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The good, the bad, and the ugly side of online education during the pandemic

Online-Education

It has been months now since the novel coronavirus—COVID-19 as we now know it—plagued the world. In the Philippines, the community quarantine started in March which means we are now in our 9th month of living what is called the ‘new normal.’

Since then, a lot has changed and considerable adjustments have been observed in order to continue with our daily routine provided the adherence to safety and health protocols. 

One of these major adjustments is our reliance on technology for both work and education purposes. New normal calls for strict social distancing so business meetings or even classes have been conducted online. 

With back-to-school situation, particularly, it has been a pivotal change for both students and teachers. What we always look forward to as students is our welcome back to school, and for teachers, it is to see their learners and bond with them in a classroom to create an atmosphere which is unique to a face-to-face experience.

But what happens when we are forced to continue our educational journey in an online setting? Let us take a look at some of the pros and cons of how this pandemic affected the school setting—both from a teacher and student point of view.

The good

#1 There is less hassle when ‘coming to class’

Compared to when students are coming to classes in a regular setting, there are less worries with having to wake up early to deal with morning routines in preparation for a day in school. Part of this morning routine is the commute going to school.

With an online setting, the only problem is when you can’t wake up early for that 8AM class or when you’re not ready for the lessons/activities of the day. It would be quite an advantage, still, for those who do not want to wake up early should classes be asynchronous and you are merely tasked to work at your own pace (provided a time frame).

Sometimes, there is no need to worry about not having to take an early morning bath or to think about where to grab a quick breakfast before your professor gets to the classroom because these are something you can deal with after your short online class session. Some can even get away with eating during class, the camera off. The point is that your presence is there virtually and that you are able to participate in the discussions and activities asked of you. 

#2 Technology is maximized to its fullest

Back when we were still in a face-to-face classroom setting, we have not really explored the extent of what technology or applications can do for us. Sure, we have been using PowerPoint presentations or Prezi to ace that report for ma’am or sir’s class, but if we really look back on those times: we were revolving around limited applications just so we can beat the deadline or have something to show during presentation day.

We know Kahoot as one of the effective ways of interaction and friendly competition in the classroom, but we never really use it. Now that we are turning towards technology for accomplishing requirements, we are slowly starting to explore different ways of enhancing our work beyond simple PowerPoint presentations.

Even teachers get to bring out the best of what technology has to offer through their training on platforms like Google Classroom and its apps, Zoom, or Blackboard. Instead of just bonding over lessons learned in a subject taught, students and teachers can now learn from one another on which websites or applications could best improve their activities or help them get through it.

We get to discover things that have been around for a long time, but we have been ignoring them just because we’re satisfied with simple presentations alone. It is undeniable that this pandemic also gave us time to learn about the future of the online world.

It may have been difficult, as is the case for teachers who are not ‘techy’ or ‘hi-tech’, but through patience and passion for their profession; they can now relate to what was previously thought of as ‘technology catering only to the generation of today’. 

#3 The possibilities for educational growth is endless

That’s one of the beautiful aspects when it comes to technology: it has developed considerably to the point even a modern plague cannot stop children from learning, and for educators to connect to them and continue to share their expertise.

Although homeschooling has been possible, and self-studies have been done even before the global health issue existed, it is still very much different from when you are growing academically with fellow students and your teachers. Those times when there is a ‘no gadgets in school’ policy or when your professor called on you for using your phone in class has now been turned as technology is now the way for them to connect with their learners.

Who knows? Perhaps even after the pandemic is long over, even when we have returned to the world as we knew it before the virus hit, we will probably carry what we have experienced in this online classroom to improve the physical class setting.

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The bad

#1 Not all are privileged with the proper equipment

The world is gifted with harnessing the power of technology to see us through difficult moments such as what this pandemic brought upon, but then not everyone is equal. And let’s face it, technology is not for free.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to experience what it has to offer. Some may not even have the proper equipment at all to start exploring stuff such as Canva or make use of Grammarly, to begin with. Technology does have its own requirements for one to enjoy what it has to offer.

Take for example having your own laptop or phone, but your internet connection fluctuates. Then the learning experience would not be as clear and smooth now, isn’t it?

What if you only have one available computer, but then you also have a younger sibling who also has a class to attend too or parents who need to use it because they have a business meeting? There are numerous possibilities which prove that technology is sometimes not your friend and that not all the time it is readily available for everyone. 

#2 Distractions are inevitable

A classroom is called a ‘classroom’ for a reason. It is within its confines where students and even teachers could focus on their lessons and in one another. No online (Google) classroom could replace the kind of concentration that being in an actual classroom gives.

From the barking of dogs, to the crying of a baby, to the roar of motorbikes passing by, or even coming from your mom and her chika sessions with your auntie; the distraction cannot simply be avoided.

It does not only take the form of sound, but because we are at home, no one would really know you have an open Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter tab all at the same time with your Google Meet sessions. Plus, you can’t always be the white sheep saying you’ll stay focused for the duration of the online class only to find your mind drifting off elsewhere, or thinking of opening a social media tab other than the platform used for online classes. One of the concerns of teachers is whether a student is really there in class especially when their web cameras are turned off. 

The ugly

Are the students REALLY learning?

Let’s face it: being in school physically is very different from online sessions no matter how advanced technology is. While it does improve our knowledge of everything hi-tech, and there is self-discovery of what we are capable to do with technology, the question still lies on whether education is still the same, and academic growth as resplendent as it was when face-to-face classes were possible.

Educators may meet their students virtually, and they might take extra lengths just to prove their commitment and share knowledge even in an online setting, but what happens beyond those online sessions? What goes on after the modules have been given? Who is truly learning once activities are given out?

Plenty of students online have expressed their struggles in the current online education system. On the other hand, there are also those who said they are doing well.

Takeaway

The pandemic has forced the world to result in switching almost everything online. We cannot just wait for the pandemic to be over, hoping that things will just go back to the way it is before all these happened.

These adjustments made for it to be called a ‘new normal’ way of living would linger even when the pandemic is gone. It is our duty to ensure that we are using technology as a means to carry on with life even though the life we knew has been completely altered. 

While technology has been a long time companion, it can also be a foe, especially when used in wrong-doings. There can be no academic growth in those who use the power of technology to make their school tasks and lessons easy through corrupted thinking and cheating. Online learning is as exciting when one thinks of it as a professional, formal school setting. Hopefully, everyone can adapt and survive the online education system while we wait for everything to go back to normal.

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