The outbreak of Covid-19 was the primary trigger behind schools around the globe turning to virtual learning. There were many institutes which offered online courses and programs prior to it as well. However, with this turn of events, almost every institute had to put traditional learning aside and turn to digital resources. Hybrid learning environments were not a thing unheard of when it came to select institutes. But even for them this transformation in its entirety was rather challenging.
Similar to any other approach, digital learning has its pros and cons. This new norm has specifically been trying for teachers. After a year passed in these endeavors, instructors have gathered ample experience enabling them to share a detailed perspective. What are the ins and outs of this new form of teaching? We shed more light on it directly from the point of view of the ones who held the reins.
The role of teachers in virtual learning
In an online classroom, the instructor’s role is more of a facilitator. They upload course material, assignment, and multimedia resources to guide the students. They also conduct assessments and quizzes as done in a traditional class environment.
Being an online teacher also needs a great degree of versatility. The difference in learning styles of each student becomes even more evident virtually. Their techniques and methods must be personalized in order to cater to the needs of every pupil.
With schools rapidly shifting to online learning, teachers had to cope with an endless stream of questions. Learning online is in many ways a different experience from face-to-face lessons. Most curriculums had to go through a great number of adjustments to fit in this scenario.
These circumstances just increased a teacher’s responsibility tenfold. They had to think of innovative approaches for familiarizing with new students. Teaching tools in the form of games and apps greatly helped teachers in the venture. Like Quizlet Live which enables instructors to create engaging and interactive lessons.
It is true that there are numerous activities and lessons available for ideal virtual classroom planning. But the searching for those which suit your teaching objectives perfectly is rather time-consuming. But there are also certain experiences which are difficult to replicate in a virtual environment.
When inquired about this topic, Peter Mercier, guitar teacher, had his thoughts to share. According to him, one of the most important experiences his students are missing out is performing on-stage. They are still able to learn the material on the curriculum. Yet the actual thrill of participating in concerts and performing live is lacking.
Challenges faced by teachers in virtual learning
Inability to read non-verbal gestures
It is a general consensus among the majority of teaches that virtual learning is just not the same. There are more opportunities for establishing interpersonal connections with students in traditional classes. While it is difficult to do so in virtual classrooms. Teachers relate much better with students when they are in front of them to talk and interact with.
Online classrooms allow students to hide behind their cameras. Some even turn their cameras off while lectures are taking place. This gives them an autonomy unwelcomed by teachers. They rely on the expressions and body language of their students to determine their comprehension level. And alter their lesson plans accordingly. But a blank screen can be extremely frustrating and challenging when such evaluations have to be made.
As must be evident by now, virtual classrooms are not a perfect replacement of physical classes. At least until technology advances and become more accessible to every institute big and small. A teacher cannot see their job done if they are unsure of whether they are conveying knowledge to each student. Being unable to see the learner is one of the biggest disadvantages of online classes.
Fewer teaching tools
Multimodality is another issue teachers come across in virtual learning. Each student has their own level of comprehension and working pace. There is no single solution which can fit all when it comes to transferring knowledge.
In a face-to-face lesson, teachers can draw or write on the board to get their message across. If it is evident that students are unable to comprehend it in this manner, they proceed to change the tactic. The responses which they receive from students in real time helps them in such evaluations. Virtual classes limits strategies especially if the chosen platform does not support multimodality.
Distraction in students
The biggest advantage of learning online is that students can access it from anywhere. But in some cases, it can also become a disadvantage. Taking classes from home requires a lot of self-discipline. In the vicinity of their room, students are surrounded by a myriad of distractions.
Teachers find it very difficult on their part to maintain engagement if the student does not make equal effort. The level of distraction is also doubled in sessions that are longer or more lecture bases.
Gaining the confidence of students
This is already a major challenge in physical classes and become an even greater one when teaching online. Without building a trusted and confident bond with the teacher, students are unable to learn properly. For it to happen virtually, teachers need to make many additional efforts for maintaining links and connections. And this is true for both old and new students.
Handling mental health issues of students
It is important for young mind to be able to interact and spend time with their friends. Due to lockdown and pandemic safety measures, students are mostly devoid of in-person contact with peers. A feeling of isolation is easily cultivated in such circumstances. If left unchecked, it can further develop into depression and severe mental illnesses.
Yet again, teachers have to take on multiple roles and don the mantle of a counselor. Apart from academic performance, it is important to keep an eye how students are behaving as well. The last point we made is directly connected to this one. As winning over the confidence of a student can help you identify any changes in them. Which then you can find remedies to.
There is more than one tight corner for teachers to navigate when it comes to online classes. It goes without saying that many of our instructors found themselves unprepared for these drastic changes. Even now they are still wading through the uncertain waters of technology.
But the fact remains, that for every task from searching information to essay writing, technology has become essential. Virtual learning is still a developing and growing educational framework. And both students and teachers have to go a long way to get used to it. Regardless of its drawbacks, there are many benefits of this learning form which makes it ideal.
The future of education depends on digital tools and programs. If implemented correctly, students can be opened to a whole world of knowledge yet unexplored. For this to happen, teachers must make themselves as familiar with these technologies as possible. It is the responsibility of educational institutes to provide training sessions and workshops which assist instructors in this area. With the joint effort of all involved the opportunities to education can be endless.