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/