Like many other industries, the education sector has also faced drastic changes with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of this situation, virtual learning has been the norm for thousands of students in Mauritius for the past weeks, ranging from pre-primary to tertiary level. While academic continuity is a necessity, students and tutors reacted differently to it. Let us look at what constitutes virtual learning, what are the expected challenges and how to overcome them.
Virtual learning, also known as e-learning occurs when one studies through digital platforms or computer software instead of being in direct face-to-face interaction with a lecturer. Platforms like Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx or Zoom are rigorously utilised to create a virtual classroom environment. Therefore, why is virtual learning deemed so important in the present situation?
Virtual learning has gained increased importance during this unprecedented time. This recently adopted practice has enabled academic continuity by offering collaboration and interaction between educational organisations and students. Moreover, in support of virtual learning, the current purpose of all educational institutions is to prevent students’ studies from suffering!
Now that you are not in the same physical space, it is reasonable that some of you might feel overwhelmed or uncertain while navigating the new platforms, tools and processes. Some of the expected challenges associated with virtual learning may vary from self-motivation, figuring out how to log on the virtual educational platform, background noises, how to use functions such as mute, slow internet connection to a lack of engagement. Furthermore, utilisation of online tools for Accounting and Finance modules may not be as effortless as what it might be in one’s professional space. Nevertheless, with the right mindset, virtual learning can be as simple and facilitating as in-person.
Overcoming the Challenges in Virtual Learning
Mr. Rashid Phul, our Academic Director, shares some of his top tips:
1. Be willing to embrace the shift
Suddenly, you have been compelled to learn from home through a new digital platform! But let us admit it, this is the only system that is allowing you to connect with your academic community and keep up with your studies. In addition to that, upon the resumption of normal state of affairs, the big breakthrough will be that many of you will have picked up on new technology skills, which you can apply in both your professional and personal lives.
2. Prep your module chapters
Being in front of the screen for two hours can get monotonous, following boredom. Have a quick read through your chapter content prior your lecture schedule. Doing so will help you improve focus during your virtual workshop.
3. Virtually meet and interact with your learning peers
Sometimes one can get demotivated by studying remotely. To tackle the feeling of demotivation, e-meeting your friends or fellow classmates can help a great deal. Use the online platform you have been provided with to collaborate with your learning peers. You can have video or voice call to individuals or groups and share materials and just hangout.
Alternatively, you may use free apps like StudyBlue, OpenStudy, ExamTime, BuddyUp amongst others (yes! You can find many of them) to virtually interact with your learning peers. Such learning environments can be interesting as virtual reality technologies enable exchange of video, audio, text and study material in real among learners.
4. If you have not attended the online classes, watch the recorded lectures
Unlike face-to-face workshops, online classes allow you to catch up on missed lectures. If you have failed to attend your virtual classes for any reasons, you can still view any recorded videos at a later stage at your own convenience.
5. Communication is key – Reach out to your tutor if necessary
Just like in traditional learning, student-tutor communication remains an important aspect in the virtual setting as well. Therefore, it is vital to reach out to your tutor (well, e-tutor) if you face any difficulty in understanding any chapter or completing your assignments.
Fundamentally, education institutions have transitioned from using the traditional face-to-face learning to accommodating an at-home virtual learning experience. It is anticipated that virtual learning will redefine how we transmit knowledge and skills to students. Hence, why not overcome the challenges now?