Welcome to the Third Quarterly Issue (July – September, 2020), 12(96)

Post-COVID-19 School Transformation: What Teachers, Communities and Nation can Contribute

Photo credit: trainingjournal.com

COVID-19 pandemic crisis and its impact on rural primary schools investigated that health, social, economic and education would be hardly predicted at its identification in Wuhan, a Chinese city in November 2019. When China was struggling to control its spread in communities across the country, most of the countries would not have even imagined how the pandemic could destroy their mechanisms of health, education, business, economy and society. Millions of teasing TikTok videos, cartoon sketches, metaphoric texts and lyrics about COVID-19 in China would have been hardly bearable for Chinese civilians living across the world.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 without the restriction of the human sketched territory of countries on the planet reached elsewhere within the first three months of its identification. Many countries, particularly in Europe and America, unexpectedly suffered from the pandemic as early as the virus spread in those countries after China. The rapid spread of the virus in Asian countries particularly India in recent days has become a threat to Nepal because of the open border between Nepal and India. Moreover, the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal can presumably bring deadly days soon if the government is unable to strategically control the spread.

The impact of the pandemic can be observed in various sectors such as education, health, business, tourism and industries in Nepal. More than 7 million students have been observing lockdown when all the schools and ten universities have been shut down since March 2020. Although particularly few private schools and colleges in cities have been trying to reach their students and teach them in online classes, the majority of schools are unlikely to switch to online teaching and learning in absence of information and communication technologies. Where only 4% of the government schools and 22% of the private schools have a computer lab, and the majority of schools lack internet facilities, holistically approaching internet-based teaching and learning in schools can be an immature idea. Although it is estimated that about 70% of the total population use the internet, the majority of them (95%) use expensive mobile data for personal communications and only 5% of them, particularly in cities, use broadband internet. Moreover, the limited practice of online teaching and learning particularly in urban schools may widen the gap between rural and urban communities. However, the effort several national and local televisions and radios have made by broadcasting tutorials is appreciated by the public. Unfortunately limited or no specific programme for regulating school and university education in this crisis indicates the extent of governmental and institutional preparedness to mitigate the crisis. Even though the majority of teachers and students have limited access to internet facilities, some teachers have reported their experiences of practising online teaching and learning. This issue comprises of teachers experiences of using ICT tools for teaching and learning, challenges they faced in their practices and suggestions for post-COVID-19 schooling.

Prem Prasad Poudel offers his critical analysis of the pandemic influence on education particularly in Nepal and suggests ideas for post-crisis school transformation. He shares some ideas for alternative ways to conventional pedagogies to gradually revive school education.

Dr SM Akramul Kabir critically analyses the educational issues highlighted in Bangladesh during the pandemic crisis and suggests alternative ways to mitigate similar issues in general. Dr Thinh Le from Vietnam suggests some ideas for online teaching and learning. He specifically focuses on the community of learning model for online teaching and learning activities.

Dr Prem Phyak, Bhim Sapkota, Ramji Acharya and Dil Kumari Shrestha offer how teachers during COVID-19 crisis have learned to use various ICT tools in teaching and learning. Their interviews with teachers suggest how many other teachers can take advantage of this lock down to develop their professionalism by exploring national and international training opportunities offered in online classes.

Krishna Parajuli and Pushpa Raj Paudel share their experiences of using internet facilities for teaching and learning. Both authors illustrate how teachers have struggled to go on online teaching and what schools can do to transform them to revive and survive ahead.

Karuna Nepal explicates how students can manage their online and distance learning and how teachers can facilitate them to learn their courses. Hiralal Kapar has reported school teachers’ early experiences of using ICT tools to teach their students and gradual development of their confidence in teaching in online classes. Manish Thapa highlights how few university departments have switched their physical classroom to online teaching and learning during the pandemic crisis and how the practice can be adopted to transform traditional pedagogies.

Babita Sharma, one of the editors of this publication, discusses issues of social and family environment for children’s learning, how parents can create supportive social atmosphere for their children’s learning. She also suggests how family members can be teachers of their children to teach them dynamic life skills particularly relevant to social and cultural values. 

1.Transforming school education: Learning from COVID-19 pandemic and pathways ahead. – Prem Prasad Poudel

2. Issues and possible options for teachers: A COVID-19 pandemic  perspective. – Dr S M Akramul Kabir

3. Techniques of online teaching. -Dr Thinh Le 

4. Teacher agency in a superdifficult circumstance: Lessons from a low-resource context during COVID-19. – Prem Phyak, Bhim Sapkota, Ramji Acharya and Dil Kumari Shrestha 

5. Expectations of post-COVID-19 era education in Nepal. – Krishna Prasad Parajuli 

6. Crisis, teaching-learning via alternative means and ground reality – Pushpa Raj Paudel 

7. Empowering learners with learning strategies: A gateway to the preparation for uncertainties. – Karuna Nepal

8. Online class amidst COVID-19 lockdown. – Hiralal Kapar

9. Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions? – Manish Thapa 

10. Significance of parent education and parent involvement in children’s learning. – Babita Sharma Chapagain 

We on behalf of the ELTChoutari publication would like to thank all the authors for your contribution to this issue. We appreciate your academic work and hope to receive your writing for the future issues of this publication. Your contributions will be read and valued across the world. Thank you, Babita Sharma Chapagain (associate editor of this issue) for your incredible support to follow the review process of this issue. Thank you, Jeevan Karki, Ganesh Kumar Bastola and Mohan Singh Saud for your cooperation in the review and copy-editing process. Thank you, Ekaraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel, Karuna Nepal, Nanibabu Ghimire and Sagar Paudel for your great help in reviewing several manuscripts. Your great help will ever be accountable.

This issue to the date has had many great people since its foundation. Their volunteer contribution in the early days and difficult situations provided a strong foundation for the proliferation of this online magazine. Prem Phyak, Shyam Sharma, Bal Krishna Sharma, Sajan Kumar Karn, Kamal Poudel and Hem Raj Kafle who established this digital magazine have ever been a source of inspiration and motivation for many other friends including the current editorial and reviewer team of this publication. Thank you for your frequent advice and continuous support.

Thank you, readers and followers of ELT Choutari for your invisible but invaluable support to this publication. Your comments and feedback have ever been a source of improving our works and we hope you will keep on supporting us that way.

Karna Rana, PhD

Lead Editor of this issue

Babita Sharma Chapagain

Associate Editor of this issue

 

Transforming school education: Learning from COVID-19 and pathways ahead

Prem Prasad Poudel

The context

The coronavirus (i.e., COVID-19) crisis has brought unprecedented challenges in all the systems including education globally, and communities, particularly in the developing countries, are suffering the most as the public service systems in these countries are not well-planned. The coronavirus pandemic has been a portal that leads the world to reconfigure the future (Roy, 2020) largely different from the one we are/were living. The human sufferings are unprecedented, and of course not measurable either in terms of the economic, social, and psychological losses (both visible and invisible). There are tragic consequences everywhere, and the education sector is one of the most affected ones due to school closure, leaving millions of students from pre-school to the university at homes. The fundamental services of education have halted, with students without textbooks, face-to-face formal interactions, and detachment from their peers. This unexpected context has forced people to think about transformations for the future to enable the pedagogical contexts to recover from the losses, and to cope with the similar future challenging in education systems.

Although schools and universities have tried hard and the best to compensate the loss of schooling by adopting the online mode of instruction, both teachers and students’ limited access to internet facilities, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs) such as Nepal has become a barrier to holistically shift the physical school to online teaching and learning. This scenario has further accentuated the discourse on equity, concerning the widening gap in terms of access to resources, learning opportunities, human resource management, and the effectiveness of the learning (if any). Similar to Ebola, AIDS, SARS, and Spanish Flu, this pandemic has taught us a lot about humanity, human attachments, health, and urgency of international cooperation. Against this backdrop, in this paper, I have presented my reflection, not necessarily based on strong empirical data, on the potential pathways that we MUST adopt to accelerate transformations in our education systems. By ‘our’, I mean Nepali society, however, my arguments would equally apply to other similar contexts waiting for reforms in their education systems.

The schools are closed for an indefinite time, and standardised tests are suspended. Discourses on educational standards and qualities are extended and enlarged due to the spread of coronavirus. Many people are living with the absence of their friends and families, while others are crammed in their families experiencing probably the longest moment of togetherness with family members. For many, the homes are transferred to online learning stations. The online meetings have covered the walls of Facebook and other social media pages. Perhaps it is the worst ever experience my generation people have had of such pandemic. However, it should also be taken as an opportunity and the right time for countries and relevant communities to unlearn, relearn and rebuild their educational systems to prepare for a better future.

The challenges in schooling

Despite the massive stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 effects, the global economy is estimated to be hit by recession in 80 years (Guenette, 2020), the deepest since World War II (Al-Samarrai, Gangwar, & Priyal, 2020), and the financial distress will severely impact on the education sector. In other words, this pandemic is likely to impact on several key aspects of education, including financing, resource management, school expansion, and access to learning.

Financing Constraints

The pandemic crisis is likely to leave the education sector vulnerable in terms of infrastructure development including the endeavours to equip schools with technological innovations. In Nepal, the budget allocated for education is inadequate. In the fiscal year 2076/77 (2020/21 AD), the Government allocated 11.64% budget for the education sector (Ghimire, 2020, May 29), which is very less than the budget spent in countries with larger and established economies. Although here is a mere increase in the budget compared to the current fiscal year, two of the ambitious programmes:six-thousand volunteer teacher mobilisation and mid-day meal, will cover more than three quarters (6 billion) of the total increment of 8 billion rupees. It indicates that there will be a limited budget needed to embrace information and communication technology (ICT) in the educational sector.

Human resource development and management

The low-level budget allocations in the education sector, especially in higher education will have serious consequences in managing technical human resources, and technological innovations, due to budget shortages. It is making both short-term and long-term effects on human resources development on handling the technology integration in teaching and learning. Last month, I had a talk with a teacher of a primary school about the use of technology in teaching, and his immediate reaction was “We have a computer and a printer in our school, but we are unable to use them because we could not find a technician to repair them”. His exemplary experience informs us about the level of understanding of what technology in teaching is, and how computer technology is used in schools in remote Nepal. I had a short visit to one of the public campuses in Kathmandu Valley, and during a talk, the campus chief of the campus said, “Sir, we have managed IT on our campus”. I was thrilled and wanted to see how they have made the reform. He took me to one of the carpeted classrooms and showed some computers (seemingly unused for months) and said that it was the IT lab, where students could occasionally go to learn the computer.

