Students in online classes face a lot of challenges including technical issues and lack of in-person interaction and different distractions and time management issues while trying to keep motivated. Both teachers and students must overcome obstacles which are specific to virtual education such as asynchronous communication and interaction. In rural schools this is even more challenging.
As a teacher, I can say that online teaching was one of my greatest challenges and you can hardly find another teacher disagreeing. There were so many things to think about that a teacher had to be clearly dedicated to his work so that his students could progress. Another obstacle was the unclear feedback that a teacher could give to students in rural areas and that was because online interaction was highly diminished so it was really challenging. It’s not enough to simply raise a hand or give an immediate answer, the challenge is to be able to let every child have his voice heard.
How does an educator do that? It may seem easy to deal with but it ‘s not. You must constantly ask yourself if you are doing the right thing for you and for your students. Will you be able to make them listen, be attentive, do what you’re asking them to do and be creative? Will you be able to do everything they are expecting from you? How hard can that be? Very hard, if you ask me. Leaving irony behind, I think there are some things an educator can take to help his students become more efficient and successful but it’s really important that the educator understands the online challenges and become more creative and less critical in order to find the right solutions for his class.
A good strategy can help students overcome all obstacles in online learning.
Online education is more difficult in rural schools and it seems to have a deeper impact than in city schools. There was a low percentage of students in rural schools possessing electronic devices. There were families which possessed one phone so children are highly dependent on the family’s phone for attending classes. Most parents weren’t experienced in accessing electronic devices so they were unable to help their children. The children’s homes were slowly turned into classrooms and it was obviously difficult to study in the same room with other family members. Kids had to adapt to this new learning environment and got used to spending a lot of time in front of the screens and less time spent outside.
Digital services are not the best in rural areas and the transition from face to face classes to online classes was challenging. Families encouraged children to study and keep up with the new strategies employed by their teachers but it was really hard to establish a real bond with them. The children’s families faced social and economic hardships which really limited the kids’ possibilities to attend classes.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t changed up to these days. The truth is these circumstances have a restrictive nature for students living in remote areas. It affects the student- teacher relationship and brings a distance which can not be eliminated but at least can be placed in a perspective and adapted to the new situation. This means each students has to take every support he can get, understand his expectations, have a collaborative attitude and work with the teacher.
Students are nowadays more independent and they need to be allowed to learn independently. This is a lesson every child learnt in online classes because parents could not help them out. They had no parents to rely on so they had no other choice than learn, stay concentrated and do their best. Students in rural schools became somehow more disciplined and carried out their tasks and work with their classmates to achieve their goals. Not all of them succeeded. Online tools like different applications or videos require skills not all students have in rural schools so they sometimes felt demotivated and found it difficult. They also lacked the connections with their classmates and turned to having virtual friends so some of them became less communicative and friendlier.
Adopting a more unconventional way of teaching instead of the traditional way was not easy and teachers had to find resources and be open to other possibilities.
They were forced to increase their digital skills, to use digital format materials and find ways to make their online classes engaging. They learned to use digital books, they dedicated their time to creating online lessons and planned their teaching activities really well. They did it so well that today children are asking for those materials in face to face classes. They needed the same encouragements they offered to their students and they took up the challenge and assumed a bunch of roles as teachers, parents, friends constantly giving positive feedbacks to their students.
In my opinion, teachers are heroes, the ones who teach you how to use your wings and fly, leave the unknown behind and be yourself. Every child deserves a great teacher and if I am one of them then this is my greatest reward. We never stop learning and although the online experience was not easy, I would say it was somehow necessary. It showed me I was capable of being more creative than I ever thought I could be, stronger and more eager to meet and teach my students every day.
My conclusion is that every lesson is a lesson and teachers proved that coming up with a good strategy can lead to great outcomes. Education is the key to success and many educators continue to have a lasting impact on the lives of their students. Let’s not forget that education remains ”the strongest weapon which you can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela).