Many countries have reacted to the COVID-19 through the closures of businesses, reductions in mobility and travel. Schools have been included in the lockdown and many have now migrated their classes to online platforms.
There are many online applications which are already in use in schools. Moodle and Google Classroom are already popular and have been used as a companion in schools for a while now. Students can access and submit assignments, review class materials and parents can also keep up to date on their children’s progress. However, with the literally overnight school closures, everyone has been forced to switch to a full online method of teaching.
Of course, online teaching could be considered a luxury, especially in countries where funds for education are scarce. Many public schools in Spain and Greece either offer limited classes or, in some cases, none at all. Some classes are shown on public television with no obligation for the students to watch them. Other schools are using “Teach from Home” a hub and toolset which Google has offered for free for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
In private schools the situation depends less on funds and more on the school’s organization, foresight, and philosophy. Some private schools are better prepared for the transition to full online classes. Dr. Peggy Pelonis, President of the American Community School of Athens, Greece, stressed how “having been on [an online] platform for asynchronous teaching/learning for the last seven years” has made “both teachers and students quite familiar with its use”. Marla Coklas, a teacher at the same school commented that, “It was at first chaotic, however in a ‘structured’ way. It felt as if I had to move my classroom into my home. The chaos was because it literally happened overnight, however, I understood what was needed to be done to make that move to online teaching.”
The change in teaching methodology seems to have affected younger children differently than older ones. Younger students “are not as familiar with these technologies” and, besides, for whom, in any case, “it is not recommended that they spend much time on the screen,” as Dr. Pelonis noted. The school is addressing this issue by “creating short videos and then sending homework by email. However, kids continue to need help and supervision so usually require an adult by their side.”
Teachers have found that their workload has increased due to that fact that a question which would be asked and answered instantly in class, now takes much longer while waiting for and sending responses to students.
Jesper Jorgenssen, a parent of three in Denmark, remarked that, “The [children] enjoy the more relaxed approach to the daily timeline… but they miss being with their friends,” and that there has been some confusion in terms of teachers’ coordinating lessons. Other parents are very happy with the results and say that the adaptation depends on the child’s character.
Online teaching could have a positive effect on students “having an almost ‘forced’ emphasis on independent learning. They must take responsibility for their learning, keeping track of and submitting assignments and adhering to deadlines,” as Colkas pointed out.
As we have been hunkering down, possibly till the end of the school year, everyone will become more used to using online learning. But what will the future hold? Will it replace traditional classrooms in the near or distant future?
Dr Pelonis does not see it replacing face to face teaching, “If anything, this experience has helped teachers get over their tech fears and even those most resistant are now fully on board.”
Teachers and parents also seem to agree that we won’t be ditching traditional schools just yet. With Colkas emphasizing the importance of “The social impact of school on a child’s mental and physical well-being.”