These two instances, which I brought here from my own primary experience, tell us how people perceive the use of technology in teaching and learning. In none of the above cases, there was technology integration in pedagogy. They have understood that technology means having computers and using them occasionally for specific purposes such as showing how to open a word file, how to type, and how to print. The development of a broader framework for human resource development in a planned way is a greater challenge ahead.

School expansion and access

Insufficient budget for public education leads to the decline in education outcomes, and poorer education services, which ultimately impacts on parents’ affordability for their children’s education. In Nepal, usually, the households that largely rely on the remittances for education funding of their children and relatives will suffer a lot. It is predicted that expensive private school education will cause an increment in the enrollment in community schools and then pressurise the community schools to accommodate a large number of students. However, community schools at the current state without minimum ICT infrastructure and comfortable learning environment for those students coming from private schools will not be able to hold them and again private schools may take this advantage. Consequently, the social gap between the communities with high and low-income will be much wider than it is.

These challenges, along with many others, need to be addressed in time to meet the new demands of educating in the post-crisis period. I suggest some viable ways to begin the reform in education in Nepal.

Ways ahead

In general, the current context requires us to understand and transform the overall schooling system in a completely different way, as the opportunities for learning have completely gone online. However, the majority of students and teachers, particularly in Nepal, are unable to access online learning for many reasons including the lack of ICT infrastructure, expensive mobile data, and limited or no digital literacy of teachers and students. Complaints have been raised regarding teachers’ efficiency in the use of the online learning management system (LMS) platforms. Teachers’ inability is not due to their negligence but due to their ill-prepared teacher education systems (programmes) that did not equip them with even the basics of integrating technology in pedagogy.

I remember when I was mentoring some students during their field experience in teaching three years ago that they were compelled to follow the lesson planning as par with the lesson plan booklets commercially prepared. This practice barred the students to prepare their lessons autonomously. One of the student teachers asked, “Sir, is it good for English students to follow the same pattern as Science students while preparing lesson plans using this booklet?”. I was speechless, as I knew that this system was not viable, and the student teachers were not even having their own space for altering the patterns of lesson preparation. All the student teachers were filling out the same lesson plan formats provided to them. This is just an example that how we are highly structured in our education systems, following the conventions developed decades ago, and not even asking students to think beyond the box. The main concern I wanted to raise here is that “How does the current strategy of educating and preparing teachers to meet with the growing challenges in learner autonomy, blended learning, and integration of technology in teaching and learning?”.

The crisis has prevailed a need for school transformation by enabling educators and teachers. However, the economic crisis hit by COVID-19 will be a great challenge particularly for developing countries like Nepal to even revive the pre-COVID-19 schools. School transformation is a multifaceted process, including teacher empowerment, readiness, and responsiveness. It is a high time to think about how the teachers can be better equipped to navigate the wounds surfaced in this dark time to reconstruct life anew for themselves and their children through the schooling process. The relevant government agencies can also think of benefitting from the outsourcing of the education services, especially in terms of managing the techno-friendly resources including technical assistance in LMSs design, teacher training, and material development. Although outsourcing of educational services sometimes understood as ‘businessification’ of schooling (Bates, Choi & Kim, 2019), it has been widely adopted as a ‘tested solution’ to many educational problems in many countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong SAR of China.

Enabling teacher agency

There needs a ‘transformation from within’ to meet the challenges generated by this global crisis and a shift from the traditional ‘banking model of education’ (Freire, 1970). Teachers should be prepared for fostering their self-reflexivity and responsibility in shaping their actions in their social contexts. Although teacher agency has been underestimated in the educational contexts of the countries with developing economies, it has been observed that teachers can make the change, provided that they are exposed to an all-enabling environment, both through institutional and professional support. Teachers as reflective practitioners and professional decision-makers (Borg, 2008), also as insiders of the learning process, should be encouraged to come up with their strategies to meet their contextualised learning requirements. The current crisis has also taught us that “the one-size-fits-all” type of blanket strategies, mostly drawn from the global-north contexts, are no longer relevant. In the case of Nepal, owing to its wider demographic diversities such as socio-economic status, language backgrounds, geographical situatedness and cultural orientations,  the strategies formed at the federal level will be less likely to succeed requiring greater role of the local government in taking actions to put the policies into practices. In having so, more localised research-supported strategies for maximising teachers’ agentic actions are the must. Teachers are the forefront fighters whenever there is a learning crisis.

Enabling autonomous learning conditions

The transformations can emerge from our actions based on our ideologies and self-regulated efforts to prepare our learners for their life-long learning. The current centralised curriculum development and implementation process have been a problem-posing condition as it does not prepare the learners to be the innovators and self-regulators. The teachers and students are waiting for the state agencies to avail the textbooks for them to start the pedagogies. The curriculum needs to recognise and validate teacher and learner agency in shaping their localised learning environment. The COVID-19 has taught us about making the change from within, not necessarily waiting for some externally sourced interventions facilitating us to transform our professional rituals.

Therefore, it is essential to enable our teachers and students to create their autonomous learning conditions by:

  • Developing and providing them with the simplified digital learning programmes
  • Accelerating local governments’ engagement on developing learning materials at the micro-level
  • Streamlining non-governmental organisations towards facilitating the technical requirements, and
  • Supporting parents to educate (or facilitate the learning of) their children.

These strategies are rightly doable to manage and enable autonomous learning conditions at the grassroots level. However, at the same time, none (teachers, students, and parents) should be the victim of the circumstances like the current crisis. Teachers, students, parents, and the local level governmental and non-governmental agencies can be engaged in supporting the children to learn. It can be done by bringing all of them together with complementary roles in scaffolding design by enabling innovative learning environments. For instance, the development partners working in the education sectors can provide the local governments with emergency funding opportunities, and parents of each learner can support learning by engaging them in the family affairs, rituals, and daily chores.

Embracing technology: A blended mode of learning

Despite the well-articulated ICT enhancement policies of the government since the beginning of the 21st century in Nepal, the use of technology in teaching and learning contexts is still in its infancy, particularly in the public education system (Rana & Rana, 2020). However, it is also important that we should be able to grab the highest-level advantage out of the use of technology in teaching and learning, which is very much a core part of learning in this digital era. It should also be noted that technology alone is not a panacea for compensating all kinds of learning gaps, as it is just a tool or a medium to facilitate learning. Therefore, the best feasible way for all learning conditions is to develop a justifiable blend of face-to-face and online (virtual) learning. Although media particularly social media like Facebook and twitter are covered by discourses of the use of ICT  that would do everything possible, I believe that it is just a good friend of humans and that human values the kids need now are best transferrable and learned through direct human contact and interaction in a comfortable zone. In our educating system, we should be able to ensure that technology is used to integrate the aspects of our indigeneity of knowledge, cultures, values, and worldviews. Moreover, it is essential to include local epistemologies, heterogeneity, the multiplicity of values, and pluralism to make everyone feel owned.

From the above discussion, I come to a holistic picture of the transformation required as presented in figure 1.

Figure 1: A model for school transformation

Figure 1 provides a holistic approach to innovations in schooling in such a way that teachers, parents, and the social institutions can actively engage with their agency in the learning conditions that teachers promote autonomy, indigenous pedagogies, and professional development opportunities. A culturally responsive environment that incorporates technology will lead to greater success in meeting our 21st-century learning needs.

Conclusion

This reflection reiterates that evidence-based policymaking for the transformation in Nepal’s education system is essential to prepare our students for a better future, in such a way that our schools remain the “places of mutual respect and a place for understanding human differences and opposing viewpoints” (Arnove, 1994, p. 211) along with their equal access to learning opportunities. We have to be able to institutionalise our indigenous pedagogies that enable our students to equally participate in the learning process. The adoption of technology in teaching and learning might also contribute to foster such inequalities differently, as technology has a double-edged effect. On the one hand, it has created an unequal learning opportunity, and on the other, it has been established as the only alternative mode of learning available during this crisis. All that requires a coherent policy framework that consistently facilitates and controls the local innovations with stronger visions and valuing on teachers. We have a lot to learn from Singapore, where “talk less, learn more” is the core principle of teaching (Hogan, 2014).

 

Mr Prem Prasad Poudel is currently a PhD scholar at The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. He has worked as a lecturer of English Education at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal for more than a decade. Mr Poudel is a well-established as a teacher educator, teacher trainer and material writer in the field of ELT in Nepal. He has presented papers and published articles in the renowned national and international journals such as Journal of NELTA and Current Issues in Language Planning, respectively. Previously, Mr Poudel also served as the secretary of the Central Executive Committee of NELTA.

References

Al-Samarrai, S., Gangwar, M. & Gala, P. (2020).  The Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education financing.  World Bank, Washington, DC.

Arnove, R. F. (1994). Education as contested terrain: The case of Nicaragua: 1979–1993. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Bates, A., Choi, T. H., & Kim, Y. (2019). Outsourcing education services in South Korea, England, and Hong Kong: a discursive institutionalist analysis. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2019.1614431

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.

Ghimire, B. (2020, May 29). The national budget fails to prioritise education, experts say.
https://tkpo.st/2AiSQCZ

Guenette, J. D. (2020). Global economy deepest hit by recession in 80 years despite massive stimulus measures. https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/global-economy-hit-deepest-recession-80-years-despite-massive-stimulus-measures.

Hogan, D. (2014). Why is Singapore’s school system so successful, and is it a model for the west?. The Conversation (12th February). https://theconversation.com/why-is-singapores-school-system-so-successful-and-is-it-a-model-for-the-west-22917

Rana, K., & Rana, K. (2020). ICT Integration in Teaching and Learning Activities in Higher Education: A Case Study of Nepal’s Teacher Education. Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology, 8(1), 36-47. http://dx.doi.org/10.17220/mojet.2020.01.003

Roy, A. (2020). The pandemic is a portal. Financial Times (3rd April). www.ft.com/content/10d8f 5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca.

