COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives as we knew it. A pandemic at the global scale experienced for the first time by the present generation has upturned everyone’s lives. This has created an undeniable sense of fear and uncertainty. With intense and speedy vaccination programs, the situation is improving in parts of the world, but it remains grim in India. While every person has experienced the brunt of it, the younger folks have been particularly vulnerable. COVID-19 pandemic forced educational institutions worldwide in early 2020 to suspend on-campus physical classes and switch to the online mode of teaching. The last one and half years have been extremely challenging for both students and teachers concerning pedagogy, learning and evaluation. For students, the transformation from the physical learning environment to sudden remote learning, and for the educators, modifying pedagogy, maintaining online classroom behaviours and attitudes and developing suitable assessment tools have been demanding. Apart from illness and death of loved ones, fear and uncertainty, learning while being stuck at home, both students and educators have faced stress and burnout due to excessive screen time, extended and undefined working hours, and an increase in the workload. Additionally, teaching online can be an alienating experience for many teachers who are used to the dynamism and human connection of the physical classes for most of their careers. In this article, based on our experience from last year of remote teaching, we share several suggestions to make online teaching more impactful and less stressful.
Adapt: Online teaching necessitates pedagogical adaptions. The traditional role of teachers has been disrupted. Teachers need to undertake adequate training in pedagogy and modern tools and aids to make teaching more effective and engaging. Blended learning has already become a new norm, which has also been envisaged in India’s National Educational Policy 2020. Educators must become well-versed with the tools and aids of online teaching and incorporate blended learning in their pedagogy. With remote learning in practice for the unforeseeable future in India, educators can successfully deliver their lessons through a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Educators should carefully think through what material to save for live synchronous sessions and what to pre-record for asynchronous learning.
Engage: The teacher must teach and engage with students to gain the attention of their students. For that, discussion and debates must become part of the teaching design. Additionally, the teacher must adjust the workload and keep a precise timing of online sessions. However, this has become extremely difficult in the online mode of teaching as it requires tremendous energy and effort on the part of the teacher. Teachers are feeling a loss of connection with the students. This could be addressed by keeping a time slot for a casual chat with the teachers once or twice a week. Having weekly or fortnightly stressbuster activities also help in engaging the students and reinvigorating the teachers. One should reach out to the students and offer support to them from time to time. While taking to online learning, it’s also crucial to slow the pace of classes, reduce the number of assignments, and focus on meaningful connections with the students and the course material. The focus should be on cultivating essential skills, varied perspectives and core subject knowledge, and so, the syllabus must be trimmed accordingly.
Personalisation of Learning: Due to the pandemic, it has become difficult for the students to work on group projects and keep up with a standardised learning process. In today’s world, personalisation of learning is possible because of the underlying strength of technology that enables educators to tailor lessons, assignments, reports, and practice worksheets for their learners. So, the educators must try out the same. Apart from case studies and simulated games, project-based learning ideas may be incorporated into the course content to make the learning personalised for every student. Teachers must also explore the possibility that standardised testing, which has been the norm, makes way for adaptive tests that deliver personalised results. Subsequently, educators should design smarter assessment tools more suited to remote learning. It becomes essential to create an enjoyable virtual learning environment focusing on exchanging perspectives and extensive discussions through real-life examples.
Use Technology Effectively: Along with updated pedagogy, the impactful use of technology will be an essential part of teacher training programs in the future. Digitisation of education is the future. To make their teaching content innovative and exciting, teachers should use edtech applications and produce digital content such as YouTube videos, blogs, infographics, games etc. Digital content can supplement the lecture mode teaching in a big way. It may be shared on different platforms for the benefit of other educators and students. Educational institutions must incorporate open-source learning platforms like Moodle for the use of teachers and students. Teachers can also work towards floating their own Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for the larger learning community.
Establish Peer Support: Online teaching can be much more stressful than physical on the job. Seeking and embracing human connections can be helpful. It’s essential to interact with one’s peers and exchange notes regularly. Peer support groups can aid in mutual learning and provide much-needed care and support. Employing senior students as Teacher assistants can also be helpful in online teaching. This not only eases workload but also helps in establishing connections and building rapport with the students.
Don’t Neglect Health: Online teaching can cause the teacher to spend excessive time on the screen and sit for long periods. Lockdown measures have also reduced access to gymnasiums, parks, outdoor sports etc. It is essential not to neglect one’s health and indulge in self-care while the online teaching mode is on. Eating right and healthy and doing physical activities must become part of the teacher’s daily routine. She should actively pursue hobbies and interests without getting bogged down by the workload. It’s also important to focus on one’s mental health. Teachers must seek support from mental health professionals without hesitation as and when required.
Take Regular Breaks: While teaching online, the teacher must take breaks at regular intervals to give sufficient time to the students to assimilate the learning content. Breaks also help in optimising the attention spans of the students. However, not taking breaks can make the lectures boring and monotonous. Additionally, one must take off on Sundays and holidays and not work on those days unless necessary.
Avoid Long Working Hours: According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization , working for 55 or more hours per week is a serious health hazard killing hundreds of thousands of people a year in a worsening trend that may accelerate further due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home has led to an increase in intangible work. It has stretched the working hours of most professionals. Household chores often get mixed up with professional work leading to never-ending work in daily routine, causing exhaustion and fatigue. Therefore, it’s vital to declutter the mental work desk by reducing the non-essential work and compartmentalising the essential work in professional and personal lives. As much as possible, one should stick to the working hours of the workplace when classes were happening in the physical mode.
Online learning is here to stay. With the increasing use of advanced technology in education, including learning apps, it’s no wonder that sooner or later Indian education system will increasingly lean more towards virtual learning. Therefore, educators must prepare themselves for the new realities.
About Dr. Anup Tripathi
Dr. Anup Tripathi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from University of Delhi and has Master’s and PhD degrees from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. His doctoral research attempts to theorize homelessness through an ethnographic study of the lived experiences of the homeless people in Mumbai. He has been a visiting scholar at Masaryk University, Czech Republic and Roskilde University, Denmark. He is a recipient of the NET- Junior Research Fellowship by the UGC and NTSE Scholarship by the NCERT. His areas of interest are Urban Studies, Housing, Sustainability, Indian Sociology and Urban Sociology.
About Abhineety Goel
Abhineety Goel is a human-environment Geographer particularly trained as a Political Ecologist. Through Political Ecology and ethnographic methods, she studies the effects of development projects on the environment, particularly in and around the Indian National Parks (in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh), where she has worked since 2005. Her research addresses the effects of changing forest governance on the struggles to access forest resources by the peripheral forest communities situated around the Indian National Parks in economic, social and political contexts.