Almost all universities in Bangladesh, as elsewhere within the world, are moving courses online to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. This includes lectures and tutorials, which are ready to likely be delivered via the university learning management systems like Moodle or Blackboard and google classrooms, etc. Some students believe universities are waiting until the census date (the date students can withdraw from the course without incurring a fee) before the transition, so they’re locked into an inferior online experience while paying money for what they believe is also a superior mode of teaching.
When done right, online learning can actually be as effective as face-to-face education. But if not all, most Bangladeshi universities haven’t upskilled their staff to deliver this kind of quality online education. If universities across Bangladesh don’t provide intensive upskilling to lecturers to deliver online classes and support effectively, they might see many students disengaging and throwing in the towel early.
How to Prepare for Teaching Online: Setting up the Course
Dedicated Online Development Team Preps and Set Up Courses are Designed and Updated by Faculty. It is important to understand that the students are not physically in front of the faculties and may not be even online at the same time due to various complications such as unavailability of internet in remote areas. As a result, a well organised plan is extremely important before the start of the online class and having a detailed syllabus and course materials prepared before class is extremely essential for successful outcomes. (Henderson, et al 1998). Planning is essential for an online classroom environment. This will give students an opportunity to see if the classroom (the deadlines, materials, and other requirements) can fit into their lives. The biggest challenge is to avoid surprises at all costs. Saying, “Surprise! Pop quiz” in a physical classroom is entirely different from posting “Surprise! Pop quiz! Due by midnight” in an online classroom.
Faculty/Staff with Adequate Technical Support and Know How’s
Online course delivery essentials a sound technical finesse. First and foremost, it is important to invest in the right hardware and software like a reliable computer, a powerful internet connection, and therefore ensuring the best platform available for the requirements of both faculty and students. There are many options out there. Google classroom, for instance, is a web platform that leans toward the social and adaptable side of education. Conducting intensive research and really analysing along with the final choice – knowing the online classroom platform will facilitate in ensuring that the classroom is as effective as face-to-face delivery.
A great challenge faced by many faculties as the shift to online classes in this pandemic is inevitable, is the set-up of an appropriate environment for working remotely and teaching effectively. Without a proper environment and a decent amount of self-discipline, stay-at-home-jobs can become a nightmare. Proper planning can help in the creation of a dedicated workplace equipped with the essentials of conducting an effective online delivery.
Extensive Faculty Training and Development
It is important for the universities as well as the faculties themselves to realize that online delivery is very different from instructional face-to-face delivery. Hence both parties should support each other in availing and providing extensive training for successful outcomes. It is essential that universities in Bangladesh provide extensive training to faculties otherwise if they are faced with too many roadblocks with the tools and platforms it may lead to long-term negative implications, which may hinder their decision to go for online classes as an alternate to face-to-face classes. (Wilson, 1998).
Faculties should be provided with online orientation and extensive training on web conferencing teaching. Several universities globally are developing manuals to assist faculties through eBooks and online videos about conducting classes online. It is to be noted that this training should not be only once, as faculties will require constant follow up and support for which the onus lies on university management to support them on a weekly basis.
Content of these training sessions may include but are not limited to:
- How to Access the Course Room and Navigate the Online Platform
- Syllabus, Course Assignments and Submission, Discussion Boards
- Course Materials, Library, Lectures, Rubrics, Communications
Engaging Students: Motivation and Simulation
It is vital to understand that online classrooms, as mentioned before, run differently than traditional classrooms. Often these classrooms have the potential to feel very mechanical and emotionless. Through proper planning and material preparations, faculties should initiate and inspire discussions that will ensure participation from students. (Wegner, et al 1999). There are many ways that faculties may involve the students through various simulations, online discussions on a weekly basis etc., and this will motivate the students and make them feel encouraged in ways they would not normally have led themselves if there was only a one-sided activity from the faculty just by delivering. This leads your students to urge more out of the class than just a grade. (McConnell, 1995).
Faculties in an online class should not forget, which often is the case in a traditional classroom set up, that student learning ability varies greatly across the class group and for this purpose extra care should always be adhered to the learning process and hence motivating the students can play a giant part in the learning process. (Doherty, 1998). It may be observed that the desire to explore online classes and learn something new out of the traditional will self-motivate some students, however there will be some who will be out of the group always. For these students assignments and online discussions will not hold any importance and they will usually participate in the class just for attendance or some rules of university. Faculties can motivate them by giving extra points for participating in online discussions or completing some additional assignments following a lecture. Deadlines may additionally help pelt along more unmotivated students. The goal is to search out ways to assist students in getting the foremost out of the class without the benefit that a physical presence brings. (Ogborn, 1998)
The key to vital success in online classes is extensive student training, student orientation and follow up development sessions. Trainings should be provided to students to ensure successful navigation of the online platform, posting assignments, and using the discussion board. (Bonk, et al. 1998).They should be encouraged to communicate with faculty and peers on a regular basis and should be showed the technical ways of doing that on the online class platform. Trainings should be further enhanced to support students complete group and individual projects effectively. Also during student training, it should be noted to remind them that to succeed in online classes it is important for them to communicate through messaging or video conference at least once a week and ensure online presence and visibility. (Bonk, et al. 1998)
Regular and Effective Communication
Effective and timely communication is one of the integral drivers of successful online classes. This is mainly because it acts as the ice breaker and gives the students the ease of mind that they are not left alone and someone is there for their support. It is absolutely essential for faculties to respond to student queries in a timely manner and provide them with ample support and feedback and instruction. (Advaryu, et al 1999). Communication helps in introducing the humane factor and warmth which online classes, if not moderated with care, can often lack and result in failure of the system.