 

Cite as: Poudel, P. (2020, July). Transforming school education: Learning from COVID-19 and pathways ahead. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/transforming-school-education-learning-from-covid-19-and-pathways-ahead/

Issues and possible options for teachers: A COVID-19 pandemic perspective

S M Akramul Kabir

COVID-19 context

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges in every sphere of our lives and education is not out of it. With schools shut across the world, millions of children have had to adapt to new types of learning. This resulted in the largest “online movement” in the history of education with approximately billions of children around the world became homebound, together with their parents and extended families. Recently, a report of CNN has confirmed that even though the COVID-19 situation becomes stable, several universities in the USA have decided to consider the possibility that in-person classes may not resume until 2021. During this crisis, everything has happened so fast that it does not seem realistic to adopt a holistic solution that is easy to implement, and that works for everyone (Moorhouse, 2020). The pandemic is a monster situation to deal with, but we can tackle it following a prophylactic approach. So, I inspire individual solutions based on contextual needs.

The whole world has witnessed a paradigm shift in its teaching-learning-assessment process recently. So, the developing countries are no exception. For instance, in Bangladesh, irrespective of all levels, teachers have started teaching online despite several challenges. The government has also encouraged to go online to continue the teaching-learning process of the country during the pandemic. Teachers use different platforms to teach online. As there is a government directive, the primary and secondary teachers of government schools use Bangladesh Television (BTV) as a platform to teach virtually. The BTV announces the schedule of classes on different topics before the live session so that students can learn whether or not the class lesson is relevant to their level of study. In this regard, non-government schools are free from governmental directives. So, non-government schools have multiple platforms to conduct virtual classes apart from BTV. Most of the schools use Zoom or Google Classroom as their online teaching platforms although there are several challenges, such as lack of uninterrupted power supply with continuous access to the internet, unavailability of digital devices for each student, and the unavailability of well-trained teachers to conduct the online classes smoothly. In this regard, there is a huge possibility that the current paradigm shift of teaching virtually may exacerbate inequalities in education between developed and developing countries across the globe. In practically, in the post-pandemic context of education, online classes may become a regular thing in parallel to in-person classes depending on how the situation emerges. So, it’s important to get it right and make sure that no group of students is being left behind in the process. I have tailored some of the practical issues to conduct online classes in developing countries.

Access to ICT

One of those major challenges to the teachers of developing countries is access to the online mode of education to conduct classes virtually. Most of the students in the developing countries lack technical support such as unavailability of the internet or mobile device with a data pack or Wi-Fi connection to be connected to the virtual classes. OECD (2020) reported that a gap is seen across countries and between income brackets within countries in terms of students’ struggle to participate in digital learning via reliable internet access and/or technology. The report showed that 95% of students in developed countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork, whereas only 34% of students in Indonesia have a computer with internet access to do their schoolwork. So, it can be assumed that access to a computer with internet access may be similar in other developing countries such as Bangladesh or Nepal. Again, the number of computers owned by families, especially in the rural areas of the developing countries are presumably lower than the urban areas, which can have a negative influence on the whole online education. Moreover, in the developing countries, to conduct the classes online, the cost of the internet or mobile data-pack is beyond the reach for many students as well as the institutions. So, online teaching to all the students is a far cry from what is intended in the developing countries, such as in Bangladesh.

Willingness to communicate online

Another huge challenge to online teaching is the learners’ willingness to communicate (WTC) in the extramural digital environment. As most of the students in developing countries are not familiar with digital platforms, many of them are not enthusiastic about the transition to online learning. Students’ lack of online experience may promote fear and lead to their participation uncertainty. The fear can also cause withdrawal or resistance to their online participation. Therefore, it is a huge challenge for the teachers to remove this barrier to engaging his/her students virtually for the online teaching-learning process. A teacher should know how to apply different theories on virtual interaction such as activity theory of learning. Only then teachers may be able to engage the students in an interactive mode. If teachers can do so, it can be a great opportunity for them to teach interactively online in a real-time situation.

Online collaboration

As we know that the classroom situation in developing countries is more or less is lecture-based. In most Bangladeshi schools, teachers are usually the speakers or controllers of the classroom and the students are passive recipients of the course contents. So, making a collaborative and participatory classroom in a face-to-face situation has always been a challenge for the teachers. However, at present, the teachers from the developing countries have the opportunity to create a collaborative class online as several researchers (Rana, 2018; Shaista, 2018) found that students become more participatory in digital classes than physical classes. In Bangladesh, despite various obstacles, about 80% of the students in a university have expressed interest in joining the online activities (“ [Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020).

Motivation for online learning

Teachers and students harbour their motivation for learning. So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many students may lack the psychological readiness for online instruction. Even the teachers themselves may lack motivation for online teaching. Recently, in Bangladesh, the Education Minister pointed out that most of the teachers in the government institutions lack a positive mindset and the motivation to shift in-person classes on virtual mode during the COVID-19 pandemic (“[Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020). Students may also have misconceptions concerning online learning and its outcomes. They may consider this ‘paradigm shift’ as temporary resulting in their lack of motivation towards online learning. So, it is the responsibility of teachers to motivate the students that online instruction is necessary for collaborative learning and not a substitute to merely keep students busy until the pandemic subsides. Teachers also have to motivate students to shift focus away from the emotional consequences of COVID-19 to more personal investment in learning and achievement.

In this regard, I can share my experience. I have been running ELT classes on ZOOM since March 2020 for my students. I run three classes per week for this group. After overcoming the initial teething troubles related to technology and the new mode of teaching, participants have settled down and attended online classes regularly. I have motivated them to embrace this new teaching-learning situation. However, it is surfaced that the prevailing online mode of education (both public and private) is undergoing some teething troubles to adapt online exams and evaluation procedure for obvious reasons I have referred to. So, it is too early to comment on how successful the online teaching-learning activities have been until it continues at least for a considerable time.

Nonetheless, it has already been reported in different newspapers that there are more challenges to conduct online classes in rural schools due to the issue of urban-rural contextual dichotomy. However, my argument is that digital tools can be used as a catalyst to remove the urban-rural disparity and to put all the students on equal footing, then distance or institution won’t be a matter! The government just needs to take the initiative to create a level playing field. If we can ensure the internet for everyone with a digital device and train up the primary and secondary teachers to pick up digital literacy, more than half of the work will be done to transform our education online. Other petty technical barriers can be dealt with accordingly. Moreover, third world countries like Bangladesh, where face-to-face education is considered as a reliable but hefty medium, can take the current situation as a good opportunity to change its typical lecture-based classroom into a collaborative online classroom.

The upcoming world is going to based on digital platforms so do the educational skills. Without digital literacy, it may be difficult for students to survive in the academic arena. Therefore, after the post-pandemic reality, all schools should be equipped with digital support so that face-to-face teaching can be underpinned by the online learning scope. Without access to the world of websites, it is not possible to enter into the ocean of unlimited knowledge. By ensuring access to the body of world knowledge, there is a possibility to make a knowledgeable and techno-savvy generation to transform the country.

So, it is necessary to train the teachers with different online learning models (such as TPACK framework) as they are the main players to implement the process. The training should prepare the teachers so that they can interweave the three essential sources of knowledge  ̶ technology, pedagogy and content to facilitate synchronous online learning to the students through a collaborative approach. All the students should be ensured a digital device with better internet connectivity so that they can have the access to the internet to browse any particular academic site related to their course contents or course lessons anytime and in anyplace. Therefore, the learning will be ubiquitous, no matter a student stays in rural areas or urban areas, and learners will be able to learn at their own pace. However, the major challenge is left with the policymakers as they need to figure out how to reach each of the student irrespective of rural and urban contexts. On the one hand, the COVID-19 has stagnated the whole world, and on the other hand, it allows us to think about the transformation of our education system for the future.

S M Akramul Kabir is an Assistant Professor of English under the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Bangladesh. He has just completed his Doctoral journey and is waiting to be a graduate of the University of Canterbury with a PhD degree. He has taught English to both local and international students for more than 12 years. His areas of research interest include listening skill for language education, discourse analysis, learning theories, and ICT in language education.

References

Moorhouse, B. L. (2020). Adaptations to a face-to-face initial teacher education course

‘forced’ online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Journal of Education for Teaching. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2020.1755205

OECD. (2020). A helping hand: Education responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

https://oecdedutoday.com/education-responding-coronavirus-pandemic/

Rana, K. B. (2018). ICT in rural primary schools in Nepal: Context and teachers’

experiences (Doctoral dissertation). https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/457

Shaista, R. (2018). The effect of training in Mobile Assisted Language Learning on attitude, beliefs and practices of tertiary students in Pakistan (Doctoral dissertation). https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/457

সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে অনলাইন ক্লাসে বাধা মানসিকতা [Shorkari Bisshobiddaloie online classes badhamanoshikota]. (2020, May 30). bdnews24.comhttps://m.bdnews24.com/bn/detail/bangladesh/1764114?fbclid=IwAR0gUCM4_SzRp-nkzhkYp1GCixfSOGlQihOaWTrR-7JBMMRPhx0If9Xf21Y

 

Cite as: Kabir, S.M. A. (2020). Issues and possible options for teachers: A COVID-19 pandemic perspective. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/issues-and-possible-options-for-teachers-a-covid-19-pandemic-perspective/

Techniques of online teaching

Thinh Le Van

Community of Learning

Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) presented the online teaching model as a Community of Inquiry with three main elements: Teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.

Community of Inquiry by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000, p. 2)

Teaching presence is the responsibility of the teachers to select, organise materials, design the course to encourage students to interact while social presence refers is to show as a real person in the community. Cognitive presence refers to the construction of meaning by students through participating in the course. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) stated there was a correlation between these three types of presence. Since then, many studies have been conducted to examine the relationship among these three elements. Students gave a higher rate of the overall quality of interaction when instructors gave immediate feedback which means that course instructors were highly evaluated when they showed more teaching presence in an online course (Khalid & Quick, 2016; Richardson & Swan, 2003). Teaching presence was reported to be correlated with social presence because when teachers showed more teaching presence, students showed more social presence (Kanuka & Garrison, 2004; Shea & Bidjerano, 2009) and social presence was reported to correlate with learning outcomes (Hostetter & Busch, 2013; Romanov & Nevgi, 2008). These students concluded that students who participated more in the course, their learning outcomes were better than those who did not. In short, teaching presence affects social presence, or the better teaching presence is, the more social presence students will show. When students show more social presence, it will result in a better learning outcome. Therefore, the main responsibility of an online teacher is to organise the course so that students could show more social presence by joining online discussions, engaging in reading more materials. This essay will brainstorm some techniques to organise your teaching presence to improve social presence, which might result in a better cognitive presence or learning outcome.

