Remote learning: Boon or bane? Teachers give Observer media their views

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By Adia Wynter

Teachers are sharing opinions regarding remote learning during Covid-19 – and their thoughts on the possibility of continuing to hold classes online in the new school year. 

The winds of Covid-19 have blown the education system into the hands of online learning after the lockdown in March. According to some teachers, the experience has been a good opportunity to learn new strategies, but it also came with its shortfalls.

Teresa Browne, a teacher at the Pares Secondary School, elaborated on this. “For me, the online teaching has been like a roller coaster. There are good days and there are bad days,” she said.

Prior to the onset of Covid-19, online teaching was a relatively undiscussed and uncommon case in primary and secondary education in Antigua and Barbuda. However, teachers have been given the opportunity to separate the glitter from the gold in the virtual classroom.

The face to face aspect of in-school learning was lost, and the personal connection with some of the students went with it, according to some teachers.

Angela Black, a secondary and A-Level educator, shared her opinion. Some students had difficulties accessing the relevant learning platforms, but even after rectifying those issues, some students remained unreachable.

She clarified, “Those students I was not able to reach… it is from the home’s side of things. Some of them still did not come online for classes even though you called the home, and there would be the reassurance that you’re going to come to class but the child does not come to class.”

Tessa Browne, the principles of accounts teacher at the Antigua Girls’ High School, shared her thoughts when posed with the same question.

When asked if she was able to reach her students adequately, she responded, “Of course not… because we weren’t taught how to engage these students online. Even the students themselves didn’t have access to these platforms, even devices. Some didn’t even have internet.”

The remote learning has especially been a challenge for those who teach practical subjects, she explained.

“Because of the nature of the subject that I teach, it requires a lot of demonstration and engagement of the students,” she said. The online classes did not allow for this necessary part of the learning process.

Bernard Richardson, Antigua Grammar School’s visual arts teacher, said that even though the switch to the online classroom had posed a challenge for him as a teacher of a practical subject, it was also a benefit to him.

“It was a positive experience as a teacher… It was an opportunity for me to sharpen my skills… Just to reflect and to upgrade myself,” he explained.

Clare Browne, director of education, recently mentioned plans to implement a “learning recovery plan” to help fill in the gaps in the students’ learning caused by Covid-19.

Facing the possibility of returning to the online classroom for the new school year, teachers hope that plan will help eliminate the drawbacks of online learning to turn the entire experience into a mainly positive one.

As it stands, despite the challenges being faced, teachers do believe that the online classroom is a 21st century development which has its place in a 21st century class.

Black elaborated, “I cannot see us going on without using online teaching in the future. It has its place in education and it took Covid-19 for us to really see the true value of this.”

Once all drawbacks have been rectified, she explained, online teaching would become a major asset to the education system.

“You could have a child who broke his leg and cannot come to school for a few days… That child could be online with you… with the class, and be moving along with the class,” she went on.

The remote learning situation has had a rough start, and although teachers have had to grapple with a number of issues, most say the benefits of remote learning have led to an appreciation of the online classroom.

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