Conducting online classes for students 2020-21

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Background

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in India in March 2020 resulted in a nationwide lock-down and the closure of schools for a long period of time to reduce the risk of infection. This had severely disturbed the structured learning process, resulting in a significant gap in the students' academic period. To bridge the learning gap in students, IT for Change (ITfC) had designed and conducted online classes on mathematics and few other subjects for students of class 8 and 9 studying in Government and Aided High Schools in Bengaluru South-3 block. Though many private schools conducted online classes for their students, many government and aided schools did not conduct online classes, though almost all shared learning materials with students over WhatsApp groups.

The online classes were initially conducted in October 2020 on a pilot mode for two government-aided high schools (RS High School and Hombegowda boys High School) and later on, based on the insights from this pilot, the program was extended to students of class 8 (English and Kannada medium) from 12 other government and aided schools in Bengaluru South-3 block and nearly 150 students participated in these online sessions.

Objectives

The objective of online classes were :

  1. to help the students overcome the academic gap brought about by the pandemic and closing down of regular schools and thus provide continuity in their learning, especially for students who come from socio-economically marginalized groups;
  2. to provide learning support for need-based students through use of constructivism;
  3. to provide a joyful learning atmosphere by integrating digital technologies in the teaching-learning activities.
  4. to develop basic foundational concepts of mathematics and language;
  5. to help students develop communication skills, logical-thinking, problem-solving skills and understanding of concepts;

Approach

The online classes were conducted separately and in a parallel manner for students from English and Kannada Medium sections with two online classes per week for class 8 students. Due to the pandemic and lockdown, most of the students moved to different places; thus with the help of the school, all students’ contact details were collected and an IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) was sent by HM and followed by another IVRS from IT for Change. We contacted parents. Along with this, we contacted each child’s parents to inform about online classes; which helped us to design Mathematics teaching activities that cater to the needs of the individual students. A team of 2-3 members from IT for Change conducted online classes for the students and also provided technical support, to support students who faced difficulties connecting to the webinar platform and participating in online classes. The Free and Open Source Webinar platform BigBlueButton was used for conducting the online classes. Many students attended the classes and actively participated in the online teaching-learning process.

We followed a curriculum that was not bound within textbooks, but rather those which could help the child understand concepts logically and thus developing problem-solving skills and logical thinking. The program included the transaction of foundational concepts from mathematics and a few from science and language using digital tools. Some of the teaching-learning activities in science and mathematics were demonstrated by the facilitator through video mode, thereby providing a hands-on learning experience for the students.The concepts from geometry in Mathematics was taught using the Geogebra application which enabled the students to visualize the concepts of geometry and in turn helped the teacher to explain the concepts with better clarity. For keeping the students motivated and conducive to learning we organised hands-on activities like tangram, story telling, story reading, puzzle, quiz, sudoku etc. These activities help the students develop the communication skills, problem-solving ability, spatial relationships, self-confidence and logical reasoning and thinking skills. The students’ learning was further strengthened by assessing their home assignments which were shared via phone groups.

Challenges

The transition from offline to online teaching-learning classroom was smooth for both teachers and students, yet had its challenges as the time progressed. With the pandemic and lockdown, many students had suffered financial problems and hence could not attend online classes regularly. It also posed a difficulty for teachers who were new to online mode of teaching and trying to meet the diverse learning needs of his/her student. Many students faced problems like eye-problems with long screen-time usage, unable to concentrate in online classes for a long duration, limited gadgets and device availability, expensive data recharges, network/ connectivity issues, working parents and siblings, issues with online class timings, misuse of gadgets, lack of peer interactions and face-to-face interaction between teacher and student. Financial instability of parents, irregularity in completing homeworks, emotional/isolation problems were other challenges of conducting online classes for the students.

Learnings

Although online classes cannot replace regular classroom interactions, they did assist students in continuing their learning during the lockdown periods. Students were interested in the hands-on learning activities. It helped students to overcome fear and open up.The teacher was able to understand and build a good relationship with the students and tailored the teaching-learning processes according to the needs of the students. Thus, these online classes conducted during the lockdown period were able to help students understand the foundational concepts in mathematics (mathematically) and other subjects and also relate them to real-life situations. It also boosted their self-confidence and thinking ability and thereby ensured continuity in their learning process.