No one knew that Covid-19 would bring educational chaos to a large extent that would lead higher education to digitally migrate in ways unprecedented. With a limited set of teacher skills to cope with emergency distance education (or ERT) and a limited infrastructure to deliver distance education in developing countries, higher education institutions in these regions have switched to distance education in a face-to-face mode. This article captures the concerns of emergency distance education during Covid-19 in higher education from an empirical study carried out in Nepal and Bangladesh.
Developing countries often face education emergencies for several reasons, such as political unrest, natural disasters, epidemics or pandemics, and war. We agree with Charles Hodges and colleagues that emergency distance education can be a good skill set for future higher education teachers to handle the educational crisis with confidence.
If teachers are geared towards emergency distance education when they are appointed or if this skill set is developed at the start of the service period, they will be able to cope easily with any kind of business disruption. education that will occur in the future. Our study found that certain aspects of emergency distance education, described below, need to be considered by teachers when adopting emergency distance education in crisis contexts.
Our study reveals that teachers primarily use social media platforms, typically Messenger, during emergency distance education in Nepal and Bangladesh. Part of the reason is that there are no school-owned learning management systems in many schools. It is interesting to observe that teachers are putting in place rules to use these social learning spaces for educational purposes, such that these platforms will only be used to share academic content, but not to have an informal or informal conversation. .
This contextual adaptation of social learning tools by perceiving a very distinct action potential of such a tool deserves to be noted. It also strongly suggests that universities should select in the future such tools that contain social learning spaces or that the selected tools should have the potential to integrate social learning platforms.
Deeply, it also reflects our culture of community living and how we would like to socialize more compared to the western world. Therefore, it seems that selecting learning management platforms that have social learning spaces in higher education can prove to be effective if we plan to use technology in higher education. in South Asian contexts.
Another intriguing result of this study is the plan of teachers and students to use online resources after Covid-19. Only 55% of teachers made significant use of online resources before Covid-19, but 74% of teachers said they intended to use the technology in their classrooms after Covid-19. This is, of course, because they knew the importance of technology in managing crisis contexts and also, they received training to manage digital technologies during this unexpected pandemic.
Similar results are also found among students. Only 41% used online technologies to any significant extent before Covid-19; nonetheless, that ratio rose to 60% when we look at students who plan to use online resources after the pandemic. It also indicates which path higher education will take in the future and the type of preparation required in higher education to harness the trend of blended learning, flipped classes and online education.
Constraints of online teaching and learning
Peggy A Ertmer, an American professor, ranks barriers to the use of technology in education as first-rate (external to teachers, such as lack of infrastructure, limited bandwidth, etc.) attitude in the use of technology and so on). The results of our study indicate that teachers of ESL in higher education face many challenges in managing online courses, including poor network, lack of their own skills to manage technology, a lack of technological support on the part of the establishments, a low attendance of the students. and motivation, lack of learner interaction, power failure and learner assessment difficulties.
Teachers reported that students are passive in online lessons and that it is sometimes very difficult for them to get the content to their students. In addition to first and second order barriers, our study also identified system level barriers such as difficulty in assessing learners as identified by Anja Balanskat and colleagues. This suggests that, whether in emergency distance education or in a normal setting, if we are planning to use technology in higher education, we need to be aware of these three types of challenges and plan for the use. of technology.
Higher education students participating in this study also reported that they faced several challenges when joining online courses, such as poor and unstable internet connection, power outage, lack of power. devices to work on, inability to pay attention to content due to being distracted by social media, not being accustomed to working in an online environment, expensive dataset, and fear of online exams. line.
After identifying these challenges, teachers and students can focus on effective strategies to deal with those issues that may emerge while getting involved in future crisis contexts. At the same time, the higher education course designer and policy makers can plan their course and policies to meet these challenges and use digital technologies in a way that can help achieve learning outcomes.
As Professor Laxman Gnawali asserts, mental well-being in an educational context is still an emerging problem in Nepal. It must also feature in academic discourse in higher education contexts. Our study shows that on the one hand, students received less support from institutions during emergency distance education, which had a direct impact on their mental well-being. Students in rural Nepal had anxiety associated with online education as they could not complete the given tasks comfortably. Sometimes they had to walk for two hours to reach the place where they could access the internet. This situation can be completely frustrating for anyone. Many Bangladeshi students felt depressed during emergency distance education.
On the teachers’ side, the lack of decent incentives for teachers or the uncertainty of what incentives to provide to teachers during the pandemic has also affected their mental health. This study found that the issue of teachers’ salaries in community colleges during the pandemic was really a problem.
One of the teachers from Nepal also reported that he had organized guest lectures for his course, but had no idea whether these guest lectures would have certain incentives. As a result, many uncertainties loomed in teaching and learning during the pandemic and these implicitly or explicitly affected the mental well-being of teachers.
Participants also reported that basic training in online resource management, training to boost student morale during the pandemic, training for teachers on how to psychologically support students, counseling courses and workshops with psychology experts can be helpful in psychologically helping students and teachers.
Teachers and students maintained that online lessons were too mechanical and lacked opportunities for sharing; therefore, they also felt estranged from their colleagues and friends. In the interview, almost all students said they preferred face-to-face lessons over online lessons.
Nevertheless, participants also highlighted the positive points of online courses. They do not need to travel to institutions to teach and learn, and they can have more time with their families, to study and to plan their classes. Some research participants also reported that the pandemic has become an opportunity to be technologically proficient; in this case, they treated the pandemic as a blessing in disguise.
(This article is based on the full open access article titled ‘Online Education Preparations and Practices During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Study on Bangladesh and Nepal‘published in Education and Information Technologies on July 28, 2021.)