Struggles of Switching to Online Education for Educators and Learners

Struggles of Switching to Online Education for Educators and Learners
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March 2020 brought traditional education a necessary paradigm shift, a compulsary switch to the mode of instruction from class based to online. As I was also working from home, I could help my father-in-law, a Mathematics teacher since past 45 years (who does not practice much of Activity Based Learning, prefers to teach in the conventional way, or through active learning strategies like flipped classroom, basically like most of the school teachers only recently getting to know about E-learning) to switch his in-person classes to online teaching environment. I have a few observations about the struggles we went through for the switch. I am sharing as I find it relatable to majority of conventional educators, and might inspire a collaborative effort of troubleshooting activities. If you faced similar problems, let me know what solutions you used to solve them, referencing the problem with number! We also went on to solve some of the problems with Google Meet as the replacement, so I intend to discuss the pros and cons as I write ahead.

1. Connectivity

The broad issue of connectivity can be broken into three struggles: internet, hardware and software.

1.1 Internet Connectivity

1.1. a. We have a cable net connection which stays steady throughout the day, with a few glitches due to loss of wifi connectivity at random occasions, which unfortunately coincided with the class timings. It is difficult to simultaneously teach and keep track of the connectivity at times.

1.1.b. Using either data net or wifi from home students faced the same problem sometimes. A lot of time in the beginning sessions was taken for conversations to identify the disconnect like, “hello… hello, I am askign you, are you there? Can you hear me?” or we had to go back to WhatsApp group to view posts when someone was facing issue to connect.

1.1.c. WhatsApp or Telegram, the platforms which provide very easy gateway for text messages (few bytes or KB text data) transfer the messages even though the webinars on Moodlecloud cou
ld not, with the same connection. It is very likely that the student feels that their connection is OK, even though bandwidth is not sufficient.

1.1.d. In association with Aseem Foundation, when we were able to do text based interactive video sessions on Youtube Live, still the students from J&K could not connect due to the restricted use of network.

1.2 Hardware

1.2.a. Most of our students use their parents’ mobile phones to attend video conferences or webinars. They do not own a laptop. so the size of viewable screen is limited.

1.2.b. Reminders needed to be sent at the beginning to recharge phone with sufficient data packs, charge phones before session timing, which the students got used to with, over time.

1.2.c. We felt that even though students attend in batches, the educator is same, conducting classes for over 3 hrs continously. Wearing headphones is not healthy or comfortable for such long duration. Thus the speaker needs to be used in between the sessions, which definitely makes you work out the background noises at your residential area. We advise to students as well to not wear earphones for long duration, as their physical health is very important along with studies.

1.2.d. Last connectivity issue with respect the the Hardware is that the students need to join audio with microphone. Usually the support for third party application using microphone is asked in a notification, but on mobile screen they simply could not see ‘Allow’ button as the notification box is bigger! This could be a bug in the software we thought, but exploring again, trying with the all-time-IT-Guys hack “Did you try to turn it off and on again?” on browser permissions, finally the mics were in our grasps. Students learnt to pick this up with practice but for educators, this must be a patience test.

1. 3 software

1.3.a. As the students use mobile, it limits their screen-sharing capabilities on webinar with BigBlueButton.

1.3.b. The BBB on mobile also used to disconnect if you are away from the browser page, which the students had to be to send pictures of their notebooks on WA groups. It is cumbersome to share pictures on BBB platform, the pictures have to be absolutely clear, handwriting visible and also the screen size did not allow viewing, zooming features.

[to be continued…]

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