The online teacher can engage students to do activities synchronously and asynchronously. Here are some techniques to enable students to interact asynchronously in an online course. To engage students to interact synchronously, some learning platforms such as Schoology, Edmodo or Google Classroom should be used. There are three main types of interactions: students’ interaction with materials, interaction among students, students and instructor interaction.

First, to encourage students to read materials, and watch a movie that the teacher should design a quiz to check whether students watch and understand the materials or not. This stage enables students to try to understand the materials. However, the quiz should include in the final assessment so that students will try their best to do it. By doing this step, students will interact with materials and show more social presence in the online course.

Second, after students understand the materials, they should be asked to interact with each other to share their understanding of the materials. At this step, some questions should be posted for students to share their opinions. To encourage students to interact with other students, students should be asked to reply at least two students’ posts. By doing this way, students will read other students’ posts and reply to other people post. The online forum is very important because students could reflect their ideas and show their deep understanding of the lesson.

Finally, the teacher could interact with students through an online learning platform. For example, the teacher could comment on students’ posts or give them some written feedback. If the teacher could give students some oral feedback, he could make a video by using Camtasia to upload on the learning platform.

Similarly, the teacher could interact with students synchronously. Synchronous interactions should also have three different types of interactions as described in the synchronous process. The interaction could happen through Zoom, Google Classroom or Skype. When the teacher gives students some materials, he should set up some activities for students so that they could show their understandings. Also, the teacher could create similar interactions such as group discussions for students such as Zoom breakout. Of course, during the online meeting, the teacher could have direct interactions with students.

These techniques are for online teaching; however, these also could apply in physical classes after COVID-19. The model for this kind of teaching is blended learning. The teacher could send students materials such as reading materials or videos that the teacher prepares in advance. However, to make sure that students watch the videos or read the materials, some tasks such as quizzes, questions or gap filling should be set up and these tasks should be a part of the final assessment to motivate students to complete all the tasks. These activities could be conducted online. Discussions could be carried in class when teacher and students see each other. The teacher can have more time for feedback and explore the lessons further.

In conclusion, the responsibility of the online teacher is to design the activities to encourage students to improve their interactions with materials, other students and teachers so that students could show more social presence which results in better learning outcomes.

 

Thinh Le Van holds a PhD degree from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He is an English lecturer at Banking Academy, Vietnam. His research interest is around language, learning with a focus on computer-assisted language learning (CALL). Email: lethinhpy@yahoo.com

References

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), 87-105.

Hostetter, C., & Busch, M. (2013). Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(1), 77-86.

Kanuka, H., & Garrison, D. R. (2004). Cognitive presence in online learning. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(2), 1-19.

Khalid, M. N., & Quick, D. (2016). Teaching presence influencing online students’ course satisfaction at an institution of higher education. International Education Studies, 9(3), 62-70.

Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2003). Examing social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Language Networks, 7(1), 68-88.

Romanov, K., & Nevgi, A. (2008). Student activity and learning outcomes in a virtual learning environment. Learning Environments Research, 11(2), 153-162.

Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2009). Community of inquiry as a theoretical framework to foster “epistemic engagement” and “cognitive presence” in online education. Computers & Education, 52(3), 543-553.

 

Cite as: Le Van, T. (2020). Techniques of online teaching. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/techniques-of-online-teaching/

Teacher agency in a superdifficult circumstance: lessons from a low-resource context during COVID-19

Prem Phyak

Bhim Prasad Sapkota

Ramji Acharya

Dil Kumari Shrestha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-2019 has affected personal, economic, and professional lives of teachers in a number of ways. It has created a ‘superdifficult circumstance’ which can be defined as a situation where teachers, students, parents and communities face a multitude of problems which they may not able to address. In the context of COVID-2019, teachers are facing physical, mental, economic, and other socio-cultural challenges which directly affect their personal and professional life. While some teachers have lost their jobs, others have to teach using online tools which they had never used before. The purpose of this blogpost is to analyse teachers’ experiences during the COVID-2019 pandemic and discuss their implications in the post-COVID context. The narratives are drawn from the members of Teachers for Teacher (TfT) group, a small group of teachers for professional development and research in English language education. As a network of teachers, the members of TfT meet occasionally for informal discussions on issues related to teaching, research, innovations and professional development. The narratives in this blogpost were collected in writing and have been organised under different themes.

Learning opportunities for professional development

The pandemic has completely shut down the economy, transportation and social activities. The schools were closed and the planned exams were postponed. Schools and teachers had no clue about what they should be doing next. The situation was getting worse as the lockdown period was extended. We had asked the teachers what they have been doing during the lockdown and discussed how they coped with the pandemic situation. As seen in Raj’s (pseudonym) story, teachers have used the lockdown period as a learning opportunity for professional development.

In the beginning of lockdown, I was not worried about anything because I thought it was like the end-of-year vacation. I heard about online classes and distance learning as I was taking some Zoom sessions for my professional development. As the lockdown was extended, I tried to keep myself busy in taking some online courses. In the first month of lockdown, I was enjoying my personal life by learning different online learning courses. In the third week of April, the school leadership called me to talk about the possibility of running virtual classes and requested me to lead the initiative. It was a challenging job for me to coordinate and train other teachers for online classes. I started studying different means of virtual learning/teaching system management and talked to different experts, principals and coordinators of other schools and found a few learning management systems (LMS).

Raj does not realise that there was a complete lockdown. He kept himself busy in exploring ICT tools and development learning management system. He worked hard to identify the most appropriate tool for his school. As mentioned below, Raj explores multiple ICT tools by considering the financial situation of his institution. Finally, he is able to create an LMS for his school and becoming a ‘certified Google trainer’.

I kept myself busy in learning and applying ICT tools and applications. I was completely engaged. For two weeks, I could not realise that there was a complete lockdown. I worked 18 hours a day to enable myself to handle learning management systems. I studied Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft and the other tools for virtual teaching. I found Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for synchronous learning and Google classroom, E-mail, Facebook, Viber and other asynchronous tools for communication. Eventually, I set up a learning management system (LMS) in my school. Zoom was used as asynchronous and Google Classroom as an asynchronous learning management system. But I faced some major challenges such as data storage problem (online/cloud data and offline device storage) in different tools and internet connectivity. Later, I knew that I could use Google for education which allows using Google Meet and additional tools for learning. I applied for G-Suite. As our school did not have much funding resource, I could not use other effective LMSs. For the first time in my life, I learnt about the word domain in technology. After a series of communication with Google representatives, I was able to get a G-Suite for Education for free. Now I have completed educator level ‘I’ and level ‘II’ and in the certification process for educator level ‘I’ and ‘II’ from Google. After that, I can go for a Google certified trainer.

Becoming a teacher educator and implementing innovations

The narratives show that teachers have first learned about ICT tools and trained other teachers. Although they faced challenges, they had time to explore new ideas and use them in their teaching and for training their colleagues. Rajan faced challenges to training teachers to deliver classes by using G-Suite. He organised a four-day workshop on Google form and other tools such as Google Meet and PowerPoints. He tells his experiences as follows:

Teaching textbook was a common and easy thing for all the teachers but in this flipped pedagogy teacher should prepare the materials based on the curriculum. Narrowing down the broad curricular concepts into teachable fragments was a great challenge for the teachers. On the other hand, implementing those materials in virtual learning is another challenge for the teachers. In this situation, the training was not effective as it was expected to be but I was able to make teachers familiar with Google Classroom. Though the planning of the lesson was not my part, I was compelled to go through it as the traditional lesson planning is not completely okay with distance learning. Though I was aware of the challenges of engaging students in virtual learning platforms I couldn’t design all the activities based on curriculum. Instead I requested teachers to make their classes more interactive by asking questions.

Teachers as a change agent and a community mobilizer

Teachers can play an agentive role during the pandemic situation. In the narratives we have collected, Reg (pseudonym), who has been teaching in a public school of Kathmandu and went to his village in Gandaki province during the lockdown, has played a critical role to establish learning centres to teach students by maintaining a physical distance. He tells how classes were run at those centres as follows:

I went to the learning centre near my house. Most of the learners were happy with new textbooks. The teacher was supporting every student in reading and writing. All learners were busy in reading and writing. I wanted to demonstrate different learning strategies so I requested the teacher to try out something new. I asked students to do creative tasks like drawing, small field visits, project works. […] I told them to maintain the physical distance and walk to the Shiva Mandir close to the learning centre. Most of the learners were passionate to know about the temple. I asked them to observe the temple closely and encouraged them to ask some questions about the temple and other activities around it. While some students were observing the temple, others were reading the notice board and the list of the donors pasted to the door. Others were counting the bells in front of the temple in a loud voice. They asked questions regarding the foundation, management committee, worshiping practices, and religious significance of the temple to the old grandfather, who was in the temple. After an hour I gathered them in the meadow and asked them what they observed. […] I was surprised by their confidence and happy mood while sharing their observation. Even small kids were sharing interesting information about Shiva Mandir, which I had not known before as the permanent inhabitant of the village. One of the learners shared the story of Shiva and Parwati as told by the old grandfather. After that, I told them to go to the learning centre. Most of them wanted to go to the next temple located in the community. I made a promise to teach them the next day and return to the home listening interesting talking on the way.

By engaging learners in project-based activities, Reg was helping them to develop research skills. The learners were motivated to learn about the temple in their own community. For them, it was an opportunity to interact with their friends, by maintaining social distance, observe the details of the temple and organise information to share with their friends and the teacher. By doing, Reg was helping the students to learn reading, writing and research skills beyond the textbook. Reg’s efforts help students connect their learning with real life experiences. The anecdote given below implies that students learn better when the learning process is linked with their personal life and community.

On the second day, despite a heavy rain, I went to the learning center. Due to the heavy rain, it was difficult to go out so I asked some questions related to how rainfall occurs. Some answers were funny and interesting. One of the learners answered that cloud brings a huge pot to carry water from a stream/pond and pours it from the sky. Some students from the upper level explained the process of rainfall correctly. They asked a number of questions such as why the cloud blocks the rays of the sun, how the hailstone falls, and what the reason behind hot and cold weather is. I was surprised with their questioning techniques. I was unable to answer some of their questions. I answered using taking the help from the internet but they continued to raise more questions. I promised to answer their questions the next day. I was impressed by their logic, curiosity, and passion for asking the questions.

