Online Distance Learning: Insights from students, teachers

One month into the new online learning environment implemented by Makati Hope Christian School, the students and the teachers are slowly adapting to the method of learning online. Students have been diligently attending their online classes held on Google Meet and submitting their coursework through the Google Classroom platform while teachers are continuously preparing activities and learning about new platforms to provide a unique and engaging learning experience for their students. However, this new learning environment is still fairly new to both the teachers and the students and it will take a while before everyone can be comfortable and confident in traversing through this new online environment. But even in the face of this new environment, with the addition of the pandemic, the teachers and the students don’t seem to be giving up any time soon. “As a mother, learning should never stop,” said Mrs. Sarah Christine Barros, an MHCS English teacher and a mother of two. “If online learning is not suitable in any way, there are other options in learning that the parents and their children can try. If we stop now, when can we start adjusting to the new normal set up? We never know when this pandemic will end. It is better to be resilient. As a Makati Hope Christian School teacher, it is part of our school mission to provide education for students to be responsive to the needs and challenges of the time. The pandemic is the challenge of today and the challenge is accepted.” On the same question of a possible academic freeze, Karylle Ang, a Grade 12 Hebrews student from the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strand, states that “this current learning environment is a new experience that we have never encountered. Yet, I do not wish for an academic freeze because it will be a waste of a year and our time. There are many opportunities out there that we can do but if we choose to stop because of this pandemic, it would really be a waste. Pursuing online classes will surely be the best option for all of us.” Other teachers and students who have been asked this question also voiced the same opinion — that an academic freeze is not the answer in the pursuit of attaining education. Therefore, stemming from these answers, what then are the benefits and disadvantages of learning online? Zach Ty, a student of Grade 9 Josiah and the current vice president of the Student Council, said that “There are quite a few benefits to online learning. I noticed that when learning online, you learn at your own pacing and time. You also have convenient access to such a wide array of resources and information on your device. It’s also a very safe and forgiving environment since you are at the comfort of your own home and there’s ample time to study, review, and learn the lessons.” On the flip side, he also shared that, “I definitely do have a hard time staying engaged in class, and to make matters worse, a messy home holds a lot of distractions. If you pair this with the long hours, videos, and waits, it can be quite diverting.” It can be seen from a student’s perspective that the new online learning environment has both its advantages and disadvantages, but how does this look like on the other end of the spectrum? According to teachers, the benefits of the new learning environment are the extensive use of technology such as the use of educational applications that creates an engaging learning environment that motivates students to learn and reach the targeted learning competencies. On the other hand, the disadvantages of this new learning environment are the environmental and technical issues such as noisy surroundings or unstable connections that disrupt the whole class and in turn affects the learning outcome of the students. As stated by one of our science teachers, who wished to remain anonymous, the difficulties they face are the “technical issues and lack of time for checking students’ outputs to provide more meaningful feedback” which greatly inhibits the learning process and cognition of students. With the stated advantages and disadvantages, both students and teachers were asked to assess the readiness of one another for the new learning environment. According to Ms. Althea De Leon, one of our P.E. teachers, “ I think most of the students are still new with the platforms we are using for online classes and both parties should understand this and help each other out. I have observed some students who are still up late at night and working during weekends just to finish their requirements, sooner or later these effects or practice of students will affect their holistic health.” To add, Ms. Leonora Venancio stated that she believes that due to the new Online Distance Learning, most students are seen adjusting. “For students who are already independent, this is working great. The challenge lies with students who has been finding it hard to study with less monitoring. They are the ones who are struggling to find their rhythm.” Digging deeper into the online learning which is now implemented, what method is better? The prior method of teaching face-to-face or the current method which is online? Most of the teachers agreed that both methods have their pros and cons. Ms. Venancio says: “It’s not one size fits all.” There are different kinds of students. For instance, online learning could be better for independent students since it allows them some freedom that they like and deserve. On the other hand, there are also students who are struggling with these new online set-up which could be why face to face learning is better suited for these kinds of students. One teacher says that “The trick is, to deliver quality education for the learners, by maximizing the advantages, and minimizing the disadvantages of any methods.” In the perspective of students, Soyun Kim, a student of Grade 12 Hebrews from the STEM strand claims that she used to prefer face-to-face classes. But after slowly getting used with online learning, she now prefers the online set-up. Overall, everyone has their own opinions about online learning. There are people who prefer the traditional face-to-face set-up while there are others who prefer the online learning method. Due to the ongoing pandemic, no one can say for sure when schools will return to face-to-face classes. One thing that is certain is that through these times, people should be able to help each other especially when it comes to lessons and cope with what we now call the “new normal”. Story by Sophia Chua and Erin Mapanao