SUBJECT: Improving Virtual Learning
As a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, learning institutions have shifted to virtual learning and, as a result, there has been a shift in students’ performance. The reasons for this shift are, in most cases, monotonous lectures and explanations from teachers, poor interaction, and lack of involvement of children in the lessons.
For this reason, the problem I would like to solve for elementary school is the introduction of new creative approaches to teaching that will increase children’s interest in learning and involve their practical skills. Modern technology gives significant learning opportunities that the school can apply.
Virtual learning existed long before the pandemic ever happened, the emergence of the internet in the 1990s led to the development of new tools to help fully exploit its benefits. Education software’s like the virtual learning environment was developed in the mid-1990s to support teachers and students to continue with their respective activities on the internet. Virtual learning environment allows teachers and students to have various types of interactions online; the activities include online learning. Tutors are supposed to come up with internet resources that are appealing, vitalizing, and incredibly easy to use may prove to be difficult and time-consuming at times.
The virtual learning environment enables tutors the means to create resources very fast without needing any technical skills. Since last year many learning institutions turned to virtual learning in the wake of the pandemic, it is unclear as to whether the transition to virtual education will be permanent, but it is most likely that virtual learning will be here for a very long time. (Dhawan, 2020). There has been an observed decline in grades since many institutions started using virtual learning environments to continue with their teaching activities. It can be argued that the students are still adjusting to the new ways of attending school.
Methods and Materials Used
To explain the decline in the students’ grades after institutions shifted to virtual learning, a survey was conducted, students from various institutions using virtual learning environments were asked to give their responses by filling in an online questionnaire. The survey was conducted on 8th April 2021. The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that online learning is a more effective method of learning as opposed to the traditional classroom methods of learning, judging from students’ level of understanding. The participants were students enrolled in various institutions of higher education.
The survey aimed to compare the attitude and knowledge level of students in learning institutions who have taken part in both learning environments, both online learning and traditional classroom learning. The assessment questions addressed the following area;
- The type of institution the students are enrolled in.
- How they access the online learning platforms.
- The type of internet they have in their homes.
- The level of their IT level.
- How easily can they use the virtual learning tools?
The questions had multiple choices to choose from, the student’s responses were confidential to avoid participants being linked to several answers they gave during the survey.
The survey had a total of thirty-six responses, of which seventeen respondents were male while the remaining nineteen were female. Among those who responded to the questionnaire 80% were enrolled in a university for an undergraduate program, 11.4% of them were in a post-graduate institute, and the remaining ones were enrolled in other higher learning institutions (Enter Your Name, 2021). Fourteen individuals are enrolled in a private learning institution, and the remaining twenty-two study in a public learning institution.
A majority of the respondents owned a computer seeing that only 11.1% of them reported not holding a computer (Enter Your Name, 2021). It is important to mention, that out of those that own a laptop, only 72.2% use their laptops to access the online learning platforms, 61.1% of the respondents use their phones to access their respective online learning platforms while only 19.4% use desktops (Enter Your Name, 2021). When asked about the type of internet they had at home, 47.2% of them said they only had access to the internet on their phone, most of them said that they used their laptops to access the internet (Enter Your Name, 2021). Therefore, it is safe to say that the students use their phones to create mobile hotspots that enable their laptops to connect to the internet, 44.4% of the students access the internet through broadband, and the remaining 16% access the internet via dial-up.
A majority of the respondents, 72.2% agreed that they had sufficient IT knowledge to help them manage their lessons, among the respondents, 8.4% reported they did not have any knowledge whatsoever on IT, therefore finding it hard to participate in virtual classes. A considerable number of 19.4% of the respondents could neither confirm nor deny their level of IT knowledge, making it nearly impossible to determine their ability to manage virtual classes. However, 83.3% of the respondents agreed that online learning tools were easy to use, this can be attributed to them having sufficient IT knowledge (Enter Your Name, 2021). Notably, 8.3% of them experienced difficulties while trying to use the e-learning on their platforms, while another 8.3% were unable to say if using the online classroom was easy or not.
When asked whether their home environment was conducive and suitable for online learning, 52.8%, which is slightly more than half of the respondents, disagreed that the home environment was good for online learning. When asked about the home environment was a good place where they could conduct their online learning 38.9% of them agreed, while 8.3% could neither agree nor disagree with the question (Enter Your Name, 2021). This could be attributed to factors like unstable internet connectivity, lack of sufficient IT knowledge to help them manage their online learning, difficulty in using the online learning tools, and frequent interruptions from family members and friends while at home.
Among the respndents 83.4% agreed that experienced moments of poor connection and communication with their teachers during their online. This can be attributed to most of them having unreliable internet at home. Some of the respondents disagreed with those claimes probably because they had a better internet connection. The majority of the respondents,do not agree that online learning was effective compared to traditional classroom learning. A considerable 19.5% greed that online learning was effective compared to traditional classroom learning, while the remaining 8.3% were undecided therefore unable to agree nor disagree.
When asked about the flexibility in online learning, 52.8% responded, saying they agreed on the flexibility of online learning, 11.1% neither agreed nor denied, while a further 47.2% disagreed with the survey question (Enter Your Name, 2021). Another survey question required the respondents to give their views on whether or not online learning was fun. They all gave their response in equal proportions. This kind of response stems from factors like unconducive home environments, poor internet connection, and communication with teachers, insufficient IT knowledge and distractions from family members, and the environment during online learning.
From the survey, it is evident that the learners home environment is the main reason why the students’ grades were dropping. Factors such as poor internet connectivity, difficulty in using online learning tools, and distructions from friends and family members make virtual learning seem difficult (Montiel et al., 2020). However, teachers and institutions can assist students to make the necessary adjustments by implementing new and interesting ways to achieve it quickly and more efficiently. Teaching online needs a different approach from that of the traditional classroom. Designing an effective schedule for online classes takes a significant amount of time and effort.