Reg’s efforts imply that, in a superdifficult situation like COVID-2019, multiliteracy projects can help students learn effectively. Such projects do not necessarily follow the textbook contents. As discussed above, by engaging students in a fieldwork, they developed observation, reporting, communicative, speaking, and collaborative skills. Such activities promote students’ participation, motivation, and self-learning. By participating in such activities, learners gather historical information about different sites in their communities and develop questioning and research skills. As Reg describes “such activities have taught me a memorable lesson in my teaching profession that teaching and learning are not limited to textbooks and classroom; students can learn from their communities.”

Addressing the digital divide

Many schools do not have ICT infrastructures to run online classes. The teachers working in low-resource schools are not able to contact their students. The story of Rita (pseudonym) implies some key insights to address the digital divide and help students learn when the schools are closed. Rita begins her experience as follows:

My school has also tried to create virtual learning environment during Covid-19. For that, we contacted students through phone calls to confirm that whether they can learn through internet, T.V., or Radio. There were around 500 students in my school before the lockdown began. Among 500 students, 200 students came into our contact but the rest of them are still out of contact. The students were divided into 3 different groups based on their access to digital tools such as internet, T.V and Radio. Among 200 students only 82 of them were able to participate in online classes. We tried to begin the classes but we found that very few students could join the class. More than a half of the students were left behind. I thought this situation could create negativity in their mind […]. So, we could not run classes. Now, students read the textbooks at home and ask questions to their subject teachers via phone.

Rita further tells that due to lack of ICT devices with parents, it is not possible to implement online mode of teaching. However, as mentioned above, mobile phones could be a helpful tool to help students learn. Rita suggests that:

I would like to suggest that we could ask students to do different things beyond textbooks. We can ask them to do activities they are interested in. They can use their local knowledge and build up life skills by doing the things around them. Rather than asking them to do textbook-based activities for the purpose of assessment, it is important to give activities that foster their creative and critical thinking skills. They may enjoy documenting what they learned at home and in the community. They can describe what they have seen during COVID-19.

Rita argues that digital divide is a serious issue in education. While the schools are exploring alternative approaches to learning, it is important to assess whether such approaches (mainly online teaching) could exacerbate unequal participation in learning activities and access to knowledge.

Conclusion 

The stories of three teachers imply that teachers could play a critical role in addressing students’ learning challenges created by the superdifficult circumstance of COVID-19. As discussed in this blogpost, teachers have engaged themselves in a number of professional development activities to strengthen their ICT and creative pedagogical skills. This situation indicates that teachers have utilised this difficult time to upgrade their professional skills which they could use in post-COVID classes.

Authors:

Dr Prem Phyak, an MEd in English from Tribhuvan University, MA in TESOL from University College London, and PhD in English from University of Hawaii, USA, is an Associate Professor of English at Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

Mr Bhim Sapkota, an MPhil student at Nepal Open University, is a Lecturer of English at Kathmandu Shiksha Campus and English teacher at Shree Bishnudevi Secondary School, Chandragiri, Kathmandu.

Mr Ramji Acharya, an MEd graduate, is a Programme Coordinator as well as English teacher at Regent Residential School, Lalitpur.

Ms Dil Kumari Shrestha, an MEd in English and MA in Political Science graduate, is a Lower Secondary English teacher.

 

Cite as: Phyak, P., Sapkota, B., Acharya, R., & Shrestha, D. K. (2020, July). Teacher agency in a superdifficult circumstance: Lessons from a low-resource context during COVID-19. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/teacher-agency-in-a-superdifficult-circumstance-lessons-from-a-low-resource-context-during-covid-19/

Expectations of post-COVID-19 era education in Nepal

Krishna Prasad Parajuli

Introduction

Now we are facing the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. Most of the countries in the world are asking people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Following the recommendation of WHO, the Government of Nepal also ordered lockdown on March 23, 2019. The lockdown is going on and it is not certain that when it will be lifted. On the 15th June 2020, the Government of Nepal changed the modality of the lockdown and is loosely monitoring it. The lockdown has been eased to increase economic activities. As a result, the government offices, industries, shopping centres are carefully operated with some preventive measures. However, there is much uncertainty over schools and universities reopening. This article reflects on the effect of the global pandemic on education and the possibilities it opens up for the transformation of teaching-learning in Nepal, especially in the rural area where access to information and communication technology is limited. The rhythm of educational activities has been seriously altered because of the lockdown. Robert (2020, June 11) reported a deep learning crisis worldwide as about 1.5 billion students have been taking measures for COVID-19 prevention as the schools have shut down. All countries are making an effort to combat the COVID-19 and normalise people’s lives including education sectors.

Tribhuvan University, the oldest and largest university of Nepal, decided to adopt online teaching as an alternative teaching mode. Other universities followed similar practices. Nepal Open University based on online learning mode has been normally operating all academic activities. It has been observed that the majority of university students except Nepal Open University are scattered across the country and locked where they had been before the commencement of the lockdown in the country. They are unable to communicate with their university colleges and are probably waiting the day when their colleges will reopen for academic activities. The majority of undergraduate and school students are outside the coverage of online learning, especially in rural areas. Although some campuses have started online classes for Bachelors and Masters students, a large number of students are unable to join such classes because of lack of internet access and digital devices.

Although I have created a Google class for my students to extend learning space beyond four walls of the classroom before the pandemic, only few students used to visit it. Now they come to join Google classroom or ZOOM meeting more frequently although some students are unable to join my online classes. It is too early to forecast the effectiveness of online class for my students. We are experimenting with new learning technology. I am fortunate in the sense that I can apply my experience of studying in online and blended learning mode. I had done an online teacher training course from the University of Oregon and I am doing M. Phil at Nepal Open University. Now I am using my experience of remote learning to shape my online teaching practices.

To continue teaching-learning during the lockdown, many countries in the world have used radio, television, mobile technology or home delivery of printed materials to help students in their self-learning activities at home during COVID-19 (Robert, 2020, June 11). The government of Nepal has implemented alternative learning system for students grouping them into five categories: students outside the access of any technology, students with access to radio, students with access to TV, students with access to computer and students with access to computer and internet. The government has instructed to provide learning opportunities to all students at their home with the appropriate mode of delivery using print, audiovisual and online resources (Ministry of Education Science and Technology, 2020). The guidelines recognised online teaching as one of the teaching-learning modes.

I have observed high enthusiasm among the teachers in virtual space when the schools and campuses are shut down. Teachers are making attempts to reach to their students through various media on one hand and they are learning digital and pedagogical skills through online conference and training. Teachers have participated in professional development activities organised by various organisations. I frequently get an invitation to attend such opportunities. For example, I had three invitations on Facebook to participate in join online teacher training sessions on zoom. I have observed that many teachers are ready to teach online. However, limited access to ICT in rural areas prevents teachers to go online teaching immediately.

It seems that the teaching-learning continues with this alternative teaching mode for a few months. The face-to-face mode of learning will resume when the global health crisis will be resolved and school classes become safe. By the time the pandemic is over, I guess that more teachers will acquire digital and pedagogical skills and more teachers and students will have access to digital technology. Teachers are unlikely to unlearn the skills they learn during the pandemic as Robert Franek notes (Dickler, 2020, May 20). Kim (2020, April 1) predicts that in post-pandemic situation blended learning will rapidly increase and the top priority of educational instructions and that professional development of teachers will be geared up to integrate ICT in teaching-learning rather than outsource agencies to provide online learning.

I am not much hopeful that Kim’s prediction comes true in our context. However, I believe that, when school will resume, thousands of teachers will use some of the digital skills for teaching they acquired during the pandemic period. However, the actual use of these skills depends on available technology and school administrative policy. I believe that teachers teaching in rural schools will also continue with the use of ICT. I see the following possibilities in ICT integration in education in Nepal in post-COVID-19 era.

  • The Federal and local government will invest more in ICT infrastructures in remote areas. More schools will get access to the internet which will open a new venue for teaching-learning.
  • Teachers will continue to attend virtual conference, training and seminar regardless of their location. The frequency of online professional training will increase.
  • The government can provide virtual training so that teachers can balance time for teaching and participating in the training. This will save time and expenses for attending the training.
  • The training centre can hire experts drawing from the wider pool of experts easily and teachers can study at home.
  • Teachers can teach or take part in school meeting when they are away from school for personal or professional responsibilities.
  • Teachers can invite more experienced teacher as a guest teacher in their class through video conferencing.
  • Teacher and students can share class notes and other digital resources on the virtual classes which will save more time for class discussions.
  • Teacher and students can have a virtual discussion during long holidays or examination times.
  • Teachers can support the students who cannot attend face-to-face class because of illness or other reasons.
  • Teachers will share, collaborate and create digital teaching-learning.
  • Teachers are likely to observe other teachers’ virtual class which will enhance their pedagogical skills.

Conclusion

The global health crisis has forced teachers and students to stay at home. The use of ICT tools for teaching and learning in online mode has become an alternative mode instead of traditional face-to-face mode to prevent the spread of corona virus. ICT has drawn the attention of teachers, students, parents and educators. Despite the fact that many students in Nepal are unable to get access to virtual classes due to lack of ICT infrastructure, many teachers are trying to utilise internet and other available resources to meet the current needs of students. It is evident that the use of ICT will continue to grow in the post-COVID-19 era in Nepal by opening several possibilities.

Krishna Prasad Parajuli is a lecturer of English Education at Drabya Shah Multiple Campus, Gorkha. He is the Vice-Chair of NELTA Gorkha and a member of IATEFL. He is an M.Phil scholar of English Education at Nepal Open University.

Reference

Dickler, J. (2020, May 20). Post-pandemic, remote learning could be here to stay. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/20/post-pandemic-remote-learning-could-be-here-to-stay.html

Kim, J. (2020, April 1). Three post-pandemic predictions.

