Online learning - two contexts
14 April, 2020 Education YVONNE FRASER
In my previous job I spent a lot of my time Skyping into Libya. My colleagues and I piloted and then developed an online teaching and teacher training model to support teachers and students living in Libya’s conflict situation. We couldn’t travel around Libya but wanted to give opportunities to people across the whole country. It was incredibly rewarding.
Our Current Circumstances
Despite the current circumstances we’re living through, I was keen to try online learning again in a different context and curious about how it could work, especially after the success in Libya. I wanted to see what we could do for our students and how we could best keep them on track with their English studies.
So, what differences have there been? We’ve used different platforms - in Libya students were usually in the same place, so Skype worked really well. We didn’t need a platform that provided a whiteboard function or enabled us to pair and group students remotely, like Zoom does. We recruited local classroom assistants to help manage the classroom and keep everyone on track. So, in some ways it was easier for everyone and more similar to a ‘normal’ classroom situation.
But there are also many similarities. Like the teachers I worked with in Libya, our students are in very different but also very challenging situations. For different reasons our students also cannot go out more than necessary and can’t meet their families and friends when they want to. There are limitations and restrictions. My experiences in both Jordan and Libya taught me that in certain circumstances educational programmes can become more important than usual. They provide routine and a sense of normality.
So how has it been so far?
Students didn’t seem too sure about the online classes to start with. They were used to coming to school and having their classes in the same room as their classmates and their teachers. In The Language Gallery Manchester students enjoyed coffee club with their teachers, riotous table tennis matches in their breaks, and our programme of social activities. Of course, we can’t manage this, or at least not in the same way.
But they seem to be benefiting, making good progress and having fun. And I’m happy to say feedback has been positive. Happy moments have been previous classmates who’d said their goodbyes, meeting again in their online classes. I’ve been happy to sit back and let them catch up with what they’ve been doing since our schools had to close. I think we’ve all enjoyed using the platform, Zoom, and the cool features it has.
There has also been a certain amount of excitement and amazement in our global classrooms from our students (and me). I’ve loved students showing me the views from their windows. In the space of 10 minutes, I’ve glimpsed Kuwait City, Marrakesh, Paris, London and more. I love travelling and seeing the world and have loved this aspect of online teaching.
Finally, let’s go back to the social programme. Students miss the fun and games in the schools and around the city, so how can we recreate this online? We have been working hard to get some of our normal fun stuff going online. We’re planning daily events for everyone to join in. I’m planning to recreate myself as an online chef! Let’s see how that goes …