Schools unprepared for online learning: teacher

Schools in Samoa are not ready for online and virtual learning due to the need for students to adapt as well as overcome the challenges associated with the loss or absence of internet connectivity.

This is the view of Ryan Nemes, who is a teacher from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (L.D.S.) School in Savai’i.

He said online schooling ticked the box for social distancing, when addressing the threats posed by coronavirus (COVID-19), and is useful during the current state of emergency (S.O.E.) but the platform has its challenges.

“Online schooling is following the letter of law when it comes to social distancing. Safe from COVID-19 and somewhat helps maintain the study-mode for everyone involved in education,” he said.

Mr Nemes said students in Samoa are used to physical classroom learning and not a virtual one and there is also the challenge of the loss or absence of internet interconnectivity.

“So basically Samoa is not online school ready. Not all students can access the online schooling, that is why in the beginning I told my colleagues to only do it with upper-level students say, Year 11-13. Not all students have access to the internet," he said.

“The ability of some students to go beyond surface learning is more difficult to achieve in online schooling, not because it is necessarily difficult but because kids are not used to online schooling.”

Students should not rely on the notes provided by their teachers, he added, but also do their own research to enhance their understanding of the topic.

As an example, Mr Nemes said he used Facebook and Facebook Messenger for his online classes and created an account and chat for each class. The benefit of video conference was available with that online platform, he said, but the students were unable to use it due to slow internet connectivity. 

“For my students, I created a page for each class which only includes the students for each particular class. Discussion is every day through Messenger. I asked my students to take a photo of their work and send it to me using Messenger or email. We tried video conferencing but the slow internet connection messed it up,” he added. 

When asked by Samoa Observer if he would recommend online schooling for all schools in Samoa, he said: 

“Yes and No. Yes in cases as we have with COVID-19 and for those responsible mature students. No for the at-risk students as well as younger ones. Mainly because our online schooling is at the pilot stage so not everyone is online schooling literate. 

"Probably if we are in the advantage stage of online schooling so maybe things will go well for all levels. The best thing is doing it with their own time, but even with my upper-levels there are things they do not understand.”

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