A virtual struggle

  • Education
  • Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

AT the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting movement control order, teaching was forced to move from the classroom to the Internet.

Overnight, teachers had to learn how to teach without their whiteboards and embrace virtual teaching. Yet, not all of them knew how to make this switch.

Government officials and school heads allowed teachers to use whichever online learning platform that was accessible to both them and their students but the bottom line was they had to do it and do it well.

Teachers turned to videos, quizzes, group messaging systems, social media and notes available online to get their lessons across.

There were endless resources teachers were told they could tap into such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams and of course, WhatsApp.

Sure, over the years a majority of teachers had undergone training to adopt virtual learning platforms (VLEs) but they were still less than savvy in using the VLEs and digital tools.

The knowledge they gained from these courses was rarely utilised, until the pandemic hit.

Despite the abundance of resources, the challenge to teach online was real and it remains a struggle for many.

Teachers could be the best educators but it would be pointless if they could not reach their students.

According to a study by the Education Ministry, the biggest constraint faced by students in online learning was access to the Internet and device availability.

The study, involving more than 670,000 parents and up to 900,000 students in Malaysia, revealed that only 6% have a personal computer, 5.76% have a tablet, 9% have a laptop and 46% have a smartphone. More than one-third or 36.7% don’t own a device.

Unstable or non-existent Internet connection is another problem, hitting those living in rural areas the hardest.

Schools in rural areas have, for a long time, had to put up with weak Internet connection.

The story of Veveonah Mosibin, who had to climb a tree just to take her online exams, is still fresh in the minds of many.

With these issues plaguing the education sector, virtual teaching has unsurprisingly been a challenge for teachers.

Besides having to reach out to students who lack stable Internet access and their own gadgets, the teachers struggled to cope with their own lack of savviness in transitioning to e-learning platforms and in creating their own content.

What’s available online is often insufficient or unsuitable for their students’ specific requirements.

But not all is doom and gloom, at least where content is concerned, as the Education Ministry has said that there is a growing number of teachers who have successfully created their own quality content.

For some of these teachers, content creation is also a way for them to upskill and reskill themselves. — By REBECCA RAJAENDRAM

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