By Foo Ming Li
Han Chiang University College of Communication (HCUC) organised an e-symposium on 13 November 2020 to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the education sector and the best possible solutions for academicians and students of all institutions around the world to overcome the challenges.
A total of 160 participants consisting teachers, executives of public and privately universities, teachers training institution and Ministry of Education from different states of Malaysia took part in the e-symposium.
Besides, international participants from Oman, Iraq, India, Nigeria, Nepal, Pakistan, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia joined the e-symposium as well.
Lim Tse Shaun, lecturer of School of Communication and Media and the moderator of the e-symposium quoted the United Nations (UN) to have reported that Covid-19 has contributed to the largest disruption towards the education sector affecting 1.6 million learners in more than 190 countries of all continents.
“The closure of schools and other learning institutions has affected 94 percent of the student population and up to 99 percent of lower and lower-middle income countries were involved,” he said.
Lim added that it is not only students who are impacted by the pandemic and need to adapt to the online learning method, but teachers and lecturers are also equally impacted as major changes in the mode of assessment require strenuous practical work.
Dr Md Rosli bin Haji Ismail, lecturer of Faculty of Education and Social Sciences, Universiti Selangor (UNISEL) said the pandemic has caused much congestion to the online traffic on the internet due to the fact that too many academicians from the higher learning institutions are using the same learning platform to conduct classes.
“Even when we change to other alternative learning platforms, it is still congested as there may be other faculties on campus or other institutions resorting to a similar alternative learning platform for classes,” he explained.
Rosli said the impact of Covid-19 is multiple, chiefly because of the tendency of behavioural changes such as getting easily frustrated or irritated among the users when attending online classes.
“I have a daughter who is taking online classes from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) who has exhibited behavioural changes probably because of the sudden shift from physical learning at secondary school to online learning in the university, in addition to the pressure from the academically demanding classes,” he said.
He hopes the lecturers and professors of all institutions will empathise with the students. They must relax the deadlines for assignment submissions as every student experiences different issues when it comes to the online learning process.
On the other hand, Dr Haryati Abdul Karim, a senior lecturer of Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) said the sudden switch from conventional teaching to online teaching has caused some problems in evaluating the grades of the students’ assignments or assessments since some courses require students to perform practical work.
“For students who are pursuing courses related to geography, it is hard to grade them because field work is necessary for such courses. As for journalism students whom I am teaching now, I have asked them to carry out their interviews online using Skype,” she cited some examples.
After conducting a small survey among her students, she said the students were not in favour of online classes due to constraints at the family homes or unstable internet connection.
“The students said they missed attending physical classes with their friends in the university and liked the spontaneous learning atmosphere in university campus compared to constantly looking at their mobile phone or laptop when attending classes,” reported Haryati on the mixed feelings of her students.
Haryati stated that some parents have misunderstood online classes as only used for revising their studies and thus ask them to do some house chores causing the students to miss out on some of the lessons.
“Some of the students need to help their mothers with the house chores like cleaning the house before a class starts or cook for the family after the class ends at lunch time. While some have to work with their fathers at the plantation”, she said.
To overcome this issue, Haryati has been recording her lectures to enable the students to view them at any time.
She expressed that lecturers should try to behave like a friend to students to reduce their pressure as everyone is facing a taxing time during the pandemic.