Online Learning: Expectation vs. Reality
Here’s an Online Learning report card - where we grade the system in its effectivity and how students, teachers, and parents have been faring. And what we see are the ‘rooms for improvement’. As filed by ‘Principal-for-the-day’ Philip Cu Unjieng.
For most schools, the great experiment of Online Learning has completed its first semester. And I’m certain there’s a broad range of reactions and comments on whether it’s been successful—with a commensurate range of criteria to utilize for deeming it a success or failure. But the inevitable truth is that, Love it or Hate it, it is what we have to live with during Our New Abnormal, and it doesn’t look like there’ll be any change for the remaining 2020 school year.
As with anything that has to do with Education, we’ll always be talking about a tripartite involvement—namely, the students, the teachers, and the parents. What Online Learning has done is shift some of the balance of responsibilities among the three parties, and created new dimensions of involvement—and that’s not necessarily what some parents had ‘signed up’ for. The problems are exacerbated by the inescapable reality that Online Learning is unfortunately tied up with socio-economic factors.
The WiFi Gap
What do I mean by that? First, there’s the issue of our WiFi signal. Here in the Philippines, most providers will operate on 16mbps, a far cry from the 32mbps that’s average for other countries in the region (and actually costs less there, as we in the Philippines pay a lot for basic service). Unless you’re ready to fork out the needed pesos for a stronger, more dependable WiFi service, one’s child is already working at a disadvantage. And we’re not even talking about the teacher’s signal.
Photo credit: The Manila Bulletin front page, October 6, 2020
Online article link: https://mb.com.ph/2020/10/06/filipinos-pay-more-for-slow-internet-servi…
Then, there’s the question of how many children of school age there are in the family. Ideally, each child should have his or her own device; and if no earphones, their own dedicated learning spot at home. This becomes complicated if the parents are also on WFH mode - and this goes back to the signal issue, and how many devices are tapping onto the WiFi at any point in the school/work day.
If you’re fortunate to have your child enrolled in a private school, then they may be using Blended Learning: a mix of group class modules, with individualized and collaborative instruction. Unfortunately, a number of disgruntled parents have voiced sentiments along the lines of, “I’m paying the same tuition fees, and my child is just here at home throughout the week?” Hopefully, the period of adjustment has passed, and these parents have both accepted the enhanced role they now have to play, plus the children have adjusted to this system. On this point, I know of parents who have opted to turn to home-schooling, and bypassed the schools altogether.
On the side of the teachers, I have to commend them for trying their hardest to get tech-savvy and embrace this the online medium of instruction. Some invested in ring-lights, created virtual backgrounds, and turned their own homes into virtual ‘classrooms’. Kudos to them; but I also hope they’re aware of just how much catching up they have to do—and that if you’re talking ring-lights, there are ‘little people’ ready to run rings around the teachers (and parents).
Who do they have to catch up to? Their students, of course! If you’re talking about being tech-savvy, the kids grew up with these devices, which are as familiar to them as the back of their hands. They operate the devices as naturally as Day turns to Night. So, who knows what they may be up to while attending their online classes?
You doubt what I’m saying? For those in their mid-50’s, think back to 2002 or 2003, when we’d laugh and/or knit our eyebrows, as our teen nieces and nephews would keep their cell phones out of sight, under the table, and speed-text without looking at the keyboard. We’d think in terms of ‘What is it with this next generation!’ Well, those teenagers are now in their mid-thirties, and they’re the parents of the kids attending today’s Online Learning. So, don’t think for a minute that today’s young adolescents don’t have their own set of tricks up their sleeves when using their devices. To believe otherwise is to deny how the term ‘generation gap’ exists for a reason.
When home isn’t just home
And to these children goes the greatest burden of adjusting. ‘Home’ was often the haven, the sanctuary, from School Life; Online Learning has meant a drastic repudiation of that notion. My youngest son is at University, and he admitted that it took weeks to adjust to the new medium. He relayed how in previous academic years, he would spend time after classes on campus or in the cafeteria to do his school work, so that going back home or the small apartment we rented for him near the UP campus meant that studying was done.
Now, it’s a few steps from his bed to the laptop he uses to attend his virtual classes. While some may have adjusted easily, I believe many have found the transition tough-going. We can only hope that phase is now over. If my 19-year old had this transition phase to overcome, I can only wonder how younger children have coped. And this is where parents had to play a far more major role in understanding, and helping their children with the Process.
Small price to pay for peace of mind
Some parents are still of two minds about whether this shift was all necessary. In the US of A, several states were led by those who took to heart the notion that the virus doesn’t affect kids as severely, and it would be best to ‘bite the bullet’ and re-open schools. One need only read the news about the upsurge in cases in October to assess if that was the right move.
Here in the Philippines, thankfully, we’ve taken to heart being prudent over valour. And I shudder to imagine what would have happened if schools had reopened here—and in some private school, an outbreak of cases did occur. Can you imagine the Blame Game that would have ensued, especially if said outbreak would have led to even one child becoming a fatality? There’d have been a witch-hunt for the Vector One student, and the school would have faced lawsuits. That’s a disaster waiting to happen, and it’s good that we saw the sense in averting that altogether.
I think the increased responsibilities of both the teachers and the parents is a small price to pay for the security of mind that our children aren’t out there, not practicing proper social distancing or forgetting to wear their masks or shields. Besides, if you look at the United States, isn’t it ironic that the very people espousing biting the bullet are the ones who’ll probably keep their own children at home?
In the end, this is the new Reality; and the sooner we accept that, ensure that the children are adjusted and still learning, the better for everyone—especially the children.
About The Writer
Philip Cu Unjieng
Philip Cu Unjieng is a Philippine Star columnist and regular contributor; his articles are also found on Metro.Style of ABS. An aged ‘warrior’ in the parenting arena; he’s happy to say his three boys are now more mature than him.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.