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e-Learning to the Rescue as Students Stay at Home
Schools and parents have high hopes for the online lessons that have become the norm with schools shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. School proprietors and parents spoke to Funmi Ogundare outlining the many advantages that they see
School managements across the country are consulting more with parents of their students as the coronavirus pandemic has forced a shift to online learning. The meetings focus on how to ensure win-win for all parties.
School managers believe the onset of the online classes is a learning curve embraced by teachers, parents, as well as students and pupils. It would go a long way to minimise disruptions to learning. They added that ‘the new normal’, will also help in ensuring the sustenance of all the positive learning habits schools instilled in students.
Lagos State has fully embraced digital or online education. The Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo submits that online learning is the future and most effective method of learning. “Even after the pandemic, we encourage schools to continue with the online classroom because it encourages a lot of skills,” Adefisayo stated.
The Vice-Principal of Fountain Heights School, Surulere, Mr. Temitope Adewuyi said the online classes started in his school on March 23, 2020, adding that the administration to students has been effective.
According to him, “our parents have been fully involved in these classes. We achieved this because we engaged our students in these classes using their parents’ system. With this, the parents can ensure that their children participate in every lesson taught and monitor what they are doing online.”
On the outlook when regular school finally resumes, Adewuyi foresees a hybrid. He stated, “I think they can only ask for more. We would rather see how we can continue to sustain the online classes post Covid-19.”
The Principal and Chief Operating Officer, Olashore International School, Iloko-Ijesha, Osun State, Mr. John Toscano said the school decided early that in the event of extended closure it would start online learning. Olashore International has made extensive use of technology in teaching students in Years 7 to 10 who have their IPads which they use to support their learning in class.
Toscano stated: “This was made easier for us than for some schools. We informed parents of our plans at an early stage and carried them along with regular updates at each step as the programme developed.
“We began the online programme for Year 12 students immediately school closed since we were committed to keeping them in a state of readiness for their forthcoming WASSCE. Years 7-11 began their online programme on the day we scheduled to open for the third term.”
He said the school began the programme with just four subjects in each year group. It is now adding additional subjects so that all topics will be covered. The school also introduced non-academic issues into the online classes.
Toscano said: “This week for example, we had an assembly on Monday morning. We will be having an early morning fitness session on Wednesday and a health clinic with our school doctor on Friday. We are also starting online drama classes and have opened an online clinic where students can speak to the school counsellors.”
On the outlook post-COVID-19, the principal said, “we want the online learning experience to substitute as far as possible for the learning experience in school, but we recognise that there are limitations on what we can achieve. For example, the scope of activity-based learning is restricted online. There will, therefore, be aspects of the curriculum which we cannot cover online. What we hope is that through this programme, we will continue to develop our students in critical areas, especially in literacy and numeracy, improve their knowledge and understanding of the subjects they are studying, while maintaining their intellectual curiosity and desire to learn.
“The overall objective is to minimise the disruption to learning that could otherwise occur and to make sure that we sustain all the positive learning habits we have been developing in students.”
The Proprietor of De Joyland School, Yaba, Mrs. Abimbola Osagie described online classes as the new normal globally. She said foresight, vision and purpose enabled De Joyland School transition from regular school to e-school quite easily, adding that it had a plan to go online before the pandemic.
“As a result, we quickly swung into action when the government declared the closure of schools. We decided to use Google Classroom and came with video contents to teach pupils.”
She said her school launched its learning hub on April 1 and that it has been a wonderful experience for the pupils.
“Despite the challenges with e-learning such as internet issues, lack of devices for some homes, inability to surf the internet on the part of few students, I must say that technology has brought more good than harm to education especially at this critical time.
“I am also happy because if this pandemic happened like 20 or 30 years ago, the story would not be the same for educators and the learners,” Osagie said. Children from other schools are also on the school’s platform.
“Parents have been sending us their testimonies as regards the impact. We are confident that when the pandemic is over, and school finally resumes, the learners would easily fit into their learning journey.”
