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E-Learning Is All The Rave. But Is It Viable?

We ask fellow Malaysians about the challenges of online classes

In a world where we can play VR (virtual reality) games and conduct virtual 3D walkthroughs for homebuyers, the concept of e-learning shouldn’t be strange to us.

In fact, many have opined that e-learning should have been implemented nationwide long before Covid-19 happened. Until it actually did, and forced the widespread practice of online lessons so that students will be able to catch up to their syllabus and complete their studies on time. 

From July 22nd onwards, all primary and secondary school students will be returning to schools while adhering to strict SOPs set by the Health Ministry, NSC, and Education Ministry. However, students pursuing higher education are encouraged to continue their online lessons until year end. 

While many are lauding this move as it provides many advantages to both teachers and students, let’s not forget that being able to participate in e-learning comfortably is a privilege that many cannot afford. 

Remember Veveonah Mosibin, the 18-year-old Sabahan student who went viral after climbing up a tree to get a stronger internet connection just so she could sit for an exam? 

Image via Malay Mail

Veveonah reminds us of the challenges that our youth shouldn’t have to face in the year 2020. And it’s sad because she’s far from being the only one affected. 

Without downplaying the role of e-learning in our society, we have to consider its challenges and limitations to ensure that everyone will be able to benefit from it. 

Therefore, in an effort to examine the effectiveness of e-learning, we asked fellow teachers, parents and students who took part, and here’s what we learned:

Quality of Learning

Image via Education Technology Solutions

“Do you understand?” is one of the questions that come up the most when conducting online classes. 

As much as we want to achieve a high standard of online learning, there’s still a gap between a virtual and a physical class, or the ‘human touch’ if you will. 

One of the most significant issues with e-learning is that without face-to face interaction, teachers have a hard time controlling the quality of learning. 

To combat this, Angie Chin, a mother whose daughter has been receiving online classes from March to July, suggested that teachers should mirror their online lessons as close to how they would conduct their physical classes. 

She also hopes that teachers could prepare notes and publish them online as a point of reference so that students can understand what’s being taught. 

Based on the feedback gathered, here are some main aspects to take note of to help maintain the quality of online learning:

  1. Structuring your lessons: Planning the flow of an online class is a crucial first step 
  2. Course design: Educators should find creative ways to deliver their topics so that students can understand them easily
  3. Make learning materials readily available: Provide references and learning materials before and after online classes for students 

Regardless of teaching using animated visuals or notes, teachers should constantly ask for feedback from students to see how well they’re coping with the lesson, which brings us to another important point:

Communication Efficiency

Image via usersnap

Even in physical settings, communication can sometimes be challenging. When it comes to e-learning, the communication barrier can limit parties from reading each others’ physical, verbal and visual cues that are important in daily interactions. 

13-year-old Sydelle Tan said that while the internet provides more information for her to study, she still prefers to go to school physically because  it gives her the freedom to ask questions and clarify information. 

But not everyone shares the same issue. 

Sean, a 17-year-old student from SMK Bukit Tinggi prefers E-Learning due to the fact that some students are shy to ask questions in physical class, and so studying in a virtual classroom has given them the courage to ask questions through one-on-one consultation sessions. 

From here, we can learn that physical classes and e-learning pose one similar problem - they can’t accommodate the needs and wants of every student. We have to admit that the ability to learn is different for every individual. 

The Use of Facilities and Availability

Image via Family Handy Man

Even though online learning has been around for some time, our facilities and infrastructure are still underdeveloped. 

This problem is more prevalent in East Malaysia. According to The Star, over 60% of students in Sabah continue to experience weak and unstable Internet connectivity, and only 24% students from urban areas have computers with an Internet connection. 

For Mr Tan Ming, a primary school teacher, part of the e-learning challenge is the lack of internet coverage in certain areas, causing either bad or nonexistent connection. Without a stable connection, an educator will fail to provide a smooth learning experience.

While the limitation of facilities poses a big problem, we can’t neglect the skills required to manage e-learning platforms which is equally important. A student from AIMST University, Jordan Tan, confessed that his lecturers weren’t familiar with the platforms and technology that impeded the effectiveness of the lessons. To compensate, he had to carry out a lot of self-study, relying on sites like Youtube to guide him on his syllabus. 

It’s obvious that our systems aren’t perfect. There are plenty of issues we have to overcome - poor infrastructures, inadequate manpower and lack of training. 

While we all should always find ways to improve the e-learning experience together in building a brighter future for our youth, relevant authorities and government should take more initiative in addressing these issues.

As Ms. Adelyn Kong, a parent of three suggested, “Training from the Ministry of Education to the teachers is vital.” 

Eventually in the future, many learning lessons will go online and become a new normal. Until then, let’s take the remaining time to raise awareness on the limitations of e-learning and do our best to safeguard the future of our youths. 

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