Problems and prospects of distance learning in the context of the covid-19 pandemic

Absract

Today, the entire world community is faced with a serious pandemic problem, which in turn has become a serious challenge for education systems around the world. The author of the article tries to analyze distance learning in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, because the usual face-to-face training seems already impossible. The problem has become global, which humanity has faced for the first time. The search for alternative forms of education has become widespread. In most countries, different types of distance learning have begun to be used: broadcasting lessons through TV channels, posting video lessons on special platforms, audio broadcasting lessons by radio, via e-mail, etc. Each country tries and selects the most suitable option for it, taking into account access to the Internet, technical infrastructure, adaptation of content to distance learning, in order to make the distance learning process available to schoolchildren and students as soon as possible. In the article, author makes attempts to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning in the conditions of self-isolation. The education system must learn from the current situation and take the necessary measures. It is unlikely that the world after COVID-19 will remain the same as before. Despite the complexity of the situation, the difficulties, it was possible to draw enough conclusions about what can be changed for the better in our education system. The current situation became a kind of “wake up call”, which showed the shortcomings of our system that need to be addressed urgently. In a pandemic, accelerated digitalization can be a test of strength for teachers and the entire education system.

Introduction

Today, there is hardly an area that is to one degree or another not affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 spread. The introduction of quarantine measures has changed the situation in the market everywhere, where a lot of opportunities have emerged for all digital segments of the economy. E-commerce, companies offering business digitization services, online video, online games and many other digital services are now growing, including online education. Free access to courses, which many online platforms have opened up, is an opportunity for the general user to at least try distance learning in its various forms. But it may take time for everyone to get used to the online format and begin to fully learn. So far, only the first steps are being taken in this direction, they are getting acquainted with the programs and determined with the electronic platforms that will be used in distance learning.

We live in the era of online education, the formation of which began not so long ago, but has rapidly gained momentum and has become the most relevant today. It contains a small set of solutions that have moved from the offline environment almost unchanged. Face-to-face lectures were replaced by webinars, and instead of written homework - the same, but in electronic form. The LMS (learning management system) has also remained for a long time with standard functions. The problem of organizing distance learning was posed by the situation that has developed in the context of the threat of the coronavirus epidemic in front of many educational institutions in Kazakhstan. In order to prevent an epidemic in the country, distance learning has been introduced in most regions, according to the recommendations of the Ministry of Education. But the concept of using digitalized tools is gradually becoming a thing of the past. And today, the optimal mix of online and offline options is blended learning. It is already showing growth in those areas of education where direct work of a teacher and student, socialization and live communication is important. It makes it possible to study, personally communicating with an expert in a group or one-on-one, to carry out practical work at trainings and seminars, and at the same time to study online without losing the quality and dynamics of the educational process. [1,2]

In turn, the growing interest of users in online education will become an impetus for the development of new learning tools. And based on the practical experience gained, educational companies will begin to implement tools that were previously not possible in an offline environment.

It is noted that if a decision is made to transfer to distance learning, local authorities should also arrange their work in such a way that this does not affect the educational process, using online formats, video courses, as well as various kinds of messengers. After the first wave of quarantine and the use of distance learning, an analysis can already be made and its advantages and disadvantages can be identified.

Research results

There are currently sufficient resources to implement distance learning. For example, at the beginning of the first wave of quarantine, many Kazakh educational institutions began to use e-platforms such as ZOOM, BigBlueButton, Google Form, etc. Unfortunately, as the experience of conducting classes on some of such platforms has shown, they are not very convenient to use. For example, ZOOM electronic platform provides a free broadcast for 40 minutes, while a lesson lasts 50 minutes. Teachers and students have to update the conference, which reduces the lesson time. The main problem during the period of closure of educational institutions is the difficulty of ensuring equal access to education, especially in conditions of limited resources. It is incorrect to assume that all students have access to distance learning resources and the same opportunities to do so during the quarantine period. In fact, such a crisis has a negative impact, mainly on socially vulnerable students, many of whom live in remote areas and do not have access to electronic devices (computers, tablets, phones) and the Internet, especially among students from South Kazakhstan and some districts of the North - Kazakhstan region, and some unscrupulous students use this fact for their own purposes, skipping classes without a good reason. As a rule, these are students with poor knowledge. It is convenient to control and assess knowledge on a subject using Google Form, where you can vary tasks of various forms and answers and, as practice has shown, students showed interest and the overwhelming majority coped with the tasks successfully.[3]

According to IBM, multimedia content, combined with one-to-one learning, has allowed students to be 5 times more productive than traditional face-to-face learning. It can be achieved only if there is a smooth broadcast of the conference. The rate of assimilation of the material can also increase from 25 to 60 percent. Here we are also talking from a psychological point of view. As the practice of conducting classes during the period of the first wave of distance learning at the university has shown, starting from March 16, 2020, students were trained remotely in their homes, which had a positive effect on the quality of mastering the material. Many students discovered their opportunities and did not feel as tense as in the traditional form of education. Also, it should be noted that many students have become more focused and disciplined. It should be emphasized that the online form of education also requires discipline and the ability to clearly plan your own time. According to our students, the first weeks of quarantine were especially difficult: “The online lesson seemed to us something completely new. Due to the inability to rationally allocate our time, each of us experienced stress. However, later we were still able to adapt to the new schedule and teaching method."