Ways of Improving Online Learning
Engaging students while making sure they grasp their course can be challenging even in traditional class learning. Some of these ideas provide a way of making lessons livelier and more interactive, encouraging online learning. They include the following:
Adding discussions in lesson plans to increase class engagement
Instead of having a class where students are typing and recording themselves while answering the teachers’s posted questions, the tutor can have them view, react and respond to each other. This is a good and creative way of boosting class engagement while promoting active learning (Khanet al., 2017). For written assignments, the teachers can use google classroom where they post assignments, give students time to answer and post their responses, and later respond to each other.
In case the teacher has a PowerPoint presentation, they can record themselves doing the presentation on screen as they speak and select through their slides. Software products such as Chrome cast, used for screen recording, allows teachers to explain materials through the slides. (Kerimbayev 2016). This can also be done for lessons and assignments, this is beneficial to those students experiencing internet trouble or those who were unable to attend class as they can still access these videos.
Creating Lessons that are lively Engaging and Interactive
This can be achieved by making use of tools like Nearpod, which allows tutors to send lesson documents like presentations and word documents then adding a comment section to allow class interactions through, written messages, polls, and drawings. This allows students to participate in the lesson from their own devices in the comfort of their homes.
Being Clear On How Students Should Conduct Themselves
Before the start of every live stream, teachers are expected to be clear on the classroom rules and regulations, particularly during discussions. Teachers can also team up with students and collectively come up with their online class rules. This way, everyone will be involved in the process and not feel left out.
Setting and Reinforcing Rules and Concequences
Like in traditional class learning, teachers must enforce the rules they came up with hoping they help them manage the class. (Price et al., 2016). This can be achieved by removing students who go against the set rules and regulations, then calling them and their parents to discuss the circumstances.
Rewarding Good Behavior
In the traditional classroom setting, students used to be appreciated for maybe getting a question right or clearing the whiteboard. This, however, cannot be translated into online classes but teachers can still find a way to reward students for their efforts or good behavior. This can be done by acknowledging students in some of their emails addressed to the class in one of their lessons. Teachers can also send a message to the students and their families personally commending them for their good work.
Clearly Stating When Tasks Are Due
Most students always struggle with time management, this was also the case in the traditional class settings. Most learning institutions are still implementing the virtual learning environment in their schedule; therefore, they lack a strong school schedule making it difficult for students to lose track of their time. Setting due dates and sending student reminders so that they do not forget.
Making Use of Consesion Forms
In the virtual learning environment, it is often hard for teachers to tell whether students open and read the emails they sent out. To ensure students read the emails sent out, they can add a google forms link that requires students and their parents to fill in their names and other details acknowledging that they have read and understood the email.
Establishing a solid online learning community
Purporsefuly Giving Free Time
Giving free minutes before a live session for students to join early and interact with you and others for those few minutes is a way of creating a rapport with each other. Teachers may opt to host a recess once or twice a week where they can all hang out as a class.
Using Technology in Classes
Teachers are advised to carry out test runs on new online learning tools to determine if the tools are properly suited for their class. (Rienties et al.,2016). Teachers should also test out activities as students when doing the test runs for the new tools to familiarize themselves with it from a student’s perspective so that in cases a student needs any assistance working the tool, they can lend a hand.
Getting Parents Involved
Involving parents in the education of their children has an impact on how the students perform in school. In the virtual learning environment, parents are the ones closest to the students; therefore it is their responsibility that the students log in and attend classes; students finish and hand in their assignments on time (Ko & Rossen, 2017). This new role that has befallen parents requires time and assistance to adjust to. Teachers should get in touch with parents and ease them in their new roles.
In conclusion, the COVID- 19 pandemic has revolutionized education methods, traditional class learning is changing with the technology change. Technology is everwhere today, it allows easy access to images, games, communication, science, and much more. Technology has revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives, including how we teach and learn. Creating a productive virtual learning environment begins with using the correct educational tools that enable and encourage effective communication among those involved in online learning.
To make online learning more competitive in these challenging times, we must concentrate on more efficient technology use, that is, technology that has low procurement and maintenance costs but can effectively promote educational processes. The use of technology to improve learning and training is gaining traction around the world, reducing the time and space constraints associated with conventional learning in traditional classes. The survey conducted will help to identify what exact areas should the individuals reinforce to make virtual learning a success.
Dhawan, S. (2020). Online learning: A panacea in the time of the COVID-19 crisis. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 49(1), 5-22. Web.
Enter your name, (2020). Survey on the effectiveness of online learning during the covid -19 pandemic [Google form] Web.
Kerimbayev, N. (2016). Virtual learning: Possibilities and realization. Education and Information Technologies, 21(6), 1521-1533. Web.
Khan, A., Egbue, O., Palkie, B., & Madden, J. (2017). Active learning: Engaging students to maximize learning in an online course. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 15(2), 107-115.
Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2017). Teaching online: A practical guide. Taylor & Francis.
Montiel, I., Delgado-Ceballos, J., Ortiz-de-Mandojana, N., & Antolin-Lopez, R. (2020). New ways of teaching: Using technology and mobile apps to educate on societal grand challenges. Journal of Business Ethics, 161(2), 243-251. Web.
Price, J. M., Whitlatch, J., Maier, C. J., Burdi, M., & Peacock, J. (2016). Improving online teaching by using established best classroom teaching practices. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 47(5), 222-227. Web.
Rienties, B., Giesbers, B., Lygo-Baker, S., Ma, H. W. S., & Rees, R. (2016). Why some teachers easily learn to use a new virtual learning environment: A technology acceptance perspective. Interactive Learning Environments, 24(3), 539-552. Web.