Feedback and Support
It is important for faculties to gather feedback from students that will assist in making this online environment and class more effective and outcome-based. As the current pandemic is forcing universities globally, and particularly for the first time in Bangladesh, it is important that students constantly share the positives and the negatives of their experience. Bangladeshi universities are used to traditional classrooms and a student pays a hefty amount to attend classes. It is important that students are therefore heard from regarding their experience in an online setup for the same tuitions they are paying. Also, not only gathering these feedbacks, it is important that students feedback is acted upon to improve the online learning experience so that students understand that the value for money is the same as in a traditional classroom. Education is a ‘sharing’ field and so these connections could prove invaluable to your online educator development.
Overall, online education is proving to have immense potential. The potential flexibility associated with online classes and shift to online education by universities is sheer profit in the long run. (Alexander, 1999). It’s an emerging and developing marketplace for educators – and thus poses exciting career development chances. However, online teaching is not something one should leap into. But, it conjointly extremely isn’t as daring as it appears. If both faculties and students are duly trained and equipped it can pose to be extremely successful and fruitful, reaping better benefits at times than traditional face-to-face teaching. With some research and preparation, both faculties and students can find themselves on the forefront of the online educational movement.
Opportunities of Online Classes and Education
As for rest of the world, for universities in Bangladesh, the shift to a fully online experience will be completely new for both faculties and students. The current pandemic has forced this situation and the hope is that as more and more academics in Bangladesh start using and experiencing a decent experience of online spaces they will also be more amenable and more ready to consider full or partial adoption of online technologies in the future. (Cummings, et al. 1998) One must not rule out the argument that the same online space can result in academics having negative experiences, which can result in developing negative perception about online teaching methodologies, thus reducing the chances of their adoption to this mechanism.
Students should also be trained effectively as their roadblocks in using the technology can cause severe negative perceptions to online learning which they may also spread through word of mouth, social media and other forms of communication tools which may cause severe detriment to a university’s brand image. (Barros, et al. 1998)
So, this is a time of both opportunity and potential detriment and can be a critical time for the perception of online teaching and learning for institutions in Bangladesh, adopting this new technique for the very first time.
The past two months have seen that shift in global education from traditional and blended learning to online only learning. The same is the case for universities in Bangladesh. Faculties are busy endeavouring their times to the development of their lessons to online mode. This global shift to online learning follows the example set by universities in China, where the outbreak first began. Such rapid global adoption of online education is astonishing. When carefully planned and implemented, online learning can make university education more accessible, affordable, interactive and student-centered. However, the way that it is being presented as a simple and practical solution, capable of replacing face-to-face teaching for a significant period, is misleading.
One must remember as faculties that in order to have long-term success in online teaching, one requires resources and training and proper equipment. In these unprecedented times, most faculties are simply recording their lectures on webcams and using the same materials as they used in face-to-face set up. (Chan, 1999). In some universities in Bangladesh, faculties are simply required to log on to the online platforms during their designated face-to- face class timings and simply deliver the class using the same old materials. Such simple “onlinification” of face-to-face lectures will not result in positive experiences for academics or students.
Students, nowadays are heavily reliant on smartphones. They attend all online classes using smartphones. Hence it is extremely important for faculties to ensure that they are not delivering the same materials as they would have done in face-to-face setup, rather customise and digitise to suit the displays of small, handheld devices. If not catered for, the materials lose their readability due to distortion of page ratios and font size in these smartphone displays. And this may lead to severe learning disruption and student dissatisfaction. (Hackman,1995). Dissatisfied students who find online learning inferior to face-to-face lectures may take action against universities. In Korea, students affected by the switch to online learning as a result of coronavirus measures are requesting a refund of their tuition payment.
When done right, online learning can actually be as effective as face-to-face education. But universities in Bangladesh need to ensure that faculties receive resources and sufficient training to upskill themselves with sound knowledge to deliver and provide support online. If this is not carried out meticulously, universities may face the challenge of seeing many students disengaging and dropping out early.
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