Online Classes: An Evaluation; In September of 2020, many schools in the Philippines began the asynchronous learning program as a response to the global health crisis. I wrote a blog about it before the beginning of the first semester of the said school year. If I remember it right, I was very optimistic about the possible outcome of the asynchronous learning program and felt nostalgic at the same time after realizing the benefits of the traditional classroom set-up.
Despite my ambivalence, I went through the online learning strategy with enthusiasm rather than hesitation and said to myself,” Wow, this is a new opportunity to learn new things about the online world!” However, at the back of my mind, I knew that I will surely miss the personal touch of the traditional learning style. There is no substitute for the feeling of “awe” that face to face interaction could bring to us in various social situations.
While I went through the online learning for almost five months, I felt some kind of exhaustion because of the demand that is required on me in the preparation lectures, videos, activities, quizzes, and the effort of understanding the world of social media. Our school opted for an online class while other schools in the Philippines implemented the modular approach, especially in communities with inadequate facilities for internet connectivity. Moreover, our school administrators allowed the teachers to create their system or format of an online class. In other words, no policy instructed us on how to exactly conduct our online classes. So, I had to learn immediately how to use a social media website to educate my students.
To be effective, I had to be technically savvy, a social media expert, and a vlogger wanna-be. I was also forced to awaken my hidden creative skills to make my online classes more entertaining, not only educational. Since we were given the freedom to design our online class format, I conducted my online classes not in real-time. Consequently, I did not have a chance to interact with my students through zoom or Google Meet due to the technical difficulties that I encountered. I created a Facebook group account for each section that I handled (10 sections) wherein uploaded my video presentations, lectures, activities, assignments, and others. Through this scheme, I was able to interact with my students according to their availability or schedule and taught them about social science subjects.
Conducting online classes would require two components, content and the means of interaction with the students. Content refers to the information to be learned by the students in the forms of video-recorded lecture, audio material, PowerPoint presentation, downloadable documents, relevant websites, etc. On the other hand, the means of communication are internet platforms like emails, social networking websites, Zoom, Google Classroom, and others.
For the assessment strategy, I uploaded activities and assignments to my Facebook account. I also used Google Classroom in the creation of my quizzes in a multiple-choice format. I requested their email or Gmail accounts, and then I sent their quizzes through the Google Classroom. For every lesson, I uploaded a combination of video records of my lecture, documents, links to relevant websites, one activity, one assignment, and one quiz. For any clarifications or concerns about the subject and activities, I always posted an announcement to ensure that all instructions would be understood by my students. I also posted videos and articles that were relevant to the subject matter, mostly current events that can help in raising their awareness about important social issues.
Online Classes: An Evaluation
My Evaluation of the Online Class
Students have the freedom to learn. They can finish the activities according to their schedule. Perhaps, my students have had an actual encounter with the quote of Sartre,” Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give a meaning.” If applied in the context of online learning, it is up to the students whether they would exert an effort to learn a lot or none at all. They can either become more prudent or lazy enough to ignore their responsibility. The responsibility is not fully on the teacher but the students as well. Once they have enrolled in an online class, they should be fully aware that they have to be responsible for their learning regardless of their circumstances in life while the teacher’s major responsibility is to upload the materials and activities. As I always said to my students, “In an online class, there are no excuses, only a decision whether to comply or not with the requirements.”
Fortunately, most of my students responded vibrantly to my online class format. They were active in sending me their concerns through chats so that they could do the assignments and activities correctly. What happened was self-directed learning since my students were able to understand on their own the instructions of my lectures, activities, and assignments with limited supervision. As compared with a traditional classroom set-up in which the teacher can immediately guide the students in performing the activities, the online class forces the students to become more critical and independent. They had to be resourceful and innovative so that they could respond to my instructions, activities, and assignments according to my expectations.
Online Classes: An Evaluation
There is a need for the teacher to be creative or innovative in their strategies. As the scientist, Jonathan Schattke’s famous quote says,” Necessity is the mother of invention, it is true, but its father is creativity, and knowledge is the midwife.” The online class format compelled me to rethink my old teaching methodology and had to be creative enough to use a combination of software applications to further encourage my students to learn or at least watch my video recorded lecture as well as read my uploaded documents.
Specifically, I was able to utilize OBS software, Microsoft Whiteboard, stylus pen, and PowerPoint presentation in my video recorded lecture. I was able to explain the topics as if I were in a classroom through the stylus pen and Microsoft Whiteboard where I wrote my ideas or concepts. It took me almost five hours in the preparation of every video recorded lecture that included writing my scripts (introduction, announcements, reminders, lectures), rehearsals, actual video recording, editing, and uploading to the Facebook account.
Unfortunately, technical problems were inevitable in conducting an online class. In one instance, my students requested to postpone one of my activities (an online debate) because of an internet problem. Internet connectivity is an issue in the Philippines due to the few companies that offer such a service. In effect, there was a big gap in communication since I encountered many situations that either I or my students could not respond immediately to messages and concerns due to internet problems. Also, some of my students were not able to receive their quizzes through Google Classroom. I did not know how to resolve such an issue since it was my first time using the said software for a quiz. Worse, many of my students had no access to the internet since they mostly came from poor families.
In an ideal world, the school has to extend some assistance in terms of internet connection, internet loads, laptops, smartphones, tablets. The local governments of some cities in the Metropolitan area or (national capital region (NCR), which we call it) have extended help to their students. Regrettably, our local government for some unknown or political reasons did not extend any forms of assistance to our university.
Online Classes: An Evaluation
Nevertheless, we Filipinos have our way of adjusting to any unfortunate circumstances and have the unexplained ability to see the good even out of a bad situation. To rectify the errors that I committed, I have some realizations to improve my online classes this coming semester since the health crisis may extend another year. One of these is to build a personal connection with my students. I have to find ways to increase my interaction with my students through the various social media platforms to break that barrier of formality. It is important also to provide more incentives that would effectively motivate my students and increase their level of engagement. For that matter, additional points, exemption from a quiz, and others would be better. I had to create a sense of community despite the isolation that was caused by the health protocols of the government. Incidentally, I will have to maximize the available social media platforms and software applications to achieve the said purpose. To further motivate my students, I have to inculcate to them that the benefits of education are far greater than the costs to help them overcome the challenges of online learning. I have always emphasized to my students the inspirational words of Nelson Mandela that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”