Remote learning is a concept that has been imposed on many schools and families due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of schools by many governments. The idea of students attending primary and secondary school from home is not self-chosen by most families, but has become a way to make the best of an unwanted situation.
The unpreparedness with which many schools launched their various remote learning programs has led to digital pedagogy experts, Sean Michael Morris and other colleagues adopting the phrase, “Panic-gogy” which is a hybrid of the words “panic” and “pedagogy”, used to describe a pedagogy hurriedly put in place without sufficient research and planning.
Hardly any school in Nigeria had the time to invest in any serious, scientific thought about the dynamics of the delivery of online classes to pupils. This can be seen from the many variations in delivery from schools and the lack of guidance from government agencies also takes a huge toll on the experiences of schools and families.
One major consideration that many stakeholders have not explored is the fact that these are not the usual circumstances for remote learning and that would have a major effect on the experiences of students and teachers. Many students have to attend classes under circumstances that may trigger anxiety and poor academic performance such as:
- restraint or lockdown and the impossibility of social interactions.
- financial burdens as many parents who are dependent on short term wages and income are unable to work and earn.
- social inequalities and in some families the attendant lack of access to equipment (electronic devices, internet provision) for optimum remote learning.
- unconventional family circumstances that may make the home physically and emotionally challenging for children.
- unavailability of parental support as many parents have continued to work remotely from home.
- shared and serious responsibility of keeping children safe on the internet.
There have also been reports of online disengagement in some students in comparison to when in face to face classroom environment. Inclusive is also the missed opportunities to engage in digital recreation which has been for many students the main purpose of electronic devices.
The benefits of the current model of remote learning weigh more for private school leaders than teachers, many of whom have reported the downside of huge data costs and non-payment of salaries as well as lacklustre attitude, low student engagement; and students who have been made specimens in an unplanned social and educational experiment.
In many advanced countries, guidelines have been given to schools on how to carry out remote learning with clear recommendations as to the number of hours of engagement as well as the content. The Lagos State Ministry of Education’s advice against the commencement of the third term was met with heavy criticism possibly because the advice in itself is not based on the strength of any educational research just like the activities of most schools. Stark realities owe to the poor access to computers and connectivity among thousands of parents and their children.
There is not much findings from research in the area of remote learning for lower education programs as this current situation is unprecedented. Most research has been carried out only on higher education programs. For this reason, we must take precautionary actions and carefully informed decisions in adopting strategies that have been uncharted. Many countries have adopted a policy of no assessments even for main examinations such as GCSEs and A Levels, as a demonstration of understanding for the peculiar situations facing the entire world. In the case of the UK, grading under consultation over some few weeks, was decided in consideration of a variety of factors including attendance, homework, online engagement, efforts, – reality checks AND mock assessment results to make a fair teacher judgement which are subject to moderation and student appeal should students disagree with the final grade.
One of the best strategies to adopt is the setting of realistic goals and expectations on the sides of both schools and families. For example, even where extensive research has been employed, i.e. in higher education, long hours of study are not recommended. It is therefore unrealistic for schools to replicate the school day schedule running from 7.30 am to 3 pm at home and it is just as unrealistic for parents to require such schedules from schools to justify fees.
The fear that the Nigerian child will fall behind children of other countries is unfounded as the majority of schools around the world are currently closed and engage only in minimal academic work remotely and with software that is as family friendly and pocket friendly as possible. The schools that may have commenced the third term remotely are in a minority.
On the whole, as a nation we need to adopt a research-based approaches to solving problems in many areas and more engagement and guidance from government, even when faced with situations for which we are unprepared.
In all our decisions and strategies, the best interests of the child should be foremost.
The article submitted by an Early Childhood Education training provider cum UKAPES supporter, Olayinka Ogunnusi presents her perspective of the sudden provision of remote online learning under the global Covid-19 pandemic. For more information on her expertise, she can be contacted at here.