The pros and cons of intermittent online teaching/learning

2020 was, in many ways, an annus horribilis, for the whole world. Anyone in education, to name but one career field, can attest to this.

The meaning of the Latin phrase annus horribilis is ‘a year of disaster or misfortune’. This expression was famously used by the UK’s Queen Elizabeth in 1992; thereafter its usage was promulgated into the public arena.

In 2020 an unprecedented situation occurred. From face-to-face education teachers and learners were catapulted into a combination of home schooling, independent learning, distant learning and intermittent online learning. 

A measure of home schooling, independent learning and intermittent online teaching/learning is still part and parcel of education in 2021. 

Intermittent online teaching and learning has its pros and its cons, much like anything else.

Pros of – and tips for – intermittent online teaching/learning

  • Educators have been ‘forced’ to reinvent teaching practices in 2020. In the process valuable skills – technological and otherwise – have been accrued. It is hard to find someone who has not become more technologically savvy over the past year.

  • Educators have also had to come up with new ways of presenting – or developing – the curriculum that have been of benefit to themselves and to their learners.

  • Using Google Classroom has made it easy for learners and educators to connect, without being in the classroom. An educator described it to TAS as, “a teacher’s ‘go to’ platform for almost any communication required with your class or learners; you can send messages and reminders, post assignments with deadlines, attach any kind of file for learners to download, provide a variety of feedback and keep parents informed”. Then added, “my favourite feedback is overwriting learners’ work to provide corrections”.

  • WhatsApp groups – comprising the teacher and learners in a class – have become popular and are effective. Alternatively email groups or Microsoft Teams are used. Through these groups, teacher support can be given although learners do not come to school every day of the week. Snapchat has also proven to be a useful platform for learners to chat about homework and assignments.

  • Discovering the wealth of resources that YouTube offers has opened many doors for teachers and learners. Educational presentations and informational videos abound, on almost every topic under the sun, a Physical Sciences teacher enthused in a mail to TAS.

  • Provided it is used wisely, even social media like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter can be used for instructional purposes.

Cons of

intermittent online teaching/learning

  • Many learners have limited – or no – access to technology. This leaves them at a distinct disadvantage.

  • Practical issues such as internet connectivity issues, limited data and a general lack of resources present problems as well.

  • Not everyone complies with netiquette (i.e. network etiquette or rules for acceptable online behaviour).

  • With the use of WhatsApp groups, as part of the online teaching support programme, it’s harder for educators to confine work to work hours as learners can send messages at any time.