The internet has become an important part of our lives in the past 20 years. It has changed the way we communicate, shop and do business. There is also a major impact in the education field, with online learning making education more accessible and changing traditional classrooms.
These changes in education have become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic with many schools having no choice but to turn to the internet in order to continue teaching students.
What is online learning?
Online learning is an education format where students learn by relying on the internet for teacher-student interaction using their home computers. The lesson and class materials are given during the online class.
It goes by many names, such as web based training, internet based training, virtual learning, electronic learning.
Various online learning platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc are being used by educational institutions.
While online learning is not new to skilled courses like digital marketing, computers, and various other distance learning degrees, it is now being explored for school students and even preschoolers.
This new approach can be fun, engaging and definitely much more flexible than the traditional classroom setting.
Advantages of online learning
Online learning offers numerous advantages for both students and teachers such as:
Online learning allows students to attend classes from the location of their choice as it is not restricted by geographical boundaries. Online classes can also be recorded and archived, making it easy for students to refer back to lessons if needed.
Hence, students will be able to revise learning material at their own convenience.
It is efficient
Online learning is a very efficient way for teachers to deliver lessons. Videos, PDFs, pictures, graphs, podcasts, and even animated images can be used as tools to help students understand and remember the lesson. The approach has been noted to work excellently for preschoolers who have short attention spans and prefer more engaging activities.
Teachers have the opportunity to go beyond the textbook to include online resources which are widely available on the internet.
Online learning classes allow dynamic interaction between teachers and students. Resources and ideas can be shared and everyone can contribute to the class discussions. The synergy that takes place in an online classroom is very unique to online learning.
It is affordable
Online learning costs far less than the traditional classroom set up. Costs such as transportation, student meals and space rentals are almost entirely eliminated. Online study material is also paperless, reducing printing costs. Going paperless will also be very beneficial to the environment.
While schedules and routines are still very important when it comes to virtual learning, online education reduces the chances of missed lessons because it can be taken from any location. This will improve student attendance, and hopefully, improve grades.
Suitable for numerous learning styles
Each individual learns differently. And this is especially true for nursery graders or kindergarteners.
Some children are visual learners while others need hands-on learning to understand and remember information. There are also students who are easily distracted when there are many people around and others who simply love the traditional classroom setting.
Online learning can be personalized to suit many learning styles. In fact, with the many options and resources, it can be tailored to the needs of each student.
Online learning provides the opportunity for the parent to monitor their child and observe how they behave within a classroom setting. Various group activities can also be planned (based on a convenient schedule for parents) where the child and parent can participate as a team.
Disadvantages of online learning
As with all methods of education, online learning also comes with several disadvantages.
Increased screen time
One of the biggest challenges of online learning is having to focus on the computer or laptop screen for long periods of time. It’s also very easy to become distracted by other sites and social media such as YouTube .
To help students focus, teachers need to keep their virtual classes engaging and interactive. Parents too can help by making other sites password protected to prevent children from accessing them during lesson time.
Various institutions like Cherie Hearts have a planned schedule that ensures that the young ones are focused and yet not continually glued to the screen. The classes are distributed throughout the day and the week to ensure visual health.
Another challenge with virtual classes is connectivity. While connections have improved tremendously over the years, smaller cities or towns may still not have consistent and decent internet speed. This can sometimes disrupt classes and cause distractions and continuity.
Lack of training
Teachers may not have a basic understanding of technology. Other times, they may not have the tools and resources to conduct online classes.
This is especially true for the many teachers who have been pushed into conducting online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, with proper training, teachers will no doubt be able to conduct virtual classes without any problems.
Online learning during Covid-19
COVID-19 has caused schools across the world to shut their doors in order to fight this disease. As a result, traditional education has changed suddenly and dramatically in the past year.
Many schools and preschools have set up online learning programs so that students are able to continue their studies even during the pandemic.
This situation has forced millions of students across the globe to fully utilize their laptops, mobile devices, and tablets to attend classes from their homes. The importance of technology in transforming education can no longer be ignored.
Proper training for teachers to optimize all the tools available for online learning is needed in order for students to learn well. There is also much room for improvement in the area of internet connectivity.
To combat COVID-19 in Malaysia, many schools have turned to virtual classes.
It is likely that online learning will continue to grow in popularity even after the pandemic as it offers numerous benefits. While virtual classes and online learning platforms already existed way before the pandemic, COVID-19 has massively increased the education sector’s dependence on technology. There is no choice but to adapt to the new normal, at least until it is safe to go back to school.