Ministry of Education Science and Technology. (2020). Alternative learning system implementation guidelines 2020. https://moe.gov.np/article/1323/html

Robert, J. (2020, June 11). Opinion: Reimagining education — this is the moment to think big. Devex. https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-reimagining-education-this-is-the-moment-to-think-big-97405

 

Cite as: Parajuli, K. (2020, July). Expectations of post-COVID-19 era education in Nepal. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/expectations-of-post-covid-19-era-education-in-nepal/

Crisis, teaching-learning via alternative means and ground reality

Pushpa Raj Paudel

Introduction

COVID-19 has been one of the critical human crises ever recorded after Plague of Justinian (541-542), the Black Death (1346-53), Spanish flu (1818-1819), Asian flu (1957-1958), HIV/ AIDS (2005) and Swine Flu (2009). Following the advice of WHO about maintaining physical distance to control the possible spread of the virus, the government of Nepal had announced the nation-wide lock down, and the four-month long lockdown has been recently waived though the educational institutions seem to shut down for some more weeks. During the ongoing crisis, the venture taken by some of the proactive teachers to continue teaching-learning activity to the extent possible for them and to engage themselves in continuous professional development is appreciable.

It was, undoubtedly painful for me to be detached from my students and the classroom for a long time. However, what made me satisfied was the constant contact with the students and colleagues via different digital means. Although the online classes were not as effective as the physical classes in the beginning, they remained a useful alternative to practise teaching-learning activity during the lockdown period. So, in this article, I have attempted to explore the ground reality of teaching learning from a survey and critically reflect on my teaching-learning and professional development practices including my feelings during the lockdown.

Digital divide deteriorating teaching-learning activity

Problem with the technology more or less exists in every nook and cranny of the world but the digital divide in our context seems bigger. For example, Sharma (2020) reports that only 8% of households and 12% of total schools have broadband internet facility in Nepal. Although 90% of the population use mobile phones, the majority of them do not have the internet facility. Similarly, Rana, Greenwood and Fox‐Turnbull (2019) show that only 72% of the total population of Nepal have the internet access and the majority of them (95%) are mobile data users, and mobile data is too expensive to use for educational purpose. Moreover, the urban dwellers have better access to the internet facility (not in the reach of all though). Indeed, this kind of disparity is present in the online classes that I have been taking at present, where there is the presence of less than 50% students. The condition is even worse in the case of the rural part of Nepal, which is waiting for the development of the internet infrastructures and access to web technology.

Professional development in the crisis

Although teachers are not physically present in the classrooms, some of the active teachers are busy taking the online classes or continuing teaching-learning via other alternative means. On the other hand, during the lockdown period, various national and international organisations were active in organising e-conferences and webinars for teachers’ professional development. I also participated in some of the webinars organised by Cambridge University Press, Webinar Series: British Council and NELTA, Continuous Proficiency Development Institute (CPDI), Thailand and TESOL Virtual Convention and English Language Expo 2020.

Having got opportunities to participate in these webinars and conferences, I was acquainted with new trends and ideas of English language teaching. So, they proved to be highly insightful for me to gain and share new knowledge and skills. I have used the learnt knowledge and skills in making the lessons interactive while teaching in the online environment. Moreover, I also utilised the crisis for creative writing and reflections, and also used them in my online classes to encourage my students to compose creative writing. History shows that there has always been the emergence of new literary figures and a new field to work with by the established figures due to the situation created during and post crises. So, as a teacher, we can encourage and support our students to express their emotions, feelings and experiences through creative writing or other forms of arts, which can help them to release their tensions and have a sense of achievement in the form of creation.

Teaching-learning practice during the crisis

Exploring the ground reality

Like other teachers, I always enjoy having students around me, but the ongoing health crisis caused havoc in teaching-learning activity with the temporary closure of the educational institutions globally, where Nepal couldn’t be exception. Some of the schools in Nepal, especially in the urban setting, have run the online classes by using different digital apps where there is internet facility and parents are capable enough to manage basic technologies for online classes. However, student participation in such online classes are observed low.

It is commonly reported that there is less student participation in the online classes and the delivery of lesson also has not been as effective as the face-to-face mode. Therefore, I wanted to understand if other teachers have similar problems. I conducted a survey by using the Google form about teaching-learning activity during the pandemic, where 48 teachers participated. The data showed that the majority of teachers faced the problem of low students’ participation. Additionally, some other problems mentioned by them were related to technology and learning environment like unstable or lack of the internet access, frequent power cut and learners’ unfavourable learning environment at home. Likewise, lack of apt digital contents were reported as another challenge. Similarly, challenges were reported on students’ involvement and learning facilitation like lack of students’ attention, disturbances at the students’ end, low participation in English course and lack of student-centred activities. In addition, the teachers also reported to have challenges in assessment including the lack of immediate feedback to students.

The responses of this brief survey indicate that online teaching cannot replace the physical classroom in Nepal immediately as there exist major challenges like technological preparedness, online pedagogical innovation, lack of digital contents and assessment. In such situation, the government in collaboration with public and private sector should come up with immediate strategies to reach students and also should envision to bridge the digital gaps in future.

Facing the crisis as a teacher following alternative ways

While some of us are taking initiative to run online classes to the limited number of students having with access to the stable internet and digital devices, Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argue there exists a huge challenge to give equitable access to e-learning to all the students in Nepal and a swift move to e-learning will further widen the disparity gaps, depriving a large number of students from inclusion. This study, therefore, indicates that we need to adopt different modalities to reach to different students based on the means of connection they have. For instance, we can provide offline materials to students having mobile phones and computers without the internet connection. On the other hand, for the students having neither the internet nor the digital devices, we should reach via radios and televisions as some of the teachers have already taken this initiative. For example, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and local bodies are telecasting and broadcasting educational programmes via radios and TVs though people are skeptical about the effectiveness of such teaching-learning. On the other hand, to reach the students of difficult topography, we should deliver the print materials in coordination with local government. Moreover, teachers can also reach them and engage in teaching-learning by maintaining physical distance in their own locality.

Crisis and some food for thought on our practices

The present health catastrophe, I believe, is questioning our education system and has compelled us to rethink the way we are delivering public services like education and health. Our existing education system emphasises more on competition, i.e. producing a successful person is getting priority over helping a person become a good human being. With the same token, society gives value to the rich and this has led them to achieve more power. The existing gap between the rich and the poor is constantly increasing, which is visible during the crisis, where the poor suffered the most and the marginalised and minority people were much more affected. Education and health services are highly dominated by the private sector, which were already out of the access of the working-class people, seemed more unwelcoming during the crisis for many private hospitals denied treating the patients suffering from the corona virus. This was the failure of the present neoliberal society which emphasise privatisation, marketisation, and deregulation in various services including education and health sectors diminishing the nation’s role in these sectors of fundamental necessities.

Summing up

Similar to English proverb “there is a silver lining in every black cloud”, I also tried to make the best ultilisation of the time I had in the crisis. I first focused on my professional development, especially ways to teach students online effectively. Then, I have been using the new knowledge, ideas and skills I gained from it in my own online classes. Now, my students in the online classes are no more passive listeners but the active co-participants of the teaching-learning activity. I use Easy Class and Google Classroom to manage my online classes. Likewise, to make the online lessons interactive, I use various digital apps and tools, such as online quiz using quizizz, Kahoot, ProProfs, Mentimeter, interactive videos using playposit and padlet to ensure learners’ participation in the online class and Google forms for feedback and for online test. After lockdown, I am confident that I am going to make visible changes in the lesson delivery in the physical class and the blended mode of teaching and evaluation. Moreover, I feel that the crisis in general has taught us an important lesson that Nepal also should envision alternative ways of teaching-learning by using various digital technologies.

Pushpa Raj Paudel, an M. Phil scholar at Nepal Open University, is a faculty in Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bhaktapur. Mr. Paudel has interests in creative writing, teachers’ professional development, critical pedagogy and translation. Mr. Paudel, a life member of NELTA, has presented papers in various national and international conferences and webinars, and has published articles in various magazines and newspapers.

References

Dawadi, S., Giri, R. A., & Simkhada, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Nepal: Challenges and coping strategies. Sage Submissions. Preprint. doi:https://doi.org/10.31124/advance.12344336.v1

Rana, K., Greenwood, J., & Fox‐Turnbull, W. (2019). Implementation of Nepal’s education policy in ICT: Examining current practice through an ecological model. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 86(2), 1-16. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/isd2.12118

Sharma, L. (2020 May 09; retrieved 2020 June 7). Online education increases disparity [translated from Nepali to English]. Nayapatrika. https://jhannaya.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/970/2020-05-09

WHO (2020). WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard. https://covid19.who.int/

 

Cite as: Paudel, P. R. (2020, July). Crisis, teaching-learning via alternative means and ground reality. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/crisis-teaching-learning-via-alternative-means-and-ground-reality/

Empowering learners with learning strategies: Preparation for uncertainties

Karuna Nepal

Scene setting

When the government of Nepal decided to close the schools due to the pandemics of COVID- 19, initially I thought that it was going to be a good session break. I expected to have a good rest after finishing the busy schedule throughout the academic session. Similarly, I would have enough time for preparing for the upcoming session. But things did not happen as I expected. I began to think about my students and gradually this became intense. I even saw them in my dreams. I started growing more restless day by day. It was strange because I never experienced this type of feeling during other vacations, some of which had lasted for almost a month.

The imposition of lockdown has brought more uncertainties and sharing the same whereabouts with my school students has added to my discomfort. Being a teacher of a community school, I have had an opportunity of making a close observation of the vicious circle of poverty that the young children have to fight against. Moreover, I am well aware of the socio-cultural background that my students are a part of. Surely, the students are being victimized by the abrupt changes imposed into their lives.

One day, one of my friends shared a video on Facebook in which he was playing a language game with his daughters in his room. I was happy with the way he was dealing with his daughters. Shortly, I raised the curtain of my room. Through the window, I could see the smoke coming from the chimney of the brick factory nearly about a half kilometre ahead of my house. I started to visualize some of my students working there with their parents. Some of them were carrying buckets full of water and others were dangling with bricks on their head. I could not decide if it was just my imagination or a part of reality. I closed the window but still, I could not detach myself from thinking about my students. I wanted to know what they might be doing at that moment. I knew for sure that their parents must have neither been playing language games with their children nor been reminding them to revise what they had learnt at school. What were they doing then? I believed that they might either be working with their parents or have become de facto baby sitters for their siblings.  Now the question echoed and as a teacher it was my turn to answer it. I started trembling since I did not have any justifiable answer.

