The COVID-19 pandemic has been considered a serious concern to people all around the world. On 30 January 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China. In the context of Nepal, it was introduced on 20 February 2020. It is a kind of disease caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus. Due to the spread of COVID-19, we experienced a nationwide lockdown. It affected the nation socially, economically, and educationally. Almost all schools and universities were closed. Students and teachers were locked at home instead of going to school. We had no options in the beginning and later we started searching the different alternatives of teaching. As a result, we started communicating through Facebook Messenger. To achieve educational goals, we tried our best to find the best alternatives. Facebook Messenger was not handy in a large class and for visual interpretation. Therefore, we practiced Zoom technology. We learned to operate the Zoom application which provided a platform for both teachers and students to exercise teaching-learning activities appropriately. It has been widely used as a teaching tool that facilitated students alike the face-to-face classroom context.
Thus, this study intended to describe zoom technology as a teaching tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a reflection of an English teacher who experienced the COVID-19 pandemic massively. This study indicated that COVID-19 didn’t bring challenges only rather it brought equal opportunities as well. Therefore, this study has extensively concluded that operating the Zoom application was tough and challenging in the beginning but later it was a common and appropriate tool among all. It concluded that most teachers lacked the adequate skills to run the zoom app and those who were aware of the application had no access to the internet and digital devices. The technological enrichment and ICT paved the way for e-learning which could be affordable to families under poverty, and it would increase the competency of the learners in learning. The students learned time management skills, technological skills, and pedagogical knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal.
Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, zoom technology, lockdown, challenges, and opportunities
Teaching and learning are continuous processes to obtain new knowledge. There could be different techniques and strategies while teaching in the classroom. The physical appearance of teachers and students could make better sense for meaningful learning. Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world, the education sector was mostly victimized. The rapidly growing pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to Nepal’s education sector
Moreover, the government of Nepal issued a nationwide lockdown from 24 March to 21 July 2020 (as cited in Sharma, Banstola & Parajuli, 2021). Education was mostly affected. As a consequence of the lockdowns, schools and universities in Nepal were temporarily closed. Students and teachers became jobless due to COVID-19. It greatly affected all students, teachers, and parents, and all the concerned stakeholders. It provided challenges as well as opportunities for the teachers and students to explore the educational world around them. In the very beginning, COVID-19 created a chaotic situation and developed a great dilemma among all teachers, students, and parents because there were no ways in front of us. Pausing physical classrooms and staying at home was not the solution to such great problems for us. As a teacher, I felt a vacuum within myself and started thinking about its alternatives almost after a month. Facebook Messenger was only the online medium for the students to be connected. Slowly and gradually, we moved towards the other applications and we reached into Zoom Apps. Then, we started using zoom technology which was used as a tool to provide education to the students.
We are living in a modern world where technology is ubiquitous. Due to the ubiquitous presence of technology, the pedagogy of teaching and appropriate methodology has been essential for replacing the face-to-face mode of teaching with the virtual one. Inculcating technological awareness, pedagogical wellbeing, and technological content knowledge, we happened to exercise the contemporary practice of online delivery. The physical classroom environment was completely switched to the virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional ways of teaching were replaced by an innovative way of teaching. To accomplish the educational goals, we have come across significant changes in our classroom practices. Thus, this paper aimed at exploring the effectiveness of zoom technology as a tool to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun.
Both private and public schools employed online teaching via zoom technology. Zoom technology was not appropriate in the remote area of Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality. However, it was widely used in urban areas of the same municipality. It was difficult for me to use zoom technology in the beginning but later I learned about it and started using it appropriately. It was challenging for the beginner teachers to use in the classroom due to a lack of knowledge and skills to operate it. Thus, it has been considered as a helpful tool to provide education to the student during such situations. Considering the zoom apps as a cloud-based asset Guzachevqn (2020) stated,
Zoom is a cloud-based service that offers meetings and webinars and provides content sharing and video conferencing capability. Furthermore, he argues zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for radio and audio conferencing collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.
To cope with the above statement through video conferencing students could share and receive information among other participants which were possible only through the use of zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it helped to achieve the educational goals of any teacher. The most important thing is students are learning new technology by using zoom and obtaining their aims as well. Before lockdown we have only heard about such technology, now practically we have faced a new opportunity in the educational sector. Students and teachers as well become able to use mobile phones, computers, able to use the internet and social media which is essential in the present world. With the help of such technology, they get an education like in the general classroom. It helps to run a course of study which was disturbed by pandemic smoothly to meet the goals of the academic year. That is why it is said that zoom technology helped to reach the educational goals and provide extra knowledge to the students.
