By Yong Shu Xian
The outbreak of Covid-19 introduced the global population a set of new social norms and massively disrupted the lifestyles once taken for granted. Since the announcement of the movement control order (MCO 1.0) in Malaysia on 18th March 2020, Malaysians have been widely affected. Service departments, business sectors, educational institutions or in other words, the non-essential services were temporarily closed to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases.
The government regulations which imposed the closure of non-essential services were also applied to educational institutions to ensure the safety of educators and students. Consequently, educational institutions had to shift to online means for their teaching and learning. Online learning eventually becomes a new norm in Malaysia.
“Basically I have encountered a lot of technical issues regarding technology. Sometimes my laptop might be problematic while conducting online lectures,” the part time Journalism lecturer of Han Chiang University College of Communication (HCUC) Muhammad Raqib Bin Mohd Sofian said.
“My workload also has increased because I need to prepare a lot of activities for the students, plus with the assignments. My biggest concern with my students is sustaining their concentration in my online class as there are plenty of chances for them to be distracted,” Raqib added.
Raqib confronts the challenges by investing additional time in preparing all the necessary teaching materials. He also ensures there will be a lot of interactive activities, and question and answer sessions, including students’ presentations to maintain the momentum in the class. Besides, he also guides them to use several applications that are available on the internet, thereby encouraging students to focus and interact with him regularly.
“For me, yes, they will have a lot of pressure in this online class, a lot of problems too, for example, their unstable internet connection and so on. So I really hope they will try their best to cope with the ODL ( Open and Distance Learning),” Raqib expressed hopefulness in his response.
A Journalism lecturer in the School of Communication and Media in HCUC, Lam Yat Kuan said the hardest part in an online class is talking to the screen and being unable to meet her students in person.
“I like to see students’ reactions while I am talking to them. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made my teaching harder as I could not see their responses in classes,” the lecturer emphasised.
“Lack of connectivity between lecturers and students appears to be yet another serious challenge. In physical classes, both lecturers and students may feel easily connected as they see each other in a physical space and it creates a learning vibe among the students. While in the online classes, much of the learning is completed asynchronously and students often feel disconnected from their instructors, as well as their peers. It is also difficult for the instructors when they struggle to gauge how much students are comprehending the course content and whether they are participating in the classes,” Yat Kuan who is also the Programme Manager for New Media explained.
Sometimes, Yat Kuan overcomes these problems by assigning the students with short presentations, either individual or group, during the class to improve the connectivity. She believes such methods can get the students to speak a little bit in class rather than keep listening to the lecture which may isolate them from the class.
The amount of work, Yat Kuan added, is roughly similar with physical classes as the instructors will still upload the teaching materials to the learning platforms such as moodle or google
classroom. She also believes that excessive workload may be coming from the student’s submission where they need to download it individually and compile it into a folder.
Wo Yee Qi, the Year 2 New Media student of HCUC reaffirmed that the biggest challenge in an online class during Covid-19 outbreak is the WiFi problem because her house does not have a high speed internet connection.
“Despite this, it is not really too stressful for me to take the online class, besides, I still can handle every work that is distributed by the lecturer,” Yee Qi said enthusiastically.
Though the Covid-19 pandemic caused a major shift in the teaching and learning mode, both educators and students are equally determined to overcome the obstacles. Their passion for knowledge seems to be a critical factor keeping the education system afloat. Malaysia is currently undergoing its third movement control order and the Prime Minister has announced in the exit plan proposed by the government that the MCO might be relaxed when the cases have reached less than 4,000 cases per day.