It is necessary to agree that the remote format is rather necessary in “peacetime”, it can be used, and one needs to invest in it. This format saves both the teachers' time and the classroom fund, and a huge number of possibilities appear that can be added in different ways, depending on the tasks that we solve.

If earlier, for example, the main tasks of the university were the search, accumulation and transfer of information, now the university has lost these tasks. This is done by the Internet, where there is a lot of information, therefore, the teaching staff of the university has another function - to help to understand the information, to teach how to work, to distinguish fake from non-fake. The task of teachers is to prepare, optimize, and provide advice. And, the main thing is not to lose the warmth of human communication. Some norms are nevertheless transmitted, as it seems to us, as a result of the personal work of the bearer of knowledge and the student. [4]

In a pandemic, accelerated digitalization can be a test of the strength of teachers, educational institutions, and the national education system. There is a paradigm shift in the entire education system, and we can say with confidence that it will not be the same. Society is getting used to online learning, and the crisis is a catalyst that has accelerated the development of online education. [5] What negative experience have we received from accelerating the introduction of distance education?

The impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the higher education system differs between states and has its own specifics in different regions of the world. Similarly, in Kuwait, authorities announced on February 26th, a two-week suspension of all schools and public and private universities in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic (Kuwait University, 2020). The American University of Kuwait rolled out an e-learning platform for students to review course material and also to connect with faculty with plans, not to hold assessments (American University of Kuwait, 2020). The University of Kuwait used Blackboard Collaborate to continue the teaching and learning process during pandemic (Kuwait University, 2020). [6]

Nevertheless, the general vector of these changes can be traced: the pandemic has put universities in difficult conditions, forcing them to adapt to the current events in the shortest possible time, spend significant funds for accelerated digitalization, and often make decisions without taking into account the possible consequences. The pandemic had a negative impact on international cooperation in the field of education and science: international travel was canceled, exchange programs and academic mobility of students and academic staff were suspended, and many research cooperation programs were paused. Universities found themselves forced to solve a lot of pressing issues in a short time: in what forms to conduct distance learning; what technical means to use for this; how to assess the assimilation of the material by students; how to conduct final exams and how to recruit for the next academic year.

Conclusion

The emergency transition to distance learning has given rise to a number of interrelated problems:

  • We were unable to switch to online education for various reasons, including the lack of material and technical support of universities, lack of wide coverage of Internet networks, low living standards of the population, etc .;
  • In the second wave of quarantine, there is a categorical refusal of parents from distance learning, especially parents of school children;
  • Problems arise with online applications through which universities conduct distance lectures or seminars. Some educational institutions have announced that they are abandoning the Zoom platform and switching to Google Meet or other applications. There was such a thing as Zoombombing, which characterizes actions related to the violation of online spaces, including hacking virtual classrooms, posting pornographic or hateful images, shouting profanity, etc.;
  • University sites work unstable due to the increased load on databases and information systems of universities;
  • The qualifications of employees for the transition to online learning are not enough: there is no knowledge about the available platforms and services for remote learning, their functionality, effective teaching methods in online format, etc.;
  • Lack of experienced programmers and web designers, institutional, material and technical capabilities, no proven high-quality educational resources, no understanding of the features of online teaching, distance learning methods.

Despite all the advantages of distance learning, students still prefer the traditional format of classes. “Of course, online learning is convenient. We receive assignments through Google Classroom and video conferencing with teachers, and thus save our own time. However, we like to go to the university more, to see teachers, with other students. Live communication is more conducive to cultural exchange.” students say.

 

References

  1. Verzhbitsky K.G. Distance education in Russia and abroad: information and analytical aspect. - M .: RITs "Alpha" MGOPU, 2001. - 78 p.
  2. Polat E.S. Determining the effectiveness of distance learning // Quality of distance education. Concepts. Problems. Solutions: Materials of the international scientific and practical conference. - M .: VLADOS-PRESS, 2004 .- 412 p.
  3. Bystritsky V.A. Feedback in the process of distance learning // Quality assurance system in DL. - Zhukovsky: MIM LINK, 2002. - Issue 4. - P. 144 - 148.
  4. Okolelov O.P. The learning process in the distance education system // Distance education. - M. - 2000. - No. 3. - P. 37 - 43.
  5. Domracheev V.G. Distance learning based on e-mail / V.G. Domracheev, A. V. Baghdasaryan // Higher education in Russia. M. - 1995. - No. 2. - P. 79 - 87.
  6. American University of Kuwait. (2020). AUK Responds to COVID-19. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from American University of Kuwait: https://www.auk.edu.kw/about-auk/auk- responds-to-covid-19.
Year: 2020
Category: Pedagogy