The article will discuss the difficulties and benefits of virtual teaching in University education during pandemic.
Key words: online education, virtual teaching, remote learning, moodle, advantages and disadvantages.
В статье обсуждаются трудности и преимущества виртуального обучения в университетском образовании во время пандемии.
Virtual teaching is not a new term for today’s world. Yet recently it acquired a new concept. If before it was just for business or time issue, today virtual education became requirement. The pandemic decease which spread across almost all continents in short period of time made humanity experience hard times. It did not only affect the health but almost every field of society including education. In this article we will define some pros and cons of online teaching during lockdown from our own experience in the example of university teaching.
To transfer conventional education to online in Uzbekistan started not so long ago and has not been yet introduced to all higher educational institutes. In the Uzbekistan State University of World Languages “Moodle” was chosen as a pilot platform and teachers and students have been using it as an additional material for several years. From the next academic year, the university staff were planning and discussing to try the other online teaching platforms as the university was about to launch a credit- module system. Yet the condition required making quick decisions. And we came to conclusion to end the year with the help of “Moodle”.
“Moodle” is a worldwide accepted learning platform which is used in large organizations and institutions all over the world. It is highly integrated and freely available, easy to use in any devices and gives myriad of opportunities to teach and learn remotely. However, when we started studying online the problems occurred and had to be tackled as fast as possible. Before, some teachers were hardly aware of the platform and most had only basic understanding of the “Moodle”. But condition made teachers work hard on themselves and in a short period of time all teachers and students were involved. At first, we had hard times to configure all features as we had a few administrators and developers. Later they got used to the system and introduced many opportunities to us. Yet, there are still some controversial issues to be dealt with and it requires time and finance.
Poor internet connection is the second and biggest disadvantage of virtual teaching and learning. Good internet speed is the crucial requirement for distant learning. The problem has been discussed long before the pandemic; nevertheless, it has not been resolved yet. The ones who suffered most in this period were students as more than 50 percent of them live in areas where the internet access is scarcely available. Simply to connect they spend hours. They even have to climb up to the near mountain or to their house’s roof to upload or download any file. If we will not cure this technical aspect it remains as our ill point in online education.
The third difficulty we came across is health problems. Working hours tripled and you must be online during day and night to assist students and remind about assignments. Both teachers and students are losing their health. Most hours you must spend in front of computer, and it is causing headache, eye problems, and insomnia. Teachers are getting used to sedentary lifestyle and becoming physically inactive. Working without schedule too many hours, checking assignments and tasks in a short period of time are making us suffer from depression. If we will not relieve our routine in near future it might result in serious health problems. It might take some time to adapt but good solution can be to implement blended teaching. Blended teaching refers to a mixture of both face-to-face and online learning — some elements of a course are delivered online, and some are delivered f2f . Partly offline live and partly online lessons must be tried to cope with this temporary shift.
On the other hand, transition to remote teaching introduced couple of quite good opportunities. The biggest advantage we got from this is IT skills. Even the student who could hardly understand working with documents in Word format had to keep up with every nuance. As a result of these tight-scheduled lessons both teachers’ and students’ digital literacy improved dramatically. Teachers had to switch from conventional methods to more up-to-date ones as fast as possible because this situation made it more complex to attract students’ attention. For each lesson they prepared video lessons, quizzes, exercises, presentations which meet the requirement of online lessons. They organized midterm and final tests for the first time online and almost 90 percent of students were involved. Traditional students Conference which was held annually was organized in Zoom this year. Students who are talented in scientific research took part in an online conference with their articles and got certificates. Even the period of Study-Practice students observed the lessons virtually watching TV or internet while the real practice should have been at schools. At the end of practice each student prepared their own 15-minute microteaching video lessons based on observed online lessons. Although it was the first time they were practicing teaching the results were astonishing. It proved the long years practiced paperwork to be unnecessary and waste of time. It confirmed that it is high time to get rid of some traditional ways of teaching.
Moreover, online education taught us to be punctual and responsible. Each task we are required to complete is included in a dashboard beforehand and it reminds us till what time we should submit the work. Consequently, we learned to meet deadlines. Online lessons were quite good opportunity for introverted students too. They started to open. If they were not so sociable in face to face lessons, now they became active. They started to feel more confident to ask their doubts and participate in discussions. And it showed good result.
Finally, the virtual teaching and studying gave us freedom. Freedom to how, when and in what condition to work. Since we are at home, we can work according to our convenience. You can normally work drinking your morning coffee or lying in bed, listening to your favorite music, and wearing your favorite pajamas.
The transition to remote education taught us to value the time we had not even noticed. The real classroom atmosphere, teacher-student interaction, colleagues’ support, emotions cannot be replaced in any case. You cannot read the emotions in your students’ faces. You cannot discuss your interactive method with your teacher-friend. You are not now able to give feedback emphasizing drawbacks by changing your tone. It became difficult to show your love no matter how naughty your students were. We miss our arguments and debates. Taking a class online is quite different from sitting in face to face lessons. Without the dedicated class time and in-person interactions, it can be difficult to focus on the material and assignments. Even the swift move to online teaching revealed skills gaps of the teachers. Thus, our next step should be to analyze drawbacks and to consider the pedagogy, methods, tools, and models of online teaching in order to maximize the effect of virtual learning environment. We must ensure the quality to achieve satisfactory results for students and academic staff.
- Boellstorff, T., Nardi, B., Pearce, C., & Taylor, T. L. (2012). Ethnography and virtual worlds: A handbook of method. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Nicky Hockly, Lindsey Clandfield “Online teaching”, -2003, DELTA Publishing
- Tom Boellstorff “Three Real Futures for Virtual Worlds”, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research Vol. 8, No. 2 , October, 2015.