Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students in Alberta will be returning to school in September. While infection rates vary across countries, according to UNESCO, there are almost 1.2 billion students in 186 countries affected by school closures due to the pandemic. The adoption of online learning has become a safer alternative and have made parents and students wondering if virtual classrooms would continue post-pandemic. How this would create a transition towards the general perceptive on formal education is still up for discussion. What is certain is that online classrooms are fundamentally different from traditional face-to-face classrooms. As a platform for learning, it presents unique challenges and advantages for parents, teachers, and students alike.
The Disparity in Computer Literacy
Most students nowadays are tech-savvy; unfortunately, not all teachers and parents are quite as much. Suddenly, knowing how to use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint is not enough. The generational disparity of being used to traditional learning in offline classrooms can cause resistance to change. It makes it difficult to adapt to the online learning environment, requiring substantial effort to get accustomed to online collaboration applications such as the G Suite and online lectures through Zoom. This “traditional student” mindset will be present but the new learning circumstances need to be accepted with the understanding of the benefits of eLearning. The existence of modern eLearning alternatives does not necessarily mean that there was something wrong with traditional classrooms; they should be considered as tools that need to be used appropriately.
The convenience of being able to deliver and attend classes remotely is one of the main reasons why eLearning is an enticing alternative. But it also has caveats. Having a wide range of software and hardware tools available to prepare for online classes also means you should also know what you adequately need. Overspending on an expensive laptop used for simple word processing tasks can be as wasteful as buying a cheaper one for video editing and graphic design. Thankfully, most schools and online courses would prescribe their specific technical requirements for each class. Planning would not only save money but would also prevent the unnecessary stress of last-minute shopping or replacing what was bought to what is needed. Going out unless it is necessary is the whole point of preferring to do things remotely during this pandemic.
Independent Learning and Time Management Skills
Unlike face-to-face classrooms, online learning provides autonomy for students. The wide variety of approaches to which students can accomplish tasks promotes creativity and a sense of empowerment. This prepares students to be better equipped on the nature of real-life scenarios where there is no single approach in problem-solving. On the other hand, teachers and parents need to ensure that the student’s online learning environment is conducive to this type of learning. One of the most common misconceptions about online learning is that it promotes passivity given the nature of interactions. Teachers need to make sure that class materials are comprehensible and actionable enough for independent learning. Effective online classes encourage participation and an environment that induces curiosity from the learner. Students are not confined to comparing their way of thinking to the people inside the four corners of a classroom. Independent learning encourages collaboration by teaching students that there is a multitude of ways to consolidate information by joining online forums through Reddit, niche social media pages, and massive open online courses (MOOC) like edX. However, the freedom it entails also requires students to have good time management skills. Typically, adults who prefer online learning are people who like the time flexibility it offers in furthering their education while keeping their jobs or other daily commitments. Younger students need to be guided by their parents by teaching their children how to schedule their tasks. Keeping a regular schedule would not only teach them how to meet their deadlines but also how to keep oneself productive.
Being constantly motivated is an essential requirement not only for eLearning but for learning in general. Students new to eLearning can easily be overwhelmed by the amount of autonomy given to them. Nurturing a positive attitude is key to being successful through online learning. Keeping something to look forward to, both in the short-term and long-term, can keep students motivated. Whether it is something as simple as rewarding yourself after accomplishing a task or the sense of fulfillment in gaining a certificate after completing an online course.
Parents and teachers need to understand that social interactions and knowledge acquisition would be different for children who were born in this age of hyper-connectivity and instant gratification. More importantly, the ability to discern authentic and credible information has become invaluable in this vast sea of highly accessible knowledge.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ronald is a marketing communication specialist and a TEFL certified online educator. He enjoys reading novels and writing prose as a freelancer. He has an undergraduate degree in Organizational Communication and a master’s degree in Marketing Communication. He has also worked in the academe as a lecturer and consultant in the fields of Marketing and Communication Studies.