A silver lining amid problems besetting distance learning

THE decision of Waynesville Learning Center, a private school in Bacoor, Cavite, that caters to elementary and high-school students, to adopt online distance learning was not made overnight.

According to Sherill P. De Jesus, the school’s Assistant Directress, a series of consultations with the school’s stakeholders was initiated as early as May. Online surveys were conducted among the members of the school community “to ascertain their perspective of distance learning.” Additionally, the school came up with its Learning Continuity Plan, which was the result of a lot of study and research on online distance learning.

“Despite the challenges that we faced, the school decided to offer online distance learning for school year 2020-2021 because we were certain that we were capable of delivering effective and engaging online training experiences to our students,” De Jesus said.

The decision was met with resistance, especially from parents who seriously considered not enrolling their children for the school year. The teachers were also wary about this new mode of teaching because they feared that they might not be able to cope with the changes in the educational system.

“Initially, the learners and their parents felt distressed and disoriented about the idea of online distance learning,” De Jesus related. “Since it involved technology, most parents thought they would not be able to keep up with online learning and at the same time it would be burdensome on their part to teach and assist their children at home.

Life changing

DE JESUS described online distance learning as “life changing” for the children because “they were suddenly “restricted inside the four walls of their homes.

“They cannot go out and do the usual things like they were doing in school before,” she said. “They became more attached to the Internet because that was the only way for them to socialize and meet their friends.”

While children were still trying to get used to the idea of learning from home, psychologist Camille C. Garcia noted that most children can easily absorb videos and audio visual learning, which makes them feel comfortable having classes over a short period of time.

She added that children were gaining knowledge without much difficulty because they were doing so with the use of gadgets, something that the children are used to. However, Garcia pointed out that what caused much stress was “exacerbation of the disparity between the children who have and those who have not.”

“Due to the pandemic, a lot of families cannot afford to buy the needed educational and technological tools to study,” she said. “This dilemma, which was absorbed by the children, caused a negative effect on online learning. Tantrums can also be noted when poor WiFi services occur.”

More active role

FOR parents, online distance learning meant that they would be playing a more active role in educating their children. Garcia noted that because of this, parents would be more prone to burnout. “Since children have been confined in their homes for almost eight months now, parents begin to emotionally distance themselves from their children even though it’s the start of the school year.”

Garcia said, “More time is needed to help children understand their lessons and it is quite difficult for parents who cannot also comprehend the lesson, as well as the difficulty of being a techie parent.”

Parents, she added, “tend to become impatient and they feel they are losing a sense of accomplishment if children cannot get the lesson right.”

However, Garcia added that one good thing about parents taking part in their children’s online learning activities is that they can help lessen the problem of bullying and cyberbullying.

“Parents should assist and guide them with their lessons and not answer the assignments to get good grades,” she said. “At this point, parents getting involved in children’s learning should be a model of honesty and diligence.”

Teachers’ apprehension

IF there is one group that has been affected by online distance learning, it is the teachers. According to De Jesus, the teachers at Waynesville were initially apprehensive about this new mode of teaching.

“However, with the right mindset coupled with the proper emotional and professional support, the teachers were able to overcome this feeling and stayed focused on their goal of ensuring that education will continue despite the pandemic.”

According to Garcia, teachers should see online distance learning as a learning experience since this will make them more creative and resourceful when they try to impart the lessons to the students with enthusiasm. They will also motivate their students to see that learning is fun under any situation.

“Despite the difficulty in seeing the physical behavior of children, teachers can be more observant and less judgmental of their students’ conduct,” Garcia said. “They can modify the activities or modify the way modules are presented if they observe that their students are experiencing difficulties.”

When the Department of Education announced on August 14, 2020, that the opening of the new school year would be moved to October 5, 2020, De Jesus said the school management decided to stick to the original school year opening of August 24, 2020. This came after De Jesus clarified with DepEd that private schools would be allowed to push through with the August 24 opening.

“We were all surprised because we only experienced minor problems. Although the teachers are still adjusting with this new modality, they are now more confident conducting online classes,” she said. “They still prefer face-to-face teaching but for the meantime, they will deliver their online lessons to the best of their abilities.”

Adaptable, receptive

WITH two months of online classes, De Jesus would like to see their students becoming more adaptable and receptive to change “because change is the only constant in this world.”

“They have to be tough, creative and dynamic and should never lose their integrity and sense of empathy for others,” she said.

For her part, Garcia believes that the children’s listening skills will be enhanced through online distance learning “since this is badly needed when you really want to learn.” She added that the child’s attention and concentration span can also be developed as this will help him be more focused on his studies.

She cautioned, though, that some children might develop the burnout syndrome due to assignment overload and activities that need to be submitted with a deadline.

“Adjustment can be slow and indecipherable at this time, but children are more resilient in being able to cope with the change in learning,” she said. “A possible increase in stress and anxiety levels can occur, but knowing the negative effects and modification in online learning can be done in due time which children can adapt.”

As for the teachers, De Jesus strongly believes that “teachers are the most resilient people in society today.” No matter the obstacle that they face, De Jesus says teachers will definitely find ways to overcome it.

“With or without Covid-19, teachers will always be inspired to teach because they put their hearts into it,” she said. “They will always serve as God’s instrument for children to have meaningful and purposeful lives.”

*Anne Ruth P. Dela Cruz is editor of BusinessMirror’s Health & Fitness Section.

Image credits: Maxxyustas | Dreamstime.com

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