Driven by a surge in COVID-19 cases, schools have adopted distance learning. As online instruction moves from a contingency plan to a long-term teaching model, there are four key issues.
The first is effective classroom management. Many schools have said that some of the difficulties with distance learning include managing roll calls, understanding students’ learning status and dealing with absences from online courses.
These challenges are partially a result of unavoidable factors, such as a student’s family situation, or computer hardware or software issues. These issues do not only exist at schools in rural areas, nor can they be solved through classroom management. Having excluded such non-learning factors, teachers are highly reliant on effective software and creating a roll call strategy.
The second issue is well-designed instruction. I have had little difficulty in moving my courses online, and there has been almost no gap between theory and practice. The key to success mostly lies in the selection of an online platform and educational software. Teachers should first determine their needs and understand the complexity of their teaching materials so they can choose the right digital platform. Online teaching then becomes relatively easy and intuitive.
The third is diverse student assessment. Ensuring the quality and quantity of online courses requires making assessments in real time. To prevent students from cheating, teachers need to adopt a variety of instant assessments. To prevent students and teachers from mental and physical exhaustion after long hours of “synchronous” online courses, teachers also need to adopt various “asynchronous” offline assessments.
If a digital teaching platform only has a videoconference function, it might not be helpful for teaching. It is particularly important that the teacher chooses a platform capable of fully integrating classroom administration, online instruction and student assessment.
The fourth is a teacher’s computer skills. After teaching for 24 years, I find myself in the “middle generation” among teachers. However, most teachers who are my senior have had no previous training in the use of technology-assisted instruction.
Teachers that are about my age, or perhaps five to 10 years younger, also have limited experience with employing technology in the classroom. The nationwide suspension of classes has forced them to turn to technology-assisted instruction, and to switch among different online platforms and programs. It is no wonder that teachers unfamiliar with the technology have been crying for help.
These are the core problems teachers face. Apart from telling teachers and students to practice using new technology, software developers can help by researching and developing better educational programs.
Here are three suggestions:
First, such software should be developed specifically for educational settings. What teachers need are tailor-made platforms and applications.
Second, developers should do all they can to provide a one-stop service. Having to switch between platforms and applications poses a challenge to teachers who do not have the technical skills, but are willing to learn.
Finally, there is a need for an open, interactive forum for teachers. During the suspension of classes, many teachers have exchanged opinions with and offered assistance to one another on social media. If there were an interactive platform for teachers, it would likely be a great benefit to online instruction.
Alex Wang is a teacher at Shuang Wen Junior High School in Nantou County.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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