My past efforts to boost students’ self-directed learning

This is not the first time that the schools have been closed with lots of uncertainties. I started recalling the past and reached to 2015 AD when schools remained closed for almost a month due to an earthquake. And of course, that incident had compelled me to devise some strategies that would possibly help the learners learn on their own when schools remain closed. Some strategies that I developed were making vocabulary web, playing word games, reading and retelling stories, doing individualized homework which addresses individual differences, keeping journal entries on significant life events such as interesting tasks accomplished and so on. I had also attempted to make students practise doing self-assessment while they work on their own at home.

I find these strategies useful but not sufficient. Now, my concern is, if the strategies were efficiently practised the students would be able to use them independently. It is because there is a significant difference between knowing about something and making them a part of life. At this point, I am not sure if my students are prepared enough to use these strategies on their own. I am seeking for some ways to get connected with my students but I have not found any way out. I would opt for virtual classes but in my context, it’s just like making a castle in the air.

The status of virtual learning in my context

Virtual classes have been advocated to be one of the best options for bridging the learning gap created by this pandemic. Although buildings are shuttered and classroom teaching has not been possible, learning is somehow being continued with distant learning. Some institutions are able to address the sudden demand of the time without delay. However, this is not equally applicable to all groups of students and perhaps completely impossible for those who study in a community school like the one where I teach. It is because running virtual classes is a challenging job in our context since it demands an excellent technical infrastructure which is beyond the access of most of the school students in Nepal. On the other hand, it is almost wrong to expect from the students belonging to lower-middle-class families to have access to the internet and modern electronic gadgets. Moreover, teachers are less experienced regarding online teaching. There is no doubt that the proliferation of technology equipped instructional setting is the demand of the day but doing this abruptly is not feasible and effective. Also, availability of teachers either directly or virtually in the current situation is beyond imagination for most of the school children, as many of the teachers have returned home and most of which are remote having no good access to the internet. Hence, teaching seems to have halted during this time.

Thinking of a way out: A need to work on developing self-directed learners

As I reflect on my teaching, now I realise, had I made some efforts for preparing the learners for these types of uncertainties beforehand, learning would not have been discontinued. Empowering the learners with self-learning strategies can be the best solution in the long run. As a language teacher, it has been crucial that we plan and implement our instructional activities efficiently for preparing our learners to take the responsibility of learning on their own. It helps in the continuation of learning both during and post-crisis situation if in case we face a similar situation in the future.

Hence, for preparing ourselves to respond to such catastrophes creatively is one of the primary responsibilities of a teacher, I have framed below some additional activities/strategies to incorporate in my upcoming lessons:

  • Make a birthday calendar and tell the learners to prepare a birthday card for their friends who have birthdays even on the days when schools remain closed. Similarly, the birthday boy or girl should write invitation letters to his/her friends and teachers.
  • Make the learners prepare a newsletter, covering reviews of the films they watch and the books they read.
  • Ask the learners to maintain their diaries every day.
  • Ask the learners to write letters to their classmates about their own stories whenever they have some changes in their daily routines. They can exchange the letter when they meet.
  • Ask the learners to collect some interesting news they listen to and comment on them orally.
  • Let the students decide the project works themselves and provide flexibility while carrying them out. I will encourage the learners to write reflections.
  • Design the lessons in such a way that I could bring a variety in my classes to address my learners’ multiple intelligence.
  • Involve the learners in activities that make them active both mentally and physically. For example, while teaching a story I will let them act it out. The learners choose the preferred roles themselves.
  • Engage the learners in translation activities. For this, I will separate a lesson each week when learners can translate self-chosen text (any story, a poem, an essay or so on).
  • Make the learners maintain a word book or vocabulary journal and add at least five words in it every day.

Although these are classroom-based strategies, I believe that once the students internalise these strategies, only then will they be able to replicate and adapt them to some extent even in the absence of the teachers. Activities demanding less or even no support of the teachers would certainly be useful. Here, it is necessary to make the learners aware of multiple strategies and let them decide which works best for them. The learners should be introduced to these various strategies to facilitate effective and autonomous learning. Eventually, the learners should be actively involved in the entire learning process from goal setting to evaluation.

Conclusion

Catastrophes are abrupt but preparation can be gradual. These types of pandemics close the door to the regular learning spaces but at the same time opens the doors of multiple alternative opportunities. For opening these doors, pre-planning and some rehearsals are needed. Empowering the learners with various learning strategies sufficiently will help the learners grow independent. This will, in turn, assist in bridging the gaps in teaching and learning during some unanticipated situations like the one we are facing these days. For this, teachers planning and facilitation play the key role to avert the cognitive loss in the learners. It is because teacher autonomy is pre-requisite to learner autonomy and is very crucial for handling these types of unpredictable situations.

 

Karuna Nepal is a lecturer at SS College. She also teaches at Shree Krishna Secondary School. She has completed her M.Phil. degree from Pokhara University. Her areas of interest include translation, philosophy and literature.

Cite as: Nepal, K. (2020, July). Empowering learners with learning strategies: Preparation for uncertainties. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/empowering-learners-with-learning-strategies-preparation-for-uncertainties/

Online class amidst COVID-19 lockdown

Hiralal Kapar

Abstract

This article presents an examination of teachers’ experiences and understanding of online learning amidst COVID-19 crisis in Nepal, pandemic impacts on education and future challenges of schooling. Open interviews with four teachers teaching their students investigated how they managed to teach few students on virtual classes and what complications they experienced when using digital tools to teach their students. Although the findings suggest possibilities of utilising various freely available ICT tools in teaching and learning particularly in urban areas, the majority of the students are unlikely to have such access in the rural area.

Context

There is a pandemic crisis that has created a kind of terror almost all over the world. The terrifying situation (COVID-19 Pandemic) made all the human activities as water in a pond in general and educational activities in particular. The entire world is being ceased where all the human chores are also being postponed indefinitely. More than 210 countries including Nepal are severely affected by COVID-19 (Worldometer, 2020, April 13). The majority of them have a lockdown to control the pandemic and keep their citizens safe (Argenti, 2020, March 13). However, I have a question “is teaching and learning possible in such pandemic?” on my mind. This is perhaps a common question to teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders of schools and colleges across the world because the entire world has been affected by the COVID-19. Perhaps similar to the Poudel’s (2020) experiences of stress during the lockdown initiated on 23 March 2020 by the government of Nepal to prevent the spread of Corona-virus infections, many others might have gone through frustrations losing their jobs, regular earnings and social relations. In Nepal, almost all educational institutions are closed but some of the universities have been trying to develop online learning mechanism (Poudel, 2020). Several webinars during this pandemic have emphasised online mode of teaching and learning as an alternative to physical classroom teaching and learning. However, the majority of schools and universities have a lack of ICT infrastructure and have the majority of teachers with limited ICT skills.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis made me speculate some alternatives to teaching and learning where I experienced that there is a good future of online education. Similar to American schools following online learning (Bakia, Shear, & Toyama, 2012), I wish we had have minimum ICT infrastructure to switch our schools to the online mode of teaching and learning in Nepal. With this idea on my mind, I talked to my four participant teachers from various schools to get their views to a major question such as “what are the major prospects of online education in the context of Nepal to meet the needs in such a pandemic condition?” The following sections offer their experiences and understandings of online teaching and learning during this lockdown.

Online Education and its Effectiveness

Bakia, Shear, and Toyama (2012) have defined online learning as internet-based teaching and learning. In the teaching field, online education is the electronically supported learning that relies on the internet for teacher/student interaction and the distribution of class materials. One of the first institutions to use online learning for completely off-campus students was the British Open University (Bates, 2005). Bates (2005) further stated some of the terms that are being used in place of online class synonymously such as virtual, hybrid, blended, mixed-mode, and distributed teaching and learning. With the historical flows and meaning of virtual class in mind, we easily can predict some of its roles in teaching and learning.

In COVID- 19 pandemic crisis, people in the crisis of food are trying to grab opportunities of learning in virtual classes. In academia, it has multiple advantages. In the interview, teachers shared different views on the issue with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. For example, Mr A expressed that online learning is only one alternative during the lockdown, and it may be cost-effective and feasible. Likewise, Mr B emphasised a virtual class that it provides students with face-to-face learning opportunities without any risk of being affected by the Corona Virus, is cheaper than regular conventional school, allows students to work autonomously and meets students’ needs. His idea aligned with Crystal (2020) that virtual class does not require any physical classroom to conduct teaching and learning activities similar to the conventional schools. Similarly, Ms C shared that online teaching saves teachers’ time and also makes them less formal as they do not need to go to school and college. Similar to Underhill’s idea (2020, April 19), she presumed that teachers can teach by sitting in the kitchen or lounge if they have virtual class facilities. Mr D shared that teaching virtually makes students psychologically free from their learning burden by creating a kind positive as well as a motivating learning environment.

ICT infrastructure for eLearning

Interviews with participants investigated the need to develop ICT infrastructure and to prepare the workforce for the implementation of online teaching and learning in Nepal. For example, Mr A emphasised electronic devices (laptop, smart-phone, etc.) and internet to initiate online learning mechanism. However, Ms B argued that both teachers and students’ physical, psychological and social aspects need to be considered before thinking about virtual classes. Mr C and Mr D focused on the peaceful and calm environment along with computer technology and internet facility to effectively conduct online teaching and learning activities. However, all the participants involved in interviews argued that teachers need to have minimum knowledge and skills of computer technology and be literate to teach on virtual classes.

I believe that Phillips’ (2020) suggestion to consider students’ learning needs, the content and purpose of the lesson, technology and pedagogy and access to technology need to considered to implement internet-based teaching and learning. Moreover, teacher preparation and infrastructure development are the basics of adopting eLearning mechanism in schools.

Challenges with online education

Various posts on social media indicate that schools in Nepal are capable of adopting eLearning mechanism. I have observed many webinars where many educators have highly emphasised the use of internet facilities where possible and some raised issues. I believe that Nepal at its current situation having limited ICT infrastructure in schools may be unable to holistically switch conventional physical classroom to online. Nepal, an underdeveloped country, where the majority of schools have a lack of ICT infrastructure (Poudel, 2020), the majority of people particularly in rural areas have limited or no internet access (Rana, 2020) and teachers have limited or no ICT skills and knowledge, cannot adopt eLearning overnight and may need another decade or so to equip schools with ICT infrastructure and teachers with ICT skills.