The proprietor said the e-learning helped parents to keep a tab on their children’s learning experience and that the period has also enhanced bonding between parents and their children.
The Chief Executive Officer, Global International College and Secondary School, Mrs. Bolaji Osime said it has been quite easy for them since the school had been running some of its programmes online even before the closure of schools.
“Our students, to an extent, were used to being taught online and of course, our teachers were conversant with using online tools, so it was quite easy for us. We also had our lesson notes in digital format, so we were able to upload quickly on the Dynamiss Microsoft platform, which provides a one-stop-shop for all the features we needed for our online classes.”
She said her school’s goal is to ensure that there is no break in learning for its students to avoid creating any gap in that area, adding that teachers worked very hard to ensure that they were able to have all online classes on the new website dedicated to such.
“We also developed a website: www.globalcollegeonline.com and our students were able to access all course content, assessment materials and student activities, projects and homework which are uploaded by their class teachers on our website. Every student was assigned a Microsoft email for easy communication with the teacher.
For students who have gone through the online classes, Osime said even after COVID-19, they will still have access to the vast resources, videos, notes online 24/7 anywhere and anytime to supplement what they will be learning in class.
“It will allow them to deepen their knowledge as they can always go back to the website to download recorded videos, notes and resources that they can learn on their own. Online learning has also allowed our students to develop independent learning skills, creative, problem-solving and collaborative skills.
“It also keeps all our students fully engaged during the week, so they focus their energy and time on their academic work”, the chief executive officer said.
To ensure that its students, teachers, and parents are happy, she said the school conducted surveys among students to ascertain its effectiveness. The response it got from them was encouraging.
“They told us they enjoyed learning online, using the various learning tools, interacting with their friends and their teachers. We also stayed in touch with our students and parents via Zoom, to ensure they were doing okay and keeping safe. It has been a very great experience. Parents and students are happy. Teachers have also learnt a lot of new skills for teaching online. This will be our new normal going forward. Physical classes supported by online,” Osime said.
This reporter visited the home of Mrs. Mimido Ucheagwu, a parent whose daughter, Oluebube, attends Our Lady of Apostles Private School, Yaba, to monitor how she is doing. Oluebube’s typical day starts after breakfast when she begins to bug her mother to login on her laptop computer so she could join the class. She gets excited, especially when her favourite art and craft teacher is on.
Mrs. Ucheagwu told THISDAY that the style the school adopted has been easy, saying that they send the lessons via Telegram. “I download them, and she goes through them offline. Then she does the classwork and takes the quiz of the day if she wants. The format they send is data-friendly, so I don’t spend too much data.”
Another parent, Mrs. Olubunmi James whose children attend Dansol High School, Ikeja, said aside from the challenge of having to buy data, which is eating deep into her pocket, the online classes have kept the children mentally engaged.
“Classes start at 9am and end by 2pm. The classes keep them mentally engaged because they get to do their assignments and it is easier for us to discuss difficult questions/topics, especially when the teachers are not able to answer them satisfactorily.”
Pastor Sylvester Ogheneakpobo, whose daughter, Elyon attends Staff Nursery and Primary School, FGC, Warri, described the experience of having her participate in online classes via Zoom as great.
“She is in primary four and the classes usually held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It is three subjects each day with classwork and assignments. They did not ask us to pay for data, and they have not said anything about fees for the new term. The management just does not want the children to lag or stay idle. The network has been rather fair enough. There is thorough communication and learning is taking place as my daughter could understand what has been taught,” he said.
He added that most times, her mother guides in her assignments which they submit on WhatsApp. The school sends the scores back.
The “New Normal” in Learning
*Lockdowns caused by COVID-19 forced many schools to adopt online instruction and learning.
*Studying from home involved many parents in the activities of their children and wards.
*Schools foresee a new normal of classroom instruction mixed with online learning post-COVID-19.
*Many states, such as Lagos State embrace and encourage online learning.
*Schools are learning best practices in data management and transfer of materials to save data of users.
*Sending materials as downloadable files save data better than staying online directly.
*Prominent platforms are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and Telegram.