Situating the context
Teaching aims to convey information and help students develop content knowledge. In course of teaching, a teacher should use different techniques and strategies convenient and easier for the teacher. On the other hand, the teaching tool is also one of the essential foundations of the teaching and learning process that is why the teaching tool should be effective. Television, radio, computer, new technology, etc. were used as a teaching tool during the pandemic. Among them, most of the schools used zoom technology as a teaching tool during the pandemic to provide education with the help of the internet and the presence of mobile phones, computers, and laptops.
Implementing zoom technology as a tool became a challenging job for the teachers. Due to lack of idea about new technology, operating system and poor internet access we almost failed to implement in the initial phase. But later, we searched for the best alternatives and practiced the zoom application. Generally, people thought zoom was one of the applications which could be used easily but in reality, it was too complicated for all of us to use it appropriately. We had to explore out whether it works as a tool or not in the education system during the pandemic. Was zoom technology as a teaching tool significant to teachers? Thus, this study was intended to fetch the answer to those questions. Examining the various reasons, I explored the ideas and experiences of scholars in the field of language teaching in Nepal inculcating my own experience of using Zoom as a tool for teaching during a pandemic.
Impact of COVID-19 on education in Nepal
The spread COVID-19 pandemic or Coronavirus significantly disrupted every aspect of our life, including education. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in Nepal was tremendous even in its early stage. Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argued that the alarming spread of the virus caused havoc in the educational system forcing educational institutions to shut down. The education system in Nepal had been affected mostly due to it and educational institutions had been made to shut down. It means the physical education system such as teaching in presence of students and teachers in the classroom was stopped. According to a UNESCO report, 1.6 billion children across 191 countries were severely impacted by the temporary closure of educational institutions (as cited in Dawadi, Giri & Simkhada, 2020). Similarly, UNESCO presented, more than 8 million students in Nepal (4.5 million females and 4.3 million males) of which primary and secondary school children represent 45% and 39% respectively were affected by school closures due to lockdown. The above data showed how the COVID pandemic was affecting the teaching and learning process in the Nepali educational system. It is the data on how the COVID, schools, and universities have affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Sharma, Banstola and Parajuli (2021), during the lockdown, children from poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged families who already have limited education opportunities outside school were most affected. Furthermore, child marriage has increased during the lockdown, students’ dropout rates were rising. The above data showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the educational sector was severe. The government brought an alternative way of teaching such as online classes but the students in the remote village were out of reach due to the low economic status and low internet access. However, it impacted different assets of classroom teaching from sport or physical activity to curricular and extracurricular activities.
Digital learning access in education
The present scenarios indicated that students in Nepal are affected by various perspectives. Methodological switch from face-to-face classroom teaching to virtual one made teaching and learning effective and innovative. The closure of the physical classes brought a notable rise of online learning whereby teaching and learning were undertaken remotely and on a digital platform (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Schools and universities were accessing digital learning in education as a teaching tool. During the COVID-19, almost all schools and universities ran their classes online. It paved a better way for the concerned stakeholders in academia in Nepal. For the fulfillment of the educational goals, the government of Nepal provided a Closer Uses Group (CUG) sim by adding an internet facility for rural schools to promote education during the pandemic. Digital learning was a trending tool to provide education during the pandemic.
Digital learning was a form of distance learning and its fundamental requisite was access to the internet, digital devices like laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, and computers. During COVID-19 pandemic digital devices were much practiced and become a mandatory asset in addressing the pandemic gap of the institutions. According to Thapa (2020), the contemporary situation made us more sensational and sensitive in the utilization of online, blended, and approaches of distance learning in Nepal. It was mostly growing due to the availability of electronic devices and internet access. The pandemic brought a change in digital learning in the context of the Nepalese education sector. The government of Nepal also provided online-based training to the teachers for the development of their professional knowledge. Digital learning gained an unprecedented acceleration due to the impact of the present pandemic. It seemed that Nepalese education culture was also on the way to making a grand shift towards accommodating innovative technology due to the globally increasing digital learning.
Zoom technology as a tool for teaching
Promoting the educational system which was destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge to the teachers. Due to the pandemic, the traditional teaching process changed and new ways of teaching were explored in our academia. By the time being every pedagogy also gets changed. Traditional teaching was replaced by online distance learning in this period. Zoom technology had been only the prior tool in our education sector that helped to provide quality education during the pandemic. Zoom is a cloud-based service that offered video conferencing capability with a content sharing facility. It was one of the new original software-based conferences that allowed both students and teachers to have an effective teaching-learning activity. It was very useful to the teachers and students who were taking classes virtually.
