Getting accustomed to online teaching

Many teachers have to find ways to make their sessions more visually engaging


THE new normal seems to be setting in nicely as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, and the education sector is currently undergoing the toughest challenge with teachers having to “re-educate” themselves and turn to technology to replace the traditional way of teaching.

As the switch to online class is a little too sudden, many teachers are also still getting used to the new concept.

International Islamic University Lower Education Group art teacher Fadzillah Rahim said the pandemic and the series of Movement Control Orders has essentially forced teachers to change their teaching platform to online.

“Some might have been familiar with online platforms but it is very new to most teachers. We have to start researching from scratch on platforms that are suitable for the different subjects.

“Each subject is unique and we can’t use the same platform for all,” she told The Malaysian Reserve.

Many teachers have to find ways to make their sessions more visually engaging and include more “energisers” and “breaks”, such as having to speak more energetically just to get back 10% of the same energy from the students.

Fadzillah said among the major issues faced by teachers and students when moving from offline to online teaching is a data connection.

“Data connection is an issue to both students and teachers because not all of them have a reliable connection and speed,” she said.

Some students may also lack efficient devices, while lower-income families would also struggle with having to share devices with other family members.

The technological struggle is further exacerbated by the lack of home connection, which also forces some students to use mobile data, which is something they would need to conserve for the entire week of classes.

The low bandwidth would also affect the ability to switch on the cameras, showing nothing but black boxes to teachers.

In a classroom which provides the space for teachers to monitor their students, teachers may also struggle to ensure students are paying attention, and having to be stricter with classroom rules as there are challenges to address students in an online environment.

Fadzillah said teachers now have to work even more closely with parents over various media to discuss issues that are faced by students.

“Apart from, some students don’t turn up for classes and so we have to contact parents in order to find out why they are absent,” she said.

The reality of online lessons is much like physical and face-to-face classrooms, some challenges would present themselves when it comes to the completion of the syllabus, such as holidays and events.

However, when it came to resources, Fadzillah said teachers are resorting to Youtube as a platform, despite it not being sufficient as a whole lesson reference.

“The shift to online was very sudden, that a proper guideline for teachers could not be drafted out. Even if it’s done and drafted, it might restrict teachers with a set of rules to follow,” she said.

Since the shift, teachers have expressed that they have to be more prepared no matter how, even if they lack resources.

An English teacher said the normal environment of a staff room allows for more camaraderie, which allows teachers to discuss issues in a more spontaneous manner.

“Although we can still meet to discuss, we lose touch with many colleagues. More effort is needed to discuss lessons together,” she said.

She added that clubs and societies that revolve around more physical activities will have to take a backseat as well.

“School timetables for physical lessons need to be adapted and modified, which means more breaks and less periods are required in general to ensure students’ attention remains.

“Changing the whole timetables is necessary, but many schools struggle to do with the number of subjects that are offered,” she said.

A recent report stated that quite a number of teachers are dissatisfied with the Education Ministry’s new online learning manual which was released on Feb 3.

The country’s largest teachers’ union, National Union of the Teaching Profession also stated that it was not consulted in regards to the arrangement.

The manual has allocated the amount of time for each subject, outlined for different education levels, which follows the full timetable which was used in school previously while featuring tutorials.

For example, the national primary school curriculum for the Bahasa Malaysia subject has received the highest time of 360 minutes per week, split into 240 minutes for teaching and learning, while 120 minutes per week has been allocated for tutorial.

Ideally, for the time to be split into five days would lead to 72 minutes per day, however, with primary school also offering eight other subjects, this might lead to the lengthening of periods in the week to make space for the other subjects and thus, longer time spent online on one subject.

As students experience online fatigue and teachers experiencing challenges in generating as much energy and engagement in virtual classrooms, an intensive timetable might not be ideal.

Read our earlier report

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