Is online learning effective?
There is research that shows that students may be able to retain as much as 25 to 60% more on what is being taught in online classes as compared to the 8 to 10% in a normal classroom.
However, the effectiveness of online learning also depends on the child’s age. Younger children require a more structured environment because of their short attention spans.
As such, parents need to collaborate with teachers to create a structure that replicates a classroom setting for preschools who have been thrown into online classes due to COVID-19.
Children, especially those who are younger, use their senses to learn. As such, learning will be more effective if children are engaged in the activity. While online classes may not be conducive to certain classroom activities, these activities can be adapted to online settings.
Online learning can be just as effective (if not more) as the traditional classroom if the right steps are taken to ensure that children are engaged in the lesson. Check out the next section for ways to keep children engaged during virtual classes.
Online learning tips for preschoolers
Virtual classes for preschoolers is still a very new concept.
It can be very challenging as a lot of what preschool teachers do is relationship based.
However, it is still possible to create an engaging and age appropriate environment to help children continue to learn and develop even if they are unable to attend an in-person classroom.
- Keep sessions short – Young children are simply not able to focus for long periods of time. Keep your lessons short and sweet. If you see children getting restless or having trouble paying attention during class, don’t be afraid to cut things short or try a different activity that might be more interesting.
- Allow children to guide the way – Use information from your students to guide your lessons and activities. For example, if you notice that your students really love classes that have songs and movement, consider using music in your online sessions.
- Include items, activities and classroom favourites – A lot of online learning for preschoolers are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools were closed abruptly, with students and teachers thrown into online education. Think about the books or activities that your students loved in the classroom and consider how it can be adapted to online learning.
- Get kids to participate – Engage preschoolers by asking them to do something. Invite your students to show their friends their favourite toy or play ‘treasure hunt’ and have them look for objects of a certain color/shape/size.
- Remember the developmental milestones – Although your preschoolers are not in-person class, ensure that you are still planning activities to help them hit age appropriate milestones.
- Patience is key – Online education is new to a great number of people. It may take time for you, the children and the parents to get to know the new tools that are being used. Be patient with everyone, including yourself. It’s ok if a lesson does not go as planned. Just make sure to improve the next time.
- Have families join in – Online classes will run more smoothly if there is a parent or older sibling involved in the sessions. Invite parents or caregivers to join in for a quick activity every now and then to touch base.
- Have a system to keep parents up to date – Many parents are juggling work, home and children at this time. They may find it really difficult to keep track of all that is going on. You can send simple activities and ideas to parents. You can also plan ahead to meet with parents and keep communication lines open.
Online learning tips of parents
With many schools still operating online during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be very stressful for parents who have to play the role of teacher at home. Here are some useful tips for parents to help children during this season.
With online classes, it’s easy for children to be distracted. There are plenty of websites to visit during lesson time. The environment can also be a big distraction. Reduce distractions for your child by setting up a quiet workspace that is comfortable and clutter free.
Allow frequent breaks
Some children might not be able to concentrate for long periods of time. Allow your child frequent breaks in between learning.
You can also give your child some time for exercise before lessons. Research shows that children’s attention can improve with repeated physical activity during school. Exercise will also help prevent anxiety and reduce stress.
Have a consistent schedule for online classes. Set a structure for schoolwork, meals and activities. If it is possible,try to get your children on the same schedule when they were attending school. A planner will help you keep track of all the schoolwork that your child needs to complete.
With parents having to work from home, children’s schooling on top of managing the household, things can get rather hectic. As you may not always be available to help your children with challenging tasks, allow yourself to adjust your schedule as you go.
Give your child positive feedback
Children need reassurance. A reward system can provide positive reinforcement and motivate your child to do their schoolwork.
Give them praise for completing an activity. You can give younger kids a treat or 10 minutes extra before bedtime.
Communicate with your child’s teacher
If your child is struggling with schoolwork, contacting the teacher might be a good idea. Most teachers are more than willing to help. Teachers can give you some suggestions to help your child overcome the challenges they are facing. They will also be able to help your child with the subjects that they are weak in.
Online learning can be very effective in the right environment. Although it may require a little more effort from parents to make it work, virtual education is a great way to facilitate learning especially during this pandemic.
While some may prefer the traditional classroom, online classes offer far more advantages than disadvantages to students as well as teachers.
Reputed preschool brands in Malaysia like Cherie Hearts have planned excellent virtual learning schedules for the young ones. Check these out and ensure that your child does not miss out on their learning even amidst the current situations.