Reimagining Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Guest Contribution

Dear subscribers

As part of EDDi’s commitment to diversity, we occasionally feature contributions from non-native English speakers. The pieces are very lightly edited but retain the original author’s voice, tone and style.

At EDDi we feel it is important to appreciate and showcase writing in all of its forms, work coming from non-native speakers included. So, whilst these pieces are not written in the usual EDDi style, we hope that you will appreciate and value the contributions they make to our understanding of diverse educational settings.

This week we have a piece from Sampoerna Academy, Indonesia. The article makes a useful companion to our long-read Holiday Edition, examining Sampoerna’s response to the challenges of 2020.

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Reimagining Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sampoerna Academy

When the crisis in a pandemic forced educational institutions to make a shift to online learning, a majority of schools and teachers around the globe found themselves unprepared to adapt to the sudden and unplanned transformation in the educational sphere.

This transformation eventually raised questions about the effectiveness of indefinite online learning to students.

In the not-so-distant past, face-to-face learning was the only choice for educational institutions everywhere. With the rise of technology, more and more schools slowly adding the option of online learning to their selected subjects and programs. It is rapidly becoming more and more popular. But now, with the necessity to adapt and to provide seamless and continuous learning during the pandemic, online learning becomes the only option.

According to UNESCO, the COVID-19 pandemic has left 87% of the world’s student population affected by school closures. While schools around the world are still planning and strategizing over reopening, students’ responses to the new era of continuous and indefinite online learning are varied.

Students with previous experience with online learning are easily adaptive. The experience seems to be the key factor in the preparedness, they found the switch to be relatively easy. Whereas students with no to little experience of online learning found it rather difficult to adjust the switch to their learning process. Another reason for worry is the setting of students’ environments.

Not everyone has a home environment that will allow them to study from home.

Other than technical reasons such as poor internet connectivity and the unavailability of proper devices for them to study with, many students expressed concern over staying motivated and maintaining focus, as they get easily distracted with what is happening around them.

Many students miss the social aspects of the learning experience too. For many of them learning isn’t just an intellectual activity, but a social one. They find the lack of social interactions troubling and can lead to feelings of isolation. Some of them learn better with fellow students, and for many of them, this could lead to underperforming in their academics. For many students, not having enough interaction with teachers and peers is among the biggest challenges of studying online and passing their courses.

Teachers are now focusing on providing an engaging online learning experience. But if you ask any of them about the importance of face-to-face communication in the traditional physical classroom environment, their answer would likely be “Yes, it is absolutely essential”. Being able to look at the faces of students while teaching reveals so much for them as teachers. They can tell who is actively engaged and who isn’t. A perplexed or puzzled look on multiple student’s faces indicates a need to pause, figure out what the students are getting, and approach the point again from a slightly different angle. To be able to watch the interaction between students on group work adds another rich layer of feedback. Taking away the student’s face from the teacher is a major disruption to how they normally teach.

Given how much teachers feel about the importance of face-to-face communication to teaching, whether physically in person or in the virtual classroom, there may be room for blended learning, which could combine some asynchronous instruction with synchronous virtual classroom learning. A blended learning approach could also even work in physical classroom instruction with a small group of students rotated in and out to maintain social distancing should it become necessary to limit school openings.

A small group of students might be in a classroom one day, asynchronously working through online lessons the next day, and then in a virtual classroom for synchronous online instruction as a group. In this sense, the possible combinations are endless, though it would require a herculean effort in planning and coordination to pull it off. Figuring out how to respond in the face of so much uncertainty is no easy task.

Creative approaches like this one might hold the most promise for the coming school year.

In Indonesia, the Ministry of National Education has issued a number of policies to ensure the health and safety of every student, teaching staff, and the school community. One of them is online learning, just like the rest of the world during this COVID-19 pandemic, must be implemented by schools all across the archipelago to reduce the risk of virus transmission due to face-to-face meetings. This policy is likely to still be implemented in the coming school year should the pandemic continues before the availability of mass vaccines.

According to Dr. Mustafa Guvercin, Director of Sampoerna Academy.

“Sampoerna Academy fully supports the direction of the Ministry by starting virtual school from the end of March 2020. To ensure the learning process runs smoothly during the virtual school process, we closely monitor and focus on three aspects: infrastructure, approaches to involving students, and full support from students’ parents, "

At Sampoerna Academy campuses, measures are being taken to ensure the safety of employees and students in time for the reopening of the school. Sampoerna Schools System (Sampoerna Academy and Sampoerna University) has partnered with SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company, to provide enhanced control of its current hygiene and disinfection protocols, fit for COVID-19 purposes. We are by far the first and only education institution that is SGS certified in Indonesia.

Today, it is more important than ever to ensure hygiene and disinfection protocols on-campus properties are taken to the next level, with increased cleaning frequencies, enhanced training, and specialization of cleaning staff, as well as ensuring the use of appropriate products. Sampoerna Schools System puts the safety and well-being of their students and everyone in their community as the most important priority during these challenging times.

This is why both Sampoerna Academy and Sampoerna University collaborate with SGS to help each of their campus properties effectively manage their Health and Safety concerns so that each of their employees, teachers/lecturers, and students can enjoy a healthy and safe campus environment and fun learning activities on campus.

Sampoerna Academy and Sampoerna University

For those interested, more detail on Sampoerna Academy can be found here.


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