Myth buster: Is Home-based learning similar to learning in schools? Let’s go 100% online?
How can we combat learning loss due to prolonged home-based learning?
How do you get ready for major exams during COVID pseudo lock down?
Schools in Singapore were suspended 8th Apr to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore. Since then, many students across all levels from primary schools to universities shifted to full home-based learning. Students, teachers and parents found themselves in exceptional circumstances and have to adapt to having lessons online.
In the midst of our growing concerns in this global pandemic, students, teachers and parents may not think too much about the shortcomings in online learning. Prior to the school closure, learning has started to be affected due to unusually higher absenteeism rate in schools. The shortcomings would be apparent if home-based learning persists for a prolonged period of time.
Is home-based learning going to be as good as on-site learning in schools? Assuming we are all able to overcome the initial hiccups and become adept at learning online, should we go 100% online post COVID? This may well be the sentiments of students, teachers and parents who are more tech savvy.
In this post, we will explore the reasons behind the inherent learning loss that comes with online learning and why this needs to be addressed. We will also highlight what can be done both during the pseudo lockdown and after the lockdown to combat the learning loss. Understanding this can enable students, teachers and parents to fill up the learning gaps.
We have divided this post into three sections to help you easily find what you’re looking for:
Real-life issues faced by students, teachers and parents during home-based learning
Students, teachers and parents faced teething issues as we commenced home-based learning. Some issues are temporary and can be eliminated at the beginning while others will present themselves continually throughout this period of home-based learning.
A report in channelnewsasia listed four common home-based learning issues, namely space, devices, access and skills. Some of these issues such as devices and access can be fixed with help and support from schools and the community. Other factors linked to socioeconomic factors like space and parental skills will continue to present itself throughout the home-based learning period.
The report failed to mention or recognize other issues that may be faced by all alike. There will be more distraction at home then in school. Students will need to deal with the noisy chatter in background, video and audio breaking up, security of apps used. Many homes will have other siblings having concurrent online lessons – one child doing music or physical education while the other trying to learn math and both parents telecommuting with one chairing a meeting with colleagues; some will have to deal with crying toddlers and old folks who need attending to at the same time. Others may face device reliability issues such as having a flat battery on the mobile, printer or pc incompatibility with files or camera or audio suddenly not playing. Not every student will have tech savvy parents on standby.
Reasons for Learning Loss as a Result of Home-based Learning
While schools should be lauded for providing much needed instructions and support for students to ensure that learning can continue uninterrupted during the pseudo lockdown, learning is not the same as before. Some far-sighted parents rightly worry their children will fall behind in their studies, especially the readiness of students preparing to take their major exams this year. MOE has announced that major national exams such as PSLE, IGCSE, GCE O, A and IBDP will proceed as usual albeit with COVID precautionary measures in place.
The learning loss issues in home-based learning is a serious one facing all students, in particular, academically weaker and/or disadvantaged students, who will underperform and experience poor outcomes.
The purpose of this post is to raise awareness among students, teachers and parents and not to indiscriminately thrash home-based learning. We will explore the reasons for this learning loss below:
Reduced classroom control
Most teachers already struggle with classroom control when they have all the students physically present in class. With home-based learning, students may wake up or report late for lessons and contend with siblings or parents for space and quiet, classroom control is a distant dream. Teachers will have to accept the fact that there will be reduced classroom control especially during live lessons.
Some teachers or students who are introvert in nature will not be comfortable with the reduced privacy that comes with home-based learning. Teachers are aware that their live lessons will have more than their students as audience. Students will be more aware of what is taking place in the homes of their fellow classmates. Not all families will have harmonious relationships and those families with fraught relationships will struggle with the reduced privacy to learn during this period of time. These online lessons can also be hacked and become freely available.
Schools have long been the cornerstone for equality of opportunity in our meritocratic system where almost everyone can achieve success in education through their efforts and ability. The worry is that prolonged home-based learning will begin to chip at this cornerstone. Academically weaker and/or disadvantaged students cannot perform well and be expected to attain better than average learning outcomes with prolonged home-based learning. For the vast majority of students, the reduced equality comes in the form of different physical learning environment at home. Not all students have a spacious personal work desk in an air-conditioned room, with at least a parent who is academically and technically inclined sitting at the side to supervise or assist. Another inequality comes from the different level of digital skills and teaching standards of teachers who are also struggling to adapt to home-based teaching.
Reduced attention span of students
It is not realistic to expect students to have the same level of attention span during online lessons at home like they had in a classroom lesson. Not all students will be self-directed, especially the younger ones. Many students would be unable to separate learning time and personal time when they are home. Teachers will be none the wiser if their students multitask with games and social chats throughout the online lessons. There is a clear disadvantage for students with less educated parents or grandparents or domestic helper supervising at home. Academically weaker students are not likely to participate well or persist in online lessons, and when they do persist, they still have weaker outcomes. Students who encounter technical or learning difficulties will be completely loss and unable to follow subsequent lessons.
Reduced coverage of syllabus
Schools are mindful of the reduced attention span of students during home-based learning. Actual periods of lessons are made shorter with more frequent recess. Teachers spent more time making sure all students come together for each online lesson. The actual teaching time and hence time for learning will be even shorter than in a typical classroom lesson.
Teachers will need to compromise on depth and scope of content coverage. The learning gaps and achievement gaps will lead to pronounced learning loss if home-based learning continues on a protracted basis. The learning loss will be pronounced and not go away, especially for those subject that require cumulative knowledge to do well in later topics.
Reduced teacher’s attention
Reduced and less substantive interaction between students and teachers is perhaps the most significant contribution to leaning loss of students during prolonged home-based learning. Unlike in schools, the teachers will not have regular opportunity to go through students’ assignments and provide timely feedback. Some teachers also struggle to adapt to home-based teaching, many spent more time searching for reliable online resources and some have to simultaneously take care of a small group of disadvantaged students who are still attending school.
