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Are We Ready For Online Learning?

There is no denying that being plunged into these uncertain times because of COVID-19 has been especially difficult for teachers who now need to move their classrooms from their safe school environments, to their homes. It’s caused an undue amount of pressure on the parents who now need to act as surrogate teachers, and caused stress for the students who cannot see or study with their classmates. 

At the back of everyone’s minds, there is the hope that all this would be over soon, but with the announcement that schools will not reopen until a vaccine is found, we need to start accepting that this is the new normal.

Experts and education officials say that learning must not stop and must only evolve. The directive of the Philippine government to halt face-to-face learning until a vaccine is found puts a spotlight on what we are doing now and what we must do to prepare. 

Are we really ready for online learning?

1. Internet Connectivity

As of January 2020, according to Hootsuite Media Inc., a social management platform, 159% of the entire Philippine population or 108.8 million have mobile connections, with 86% of these having broadband connections. Internet users are at 73 million or 67% penetration, and a majority of these are on social media sites, like Facebook.

Online and blended learning both require that the student and teacher be connected to the internet. Although in most cases, the learning will be asynchronous, there is a chunk of time that will still need the student to be connected to the internet to attend a class. 

This gives rise to questions of inequity as schools move to digital. Public schools have assured the parents that there will be printed materials for those who will not be able to connect to the internet to update their respective classes. On the other hand, some schools require that the student have internet access for joining classes. The good news is, if approximately 73M Filipinos are on Facebook, then that means they are connected enough to attend online classes.

2. Teacher Readiness and Methodology

One of the biggest concerns about moving to online learning is that one cannot replicate the experience of being in the same room as the teacher. Most teachers were trained to teach in class and not online. According to the survey on Teacher Readiness on Distance Education conducted by the Department of Education on April 2020, out of 689,329 teachers surveyed, only 63,416 or 9% of the teachers have undergone training on Distance Learning. This is a gap that must be bridged in order to ensure the quality of education is maintained.

When teacher innovators and coaches were surveyed on whether they think their school is ready, only 22.7% of the 123 teachers surveyed said yes, and a majority said maybe, citing mindset and lack of training as primary reasons, among others.

Teachers who have been teaching with technology before COVID-19 struck are better able to adapt and transition to online learning, citing reasons such as using similar tools they use in the Classroom, only more. Methodology is important as well. Teachers who have been using classroom flipping techniques that give a student prework before class and using class time only for facilitation findings and discussions, are well able to guide their students into more self-paced and independent learning. Teachers who are more dependent on their presence in class to drive discussion and learning, are finding themselves having a more challenging time to transition to online as students lose attention quickly – especially Generation Alpha (children of the millenials) and Gen Z, that have very low attention spans.

3. Technology Platforms

Many schools in the Philippines have adopted in one form or another a learning management system or LMS to help them distribute work, compute for grades easily and share resources to the students. The schools that did not adopt some form of technology are now getting onboard platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom & Meet, and Microsoft Teams to meet the needs of the students.

The longer the school has been using these collaborative and web-based technologies, the more ready they are in facing a schoolyear that will mostly be taught online. It also greatly reduces stress from the student’s side that the school they are enrolled in is not transitioning to something unfamiliar but only using the same tools and applying more lessons in that platform, versus face-to-face.

The tools are available, but the schools’ readiness is determined by their adoption. Only getting on to online platforms now, even though it is a solution to keep teaching the students, will be challenging to the teachers who will need to both learn the tools, learn how to convert their classes to online, and teach their students how to use the tools as well as the material for the year.

Thankfully, APEC Schools were able to adapt to the requirements for online learning . They were able to transition smoothly into online learning when the Enhanced Community Quarantine was announced. The reasons are as follows:

  • The students are used to using technology such as Google Classroom to submit classwork. Because of this, the transition did not give unexpected pressure to the teachers to teach both tools and the class material to the students. 
  • There is a hardware rental program available for those that do not have laptops available. This ensures equity among the students and ensures that no child is left behind.
  • The instructional design team was able to pivot the existing learning program, which is already adaptable by virtue of it being constructivist, which means that it teaches students to learn independently and to learn by doing. It also allowed the teachers to focus on teaching since the curriculum development was done by a dedicated team.

APEC AGILE & FLEX, APEC Schools’ programs for continuous learning is the result of both the experience that the school has in using technology, combined with the methodology of learning-by-doing that is targeted to give the same results that their schools have enjoyed in the past years – better English and Math proficiency and readiness for the industry and the workforce post-graduation.

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