Zoom promoted English teachers to present the content of their lessons in various ways (Guzacheva, 2020). Furthermore, it was useful in screen sharing as well. It motivated English teachers to annotate their shared screen, making lessons more interactive and preparing for student-centered teaching. More specifically, video communications, cloud conferencing, video and audio conferencing, collaborative workshops, and webinars, etc. were common for all of us to use in our classroom during the pandemic. We used mobile devices, desktops, computers, and smartphones in our virtual delivery regularly. Emphasizing the usage of Zoom technology, we learned several skills such as video conferencing, designing an online lesson, preparing effective teaching-learning materials during the pandemic. Zoom had become an indispensable technology for the way I work, teach, and learn together by the screen sharing feature. Therefore, I successfully engaged my students in my online class showing them the materials like videos, pictures, stories, and lesson-related materials, etc.
As a result, the use of zoom technology became one of the prominent tools of learning and teaching during the COVID pandemic in the education sector. I felt it was one of the useful tools for online teaching in our context. With the presence of teachers and students through the different devices such as mobile, laptop, computer, etc. teaching-learning process became effective and lively through a cloud-based service that offers meetings and provides content sharing with video conferencing facilities.
Challenges and opportunities of zoom technology
Almost all schools and universities were not opened and it was not clear how long this situation would continue. The virtual class which was run by the direction of the government of Nepal had partly fulfilled the educational goals. On other hand, shifting to an online class was extremely difficult in the Nepalese context mostly due to poor internet access and lack of digital devices at their hand. There were no relevant guidelines, strategies, and courses about the legitimacy of the student’s learning on an online platform. We all were lacking in it because we had no such experience in conducting online classes. Indeed, most of the teachers did not have adequate skills to run online apps like zoom and others because they had neither been trained to do the job nor been involved in online teaching before. And another reason was that there was no access to the internet and digital devices in rural areas.
For the effective implementation of online classes, different facilities such as good internet connection and electronic devices like mobile phones, computers, and laptops were the basic requirements. Dawadi, Giri, and Simkhada (2020) presented that for most schools, in addition to infrastructure, unfamiliarity on the part of teachers and schools managers are barriers to providing distance learning. It was incomplete due to the many reasons while implementing zoom technology as a tool for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the absence of an appropriate exercise and prior lesson planning were the main reasons behind the ineffectiveness of the online class. Lack of technological devices, inadequate technological knowledge, lack of self-motivation, lack of lesson design skills, insufficient funds, reluctance to amend the policy, electricity integrated problems, etc. were the challenges of e-learning in Nepal (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Alongside poor network connection, low internet access, and data privacy from the internet were other challenges that have affected the online zoom learning system in Nepal.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, online physical classes had been run almost everywhere which was a new experience for both students and teachers (Laara, et. al, 2021). Zoom technology had the potential to transform the education system by boosting educational opportunities, encouraging the development of new pedagogical methods, making the learning process more reliable, more efficient, despite many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom technology as a tool to bring transformation in education mechanisms had presented various opportunities in the modern world. It provided the learners’ various skills about new technology and helped to achieve destined goals. The overall opportunities of e-learning were affordable to families under poverty, increase competency among facilities, development in ICT, increase time management skills, increase adaptation skills to international digital communities, and skills up technological literacy (Acharya, et. al, n. d.). So, it has been realized the teacher training center, Tanahun, made the online class more energetic, effective, and familiar for many of the teachers in our locality. Indeed, I implemented zoom technology which was significantly useful for enhancing the conceptual understanding of both teachers and students regarding their course content.
It is believed that COVID-19 didn’t come along with challenges only rather it came up with several opportunities. The impact of COVID-19 has been severely realized in different fields such as tourism, business, industries, and health in general and education in particular. The closure of physical classes and the initiation of the online class taught several lessons to use new technology and innovative ideas in our classroom context. Online mode of delivery especially zoom application created a space in our education sector fundamentally. Zoom application remained as one of the interesting technologies which provided the facilities for audio-video conferencing, video communications, cloud conferencing, collaborative workshop, webinars, and chat, etc. Pertaining to the need and necessity of the educational institution during the pandemic, most of the schools and universities used zoom technology as a teaching tool in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun. The use of zoom technology has been viable, effective and one of the best alternatives in our academia during the pandemic. Zoom application supported those schools, students, and teachers in obtaining content-related pedagogical knowledge and skills. It made every practitioner easier to grab the learning opportunity via the zoom application because it saved time, energy and became learner-friendly tools to solve the problems minutely. Thus, it was useful in breaching the gap in teaching in the Nepalese education context because it facilitated learners’ potentials and helped them explore their potentials.
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Purnima Thapa completed her M.Ed. from Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus, TU. She is a school teacher at Aanbookhaireni, Tanahun. She is interested in teaching, reading, and carrying out research in ELT.