With the challenges of virtual classes in mind, my participants shared their challenges that they encountered when teaching in online classes. For example, Mr A shared the challenge of online class management because of untrained students. Similarly, Mr B shared students’ expectation of physical classroom more than virtual class. His experience reminded me of Johnson’s (2017) idea that the virtual classroom cannot replace traditional classroom where students can have natural life to engage them with their friends. Likewise, Ms C shared similar challenges, as she said, “Spoon may not replace someone’s hand. Although he can feed himself with spoon, he may not get satisfaction as of hand feeding (हातले खाने बानी भाको मान्छेलाई चम्चाले खानु पर्यो भने खान त खान्छन् र पेट पनि भर्छन तर सन्तुष्टि हुदैन ।)”. She indicated that an online class is not a replacement of the physical classroom. Although online class can be an alternative to physical school during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, it may not be effective to teach life skills. Moreover, Rana’s (2020) argument such as the majority of teachers and students are outside the range of broadband internet is one of the major challenges to implement eLearning in Nepal. However, teachers can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.

Conclusion

With long interaction with the participants, I came to know that online/virtual classes can be a complement to the physical classroom and an alternative during COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are some challenges such as limited or no internet particularly in rural areas, lack of trained teachers and lack of digital devices in the majority of schools and families which prevent to switch to online teaching and learning. Although online learning has potential, it may take decades to realise it in the context of Nepal. It suggests that future researches may report how both teachers and students have experienced the use of available ICT tools in their teaching and learning activities and how many teachers and students having no such access have gone through this pandemic.

 

Hiralal Kapar, an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University, is a teacher of English. Mr. Kapar believes on THIRST of education to be successful in the educational world.

References

Argenti, P. A. (2020, March 13). Communicating through the coronavirus Crisis. Harvard Business Review, Nicholas. https://hbr.org/2020/03/communicating-through-the-coronavirus-crisis.

Bakia, M., Shear, L., Toyama, Y., & Lasseter, A. (2012). Understanding the implications of online learning for educational productivity. U.S. Department of Education. Center for Technology in Learning SRI International, U.S.

Bates, T. (2005). Online learning tools and technologies Strategies for College and University Leaders San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Canada.

Crystal (2020). What’s new in the English language? IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An Online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-1

Johnson, A. (2017). Why virtual teaching will never ever replace classroom teaching. Study.com. https://study.com/blog/why-virtual-teaching-will-never-ever-replace-classroom-teaching.html

Phillips, M. (2020). 5 things teachers should consider when moving lessons online. Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/education/teachspace/articles/5-things-teachers-should-consider-when-moving-lessons-online

Poudel, T. (2020, April 20). Teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor in Nepal. ELT Chautari, Nepal. Vol. 12 (95). http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teaching-virtually-during-the-co vid-19-pandemic-a-reflection-of-a-university-professor-in-nepal/

Rana, K. (2020, April 20). E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/e-learning-is-only-a-means-but-not-a-replacement-of-physical-classroom-dr-rana/

Underhill, A. (2020, April 19). Kitchen table teaching; Affective teaching online. IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-2

Worldometer (2020, April 6). Countries where COVID-19 has spread. Worldmeter Web. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/countries-where-coronavirus-has-spread/

 

Cite as: Kapar, H. (2020, July). Online class amidst COVID-19 Lockdown. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/online-class-amidst-covid-19-lockdown/

Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions?

Manish Thapa

Introduction

With time and evolution of structures, the teaching practices and classroom set-up have also evolved. Internet facilities have been widely adopted in educational practices across the world. With the evolution of internet and communication technologies, distance learning is now the widely discussed subject among academic institutions and policymakers (Traxler, 2018). Many academic institutions across the world have been conducting full-fledged certified degree programmes from distance learning modality (Owusu-Boampong & Holmberg, 2015). There are millions of people, who study through YouTube videos and short term (credited/non-credited and certified/non-certified) courses at different online course platforms such as Coursera, edX and so on. Owusu-Boampong and Holmberg (2015) reported that over three million interested people every month visit Studyportals, a platform to do distance courses available there. Many new students hit several websites in search of online courses to pursue higher education.

Technologies have been widely used to deliver course contents, for instance, broadcasting through television and radios, video conferencing through apps such as Skype, Zoom, Viber, Google Meet, and so on, sharing of educational materials through e-mail and having discussions through online based forums have been widely adopted. In developed countries where they have minimum ICT infrastructure, distance learning has been officially recognised and widely adopted. However, in the case of least developed countries like Nepal, there lies the question: “Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions?”

History of distance learning in Nepal

Nepali education setting has been dominated by the face-to-face teaching-learning system. Historically, it was limited to Gurukul (teacher’s home or temple), Gumba (managed by the Buddhist community) and Madarasa (managed by Muslim community) (Pangeni, 2016). Formal education was started after the establishment of Durbar School in 1853 (Sapkota, 2012). In 1978, His Majesty’s Ministry of Education launched Radio Education Teacher Training Programme (RETTP), a quarter of the whole ten month primary teacher training, to develop teachers’ professional skills.

The tenth Five-Year National Development Plan (2002-2007) introduced distance learning in the education sector and highlighted the need for the open university to broaden access to higher education. The Government of Nepal formulated Open Education and Distance Learning (OEDL) policy 2007. OEDL policy helped formalise distance learning programmes and establish educational institutions for distance learning. Establishment of Open University was further stressed out by Three-year Interim Plan (2007-2010). Since then, Open and Distance Education Center (ODEC), International Centre for Academics, College of Professional Studies, British Council Nepal, and College of Distance Education and Online Studies (CDEOS) have been providing distance learning courses. Nepal Open University (NOU), a recently established university, offers a wide range of online courses and follows both synchronous and asynchronous modes of course delivery. Likewise, Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University (KU) have been offering certain online courses since 2011. The progress rate and expansion of full-fledged distance learning have been somewhat limited due to lack of smooth electricity supply and internet with high bandwidth, the poor economic condition of a large population, lack of distance learning-friendly curriculum at universities and lack of trained human resources (Pangeni, 2016). However, distance learning has benefitted particularly employed people.

Adoption of distance learning during COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the potentiality of distance learning in Nepali academic institutions has been one of the widely discussed issues. Education sector similar to other fields is affected by COVID-19 as academic institutions are forced to shut down. However, several efforts have been made by various institutions to minimise the impact of the crisis on education. National TVs and radios continued their SEE-related tuition classes as usual. Academic institutions such as Ace College and Kathmandu University started to teach courses on Zoom classes. Being one of the students at Kathmandu University, I have experienced how distance learning can be productive and intimidating.

Distance learning was a completely new experience for me before my enrolment to M. Phil at Kathmandu University. Before COVID-19 lockdown, I had completed 30+ non-credit short courses through online platforms. Those non-credit short courses were completely different from any academic course. Short courses on an online platform are more about self-paced learning with flexibility in learning hours, tests, and assignment submission (if any) by learning through reading texts, listening to audios and watching visuals. Meanwhile, the academic course through distance learning is somewhat similar to classroom modality in terms of timing, assignment deadlines, course contents and teaching-learning modality. Moreover, it is launched as an alternative to regular classes for which there may or may not be any supporting classes once lock-down ends and the university will be able to resume face-to-face mode of learning. I am, therefore, curious to know how physical classroom teaching will be resumed. By the end of the lockdown, most of the courses may be completed. For me, distance learning has been more useful and efficient than traditional classroom modality as I can stay home and study my courses. However, the experience of distance learning differs depending on the nature of courses, students’ interest in studying online and also the state of internet connection.

Increases adaptability to technologies and increase digital literacy

Distance Learning itself is carried out through the optimum use of available technologies. In the current scenario, some schools and academic institutions have adopted information and communication and technological (ICT) tools to conduct teaching and learning activities. However, it has been limited and mostly relied on the availability of resources such as internet facilities and digital technologies.  I believe such practices of ICT tools increases digital literacy and skills. During COVID-19 pandemic, some of the schools from urban areas have initiated distance learning.

The major difference, I found in distance learning is about the use of teaching-learning materials. In regular classroom teaching, instructors mostly use limited resource materials such as markers, whiteboards and textbooks/notes with occasional use of PowerPoint and visuals. Distance learning modality widens the use of resource materials and teaching-learning materials. For instance, an instructor can easily instruct through visuals and animations available in visual streaming sites (YouTube) and guide through a wider range of published texts with examples to clarify the concepts. I noticed an instructor can easily shift from one PowerPoint to another and link contents from one chapter or theme to another with examples to help students understand the concept. Distance learning also provides students with an opportunity to perform multiple tasks at the same time. While listening to the instructor, students can search for wider arrays of learning materials to understand the taught concepts. Upon any confusion even after going through learning materials, students can inquire with their instructor to get issues clarified.

Distance learning in post-COVID-19 scenario

Looking at the prospect of applicability of distance learning among Nepali academic setting in the current situation, it seems challenging. Although the use of internet facilities may allow learners to learn from their place, limited or no access to such facilities particularly in remote villages is the major concern to develop distance or online learning in Nepal. However, the underlying opportunities and lessons gained through COVID-19 pandemic should not be neglected in a rapidly growing education culture. Experience of distance learning has helped academic institutions and policymakers find the difference between a face-to-face physical class and technology-based distance classes. Discussing on wider opportunities of distance learning, academic institutions should introduce academic courses through online mode. Many employed enthusiasts who would like to achieve a higher qualification can study from their place.

With the experience of distance classes and having brief insights about its positive and negative consequences, I passionately believe that the current courses focused on theories and lectures can be operated through distance mode too. Meanwhile, academic institutions can either revise the existing course or develop a new course for distance learning. I believe that distance learning can complement conventional physical classroom teaching.

 

Manish Thapa is an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University. He has over seven years of experiences on research and knowledge management at I/NGOs. His professional interests include research and advocacy through professional and loose networks focused on community development issues.

References

Owusu-Boampong, A. & Holmberg, C. (2015). Distance Education in European Higher Education – the Potential. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, International Council for Open and Distance Education

Pangeni, K. S. (2016). Open and Distance Learning: Cultural Practices in Nepal. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning. Vol. 19. No. 2. https://doi.org/101515/eurodl-2016-0006

Sapkota, S. (2012, September). Teacher Education through Distance Mode: The Nepalese Experience. Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology. The Open University, UK

Traxler, J. (2017, December 30). Distance Learning- Predictions and Possibilities. Education Sciences. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8010035

 

Cite as: Thapa, M. (2020, July). Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions? http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/can-distance-learning-be-widely-adopted-at-academic-institutions/

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