modalities, teachers are able to make better decisions on what technology to leverage on and create lessons that are able to reach their students effectively.
“Technology in teaching and learning do not always have to be high-tech or require large bandwidth, ” she told StarEdu.
Throughout the programme, teachers will be coached weekly on new strategies and will exchange ideas based on what is happening with their students and the challenges they face.
Lesson plans and teaching materials crafted during the programme will then be shared publicly for other teachers to use.
“We also measure teachers’ confidence in using technology and how they are using it for teaching before and after the programme.
“So far, we found our teachers to be resilient, resourceful and extremely dedicated to make time to learn and upskill even in the midst of preparing for school reopening, ” added Alina.
PwC Malaysia corporate responsibility lead Florence Tan said the training sessions were originally meant to be delivered face-to-face.
“But due to Covid-19, we had to quickly adapt and update our plans, resulting in the move to conduct the entire training programme online, ” she said.
As not all teachers have access to stable Internet connection to join the programme, the company funded the purchase of data as part of Arus Academy’s welcome package to the teachers. Some teachers even dialled in from school.
“While the world is now abuzz with trends like Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence, teaching has not progressed much beyond chalk and board for delivering lessons in the classroom.
“Granted, some have moved on to projectors and ICT classes which require online work and incorporate critical thinking skills, but teaching is still largely reliant on face-to-face interactions, ” she said, adding that volunteers from the company also shared their own upskilling experiences with teachers, giving real-life examples of how they also had to quickly adapt and adopt new skills to cope with changes during the MCO.
“Our volunteers also facilitated breakout sessions among the teachers, where they listened in as teachers brainstormed ideas on how to build lesson plans that incorporate the use of digital
platforms, and provided suggestions and guidance where needed, ” she added.
Teachers who have gone through the training enjoyed it and would recommend it to their friends. Nine out of 10 agreed that the programme was a good professional development opportunity for them to teach better in the new normal.
Mathematics teacher Ting Siew Hiong from SMK Merbau, Sarawak, said she had no clue how to use Google Classroom when the MCO came into effect.
She chanced upon the link to the programme shared by another teacher.
Since then, she has created a Mathematics “escape room” on Google Forms where students are tasked with calculating the pricing of face masks, hand sanitiser and also social distancing lengths.
“I enjoyed the workshops a lot as the video clips of the tutorials are short and precise and the features are all explained in detail with the steps clearly explained, ” she said.
The programme has also helped improve Masliza Mohd Noor’s teaching methods, both online and offline.
She said her students are more engaged because they are actively involved in the lessons.
“My kinesthetic students also began exploring the less interesting subject (History) more, ” the History teacher from SMS Syed Tuanku Putra, Perlis, added.