In previous years, education was about teaching and learning in the classroom setting. Teachers would be standing in front of the classroom and providing students with the information and knowledge. Students would be sitting and listening to the teacher in the classroom. We are familiar and comfortable with this way of presentation and approach and prefer to focus on one-way communication only.
In the current learning development, learning has changed from face to face classes or physical classes to more online learning. Students are expected to be very independent and responsible for their learning. Otherwise, students are left behind and required more time to catch up with their learning. Today, the learning pace is extremely fast. Some teachers will be using WhatsApp groups to communicate with their students. All instructions and details on online learning will be shared in the WhatsApp group. Students use their handphones to get information for their learning tasks daily. Thus, the handphone becomes a necessity and no longer a luxury like before.
Hence, B40 or M40 income group children may need financial assistance, especially those families that have more children, in purchasing a handphone that costs RM450 while subscribing to internet access monthly can be costly to the family.
In another scenario, it may be different for university students, as both educators and learners are advised to communicate via official emails and tools such as Microsoft outlook, Canvas or Blackboard site. All learning materials are posted on the respective site. All learners are connected regardless of their localities, hence, online learning can be extended to those in rural areas.
Yet, the poor connection is one of the weaknesses of those who are residing in rural areas or experiencing unstable internet connections. This group of students are supported with pre-recorded videos or recorded live classes for references later to ensure no one is at the disadvantage. Online learning is anticipated to be flexible, convenient, and easier to handle. To sustain today’s education, teachers and learners are projected to be more interactive, flexible, and participative in their classes. The demand from both learners and educators in the current education is getting higher. Learners are more into technology and educators need to be ready, prepared and equipped with these changes.
Today’s education is assumed to be more fun and interesting with these implementations of innovative and application of technology in education. By definition, innovation is a new way or strategy in conveying the content of learning to the learners in a more acceptive, receptive and understandable. We must be aware that innovation is not only referring to the application of new technology in learning. Nevertheless, technology is a tool to deliver innovative ideas in education.
In this current pandemic, both educators and learners are introduced to various online learning tools such as MS Teams, Google Meet and Zoom meeting. To ensure learners are participative in their learning, they are encouraged to participate and contribute to their learning via meeting chat or discussion in the breakout room. Some educators will also use other learning presentation tools in the learning by introducing Kahoot! or Mentimeter to make learning more fun and interactive. According to S. Kopf (2014), innovation in teaching and learning via learning technologies motivate students in their learning.
Based on my own experiences conducting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) online workshop with a group of lecturers to students in rural schools in Sarawak in the past, being innovative in delivery is necessary. Some initiative taken by the group was to substitute the learning materials for something that can be easily accessible, practical, and more economical especially when it comes to experimental activities as well as other creative activities. For example, in the experimental activity, we replaced chemicals with fruits that are environmentally friendly to students to get the same result or outcome. Students are allowed to take videos as evidence of the learning process.
From the observation, using technology in education activities can be particularly challenging in the beginning. However, if the trainers or educators are trained and prepared with the recent technologies and equipment, learning activities can be interesting, meaningful, and fun. All the possible obstacles can be overcome in the future. Students are more than willing to participate, attentive and excited with the learning technologies and welcome innovative ideas. Not only that, parents are supportive and allow their children to use their handphones for their children’s online learning activities. Besides being innovative in the learning content, educators must be available, provide sufficient support to the learner and ensure communication should be continuous. Indirectly, getting everyone involved in this learning technology helps to develop self-discipline, tolerance and consider the importance of time management. Therefore, we, both educators in urban and rural areas would like to request more government support to continue to provide us with better infrastructure and technologies such as strong internet access, workable laptop, headset, and others for a comfortable and convenient learning environment. Thus, it will be more apt to say, ‘Learning is anywhere, more flexible and a lifelong journey’.
Shella Georgina Beatrice is the Coordinator for Foundation (Business, Design and Communication), and a lecturer with the School of Foundation Studies. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org