For the next 4 weeks, and possibly for even longer until a vaccine is available, we all need to adjust to a new normal in the time of Coronavirus.
Social media accounts are exploding with tips, reminders and updates being shared among family, friends and colleagues. The new normal covers a long list, from washing hands for 20 seconds frequently with soap, to guarding one’s personal space and staying at least one meter or 3 feet away from people. In this age of social distancing, warm hugs of welcome or air and cheek kisses are definitely no-no.
Over the weekend, we saw many notices of closures. Shopping malls to salons to laundry shops are advising their sanitation hours, shorter business hours, or closure until further notice.
On top of complying with the Department of Education’s schedule of classes suspension, many schools have advised their students, parents and faculty that they will remain closed for the rest of the school year. Instead, they are embracing distance learning programs in an effort to keep delivering lessons to the students.
If you’re a parent or a student yourself, take the community quarantine period as an opportunity to discover a new way of learning. Distance learning is an umbrella term used to describe any type of learning that takes place across a physical distance and usually away from a traditional classroom. One of the most popular types of distance education is e-learning or online learning, or education that happens via the Internet.
Students can use a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, even their mobile phone to access learning materials and engage with their teachers and fellow students. It sounds convenient and user-friendly, but as with any new way of doing, there will be bumps as you adjust to another new normal. Here are some suggestions I found useful from the time I completed a master’s degree from the UP Open University, a pioneer in online teaching and learning in the country.
#1 “Learn” about distance education before you start
Do not assume that you can easily adjust to this change. Now that you're away from a traditional classroom, how can you continue to engage with teachers and learn? What do you need to stay connected? Some schools have taken the initiative to orient their students, the teachers and just as importantly the parents on this change. They are holding online seminars and answering questions and learning from each other on how best to roll this out. Ask for one if none is offered as this can only benefit both you and the school.
#2 Do a technology check
It’s not enough to have a computer or a tablet. Find out what hardware and software your distance learning program will require. For some, they may just need access to an online classroom. Others may require additional software or hardware to ensure all runs smoothly in their new virtual classroom. My daughter started distance learning last week and I noticed she uses her laptop for the online classroom, and works on her tablet for her notes and assignments. Find out what you need and what works best for you. If you have limitations, raise them with the school immediately so they can make allowances for you at this time.
#3 Prepare your physical and virtual space
It’s quite romantic to see photos of students learning as they sit in a garden, or their roof deck. But the reality is your chances of success goes higher when you have a learning haven, that is a designated place where you can park and find your things when needed. When you have your virtual tools ready, find a physical space that you can own. Ideally, it is a quiet space where you are away from family members that may disturb you when they chat or watch TV. If possible, stay away from the dining table, as you will be distracted at meal times and snack times.
#4 Be ready for Synchronous, Asynchronous or both
Your school may choose synchronous or asynchronous learning. With synchronous, you can expect the teachers and students to follow a set schedule and stay online at the same time. Asynchronous learning is just the opposite where teachers and students do not need to be online at the same time. Teachers can leave assignments or tasks for students to complete, and the latter submits on an agreed deadline. The students can also join forum discussions and leave messages on a board that the teacher will check during an agreed period – for example, a message board will stay open for a week before it is closed and graded. Whether synchronous, asynchronous or both, have the discipline to go online when you need to be to complete your learning tasks.
#5 Turn the World Wide Web into your classroom
Thanks to homeschooling that has been gaining ground in the last two decades, parents can find a wide range of online tools to aid their children’s learning. IXL and Moby Max can give you supplemental lessons on English, Math, Science and your kids can take online tests and reviewers to gauge their level of improvement. There are also sites like Coursera and Masterclass where adult students can sign up for certificate courses and learn from prestigious universities and renowned subject matter experts globally.
From now until April 14, student or no, grab the chance to learn something new. You may find that stepping away from the traditional classroom is one silver lining from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.