There will be a major shift from written assignments to online quizzes or discussion. Being unable to scrutinise students’ individual work, it will take longer for teachers to pick up students who are completely lost. Teachers will find it that harder to catch and correct learning misconceptions of students. Sometimes these misconceptions may be caused inadvertently by overzealous parents who are trying to help their children, especially in the subjects of math and science.
Reduced exam readiness
This is a top concern among parents and students who are preparing for national exams this year.
Reduced coverage of syllabus and teachers’ attention, coupled with limited assessment possibilities with online resources and fewer exam practices will adversely affect students’ exam readiness in written papers. This is especially so for some question types like lab-based questions, data-based essay and longer structured or essay writing.
The concern is not just exam readiness for the written exams. Coursework readiness will be a concern for many students taking the GCE O and A level exams, IGCE and IBDP exams.
Coursework such as project works for all JC1 students, subject-based coursework for most O level students, independent study in KI (knowledge and inquiry) for some JC students, extended essays, TOK (theory of knowledge) essays for all IBDP students carry significant weight in the major exam results. Most of the coursework cannot be done at home due to the need for face-to-face teacher supervision or the use of school facilities and equipment.
During coursework, the opportunity for students to consult and for teachers to mentor is key to success. It is now a challenge for teachers and students to work together to explore concepts and work on applications at higher level of difficulty.
It is appropriate that SEAB announce adjustments will be made to some GCE-Level coursework submissions and examination dates for A-Level H3 subjects. However, this does not cover coursework like project works for all JC1 students, independent study in KI (knowledge and inquiry) for some JC students, extended essays, TOK (theory of knowledge) essays for all IBDP students.
Reduced values inculcation
Last but not least, it is worth noting that values inculcation in students will be greatly affected and this constitutes a major learning loss nevertheless. Some values such as team work and communications skills like group presentation and essential life skills can only be inculcated through school-based learning. Prolonged home-based learning will not be ideal for nurturing these values in our younger generations.
How can Students, Teachers and Parents Combat Learning Loss due to Home-based Learning
Perhaps the tripartite relationship between students, teachers and parents in our education system is more important now than ever. To combat the inevitable learning loss, there are some things that students, teachers and parents can do during and after the pseudo lockdown.
Older and younger students must understand the value of self-directed learning. They will need to have a keener sense of self-discipline and responsibility for their own learning. Students must keep their learning time apart from their personal time at home and resist the temptation to prolong their leisure time. They should make use of all available channels provided to maintain regular communication with the teachers. This will allow teachers who are unable to scrutinise and check their work as closely as before to assess and keep tabs of their progress.
Thanks must be given to MOE for launching the “Teach Less, Learn More” (TLLM) initiative in 2005. The prolonged home-based learning will no doubt provide a boost for this initiative although academically weaker and/or disadvantaged students will be on the shorter end of the stick.
The pivotal role of teachers during and after this prolonged home-based learning period cannot be underestimated. Teachers will really need to streamline the syllabus and adopt new teaching methods to engage students remotely and optimise their learning outcomes. They will need to rise to the challenge by applying a new level of creativity and passion on themselves. They will need to communicate value of self-directed learning and how this will prepare students for the real world where telecommuting will gain a greater foothold.
When schools reopen after a prolonged period of home-based learning, teachers can be expected to put in more work to fill in the learning gaps and learning loss. There will like be extensive remedial work and catch-up with mentoring sessions for coursework.
Teachers in higher levels should look out for potential learning gaps in the coming years. This is true for students who are transiting from primary to secondary or secondary to post secondary education. Certain prerequisite topics may have been skipped altogether and this will affect learning outcomes in the higher level of education.
Post covid period, teachers may be tempted to increase the home-based learning component in a hybrid model of schooling. This should be done carefully. Home-based learning should mostly be used as a supplement. Meaningful, regular and substantive interaction between students and teachers should still form a core part of our education system. This will ensure the continued success story of our education system.
These reasons and responsibilities highlight the key role that teachers play in the education of our children and why they should be honoured as such.
This prolonged period of home-based learning offer a rare opportunity for parents to play a greater role in their children’s education. They can be present to supervise the learning of younger children but need to be sensitive if older children prefer to have less interference or more consultation with one parent rather than the other.
This is also a good time to encourage the children to use the time at home to read widely and explore areas they are interested in that maybe outside their syllabi. As parents spend more time at home, they should also be conscious that they are role modelling for their children more than before. It is good to remember that values like passion and curiosity for learning are often caught, not taught.
Engage Online Tutors who are Experienced School Teachers
For parents with children preparing for national exams this year, they will need to be very selective when choosing online tutors to fill the learning gaps. Now is the time to go for tutors who are preferably experienced school teachers who have kept themselves abreast with the latest syllabus requirements. These tutors will be able to identify learning gaps promptly, fill in reduced coverage of learning objectives and boost exam readiness in your child.
If you are looking for an online tutor for physics, chemistry and math, we are here to help. We are a team of ex-teachers from HCI/RI who are experienced online tutors. We impart knowledge and skills based on the latest syllabus requirements to guide students to prepare for their GCE O and A level, IGCSE or IBDP exams. Our substantive student-teacher interaction coupled with reliable resources is back by a strong track record of student satisfaction, learning outcomes and exam results.
If you like to engage our tuition services, please use the form below or whatsapp 96355763 for faster response.
For the time being, take comfort that the learning loss that comes with prolonged home-based learning can be remedied given time. It is definitely better than dealing with the trauma of our children getting infected by a potentially deadly disease. Stay home and stay safe.