Category Archives: Face-to-face or Online Teaching?

BACK TO “OFFLINE CLASSES”

Finally holding classes face-to-face after more than two years was like a breath of fresh air. It was the break that people in our university – students, teaching and non-teaching personnel, and school administrators – so badly needed after months of being segregated because of Covid-19.

But with the pandemic slowly waning, the campus has gradually gone back to life.  The members of the academic community could be seen again walking to and fro inside buildings and pathways.  The queues are back in the university’s bakehouse, cafeteria, and coffee shops. The gym is filled with people, young and old, working out. The basketball and tennis courts are once again noisy.

But there’s no better sign of life and reclaimed semblance of normalcy on the campus than in the classrooms where classes are being held. I had mixed emotions after reading the notice that the university is abandoning online classes and teachers are expected to meet the students for face-to-face classes.

I have no problem with either online or offline education because no matter how teachers deliver learning, virtually or inside the classroom,  they perform the same pedagogical functions – they prepare a lesson plan, set objectives, motivate students, discuss the lessons, give assignments and seatwork, and evaluate learning. So, with the marching orders given – conduct classes face-to-face – I got ready for it.

The truth is I heaved a sigh of relief when the university decided to go back to offline classes. Why? After 5 semesters of online teaching, I discovered that virtual classes are more difficult to handle. I figured out why – I did my online classes synchronously. Things could have been easier for me had I chosen the asynchronous method where all I needed to do is prepare a video presentation and ask the students to watch it. No offense meant to anybody, but I don’t consider that teaching. I don’t feel like performing my pedagogical functions when all I do is prepare videos of my lessons. I feel like shortchanging my students. With the synchronous method, classes are run in real time and the students are attending together from different locations. This version of online teaching gives the students a chance to participate in the discussions and to ask questions if they want and need to. Teachers could guide them when performing graded activities. There is actual real-time interaction between the students and their teachers, something that cannot be done when teachers teach by just uploading videos. Not actually interacting with the students, even only through online platforms is not giving them enough guidance in the learning process. It is risky to rely on the assumption that students are responsible enough to watch the videos and perform the required activities by themselves.

As I said earlier, I had mixed emotions when our university made it mandatory for English teachers to conduct classes offline. I was excited  and at the same time wondering how would it be to conduct face-to-face classes once again. Admittedly, I was a little bit tentative  for I have already gotten used to doing online teaching. But as soon as I stood in front of my students and started talking, everything went seemingly autopilot. I was in familiar territory. The teacher in me went to work without missing a beat. Before I knew it, my first class for the Fall Semester of 2022 was completed.

So, it’s face-to-face classes again. Both I and my students are back in the “real classroom.” I expected the usual things. There might be some classroom management issues  – students using their cellphones and other gadgets, one or two of them sleeping while I am teaching, or what-have-you. These things I address during the first day of class. I would tell them that I am dealing with young adults, not kids, who know what they should and shouldn’t do. Most of the time, it works. I never stopped teaching just to call the attention of the students using their cell phones or to arouse the students who fell asleep. Rarely those happened anyway.

There are times a student might come late and I need to decide whether to just excuse them or strictly implement the attendance policies of the university. If it’s only one absence, I strike it off the record especially if the student’s explanation as to why they came late I deem acceptable. I am almost certain also that a number of them would ask me to change their grades for one reason or another… something that unfortunately I would never do. I give my students the grades they deserve. I check and double-check their scores before I encode them into the university’s portal.

It really felt great seeing the students again in the classroom. But while we may have reverted back to face-to-face mode of delivering education, I wouldn’t say that I went back to the traditional way of delivering my pedagogical functions. If there is one great thing the pandemic taught me it is optimizing the use of computer and information technology in everything that I do as a teacher. Even before the pandemic, I relied heavily on computer-aided instruction. I used PPT for my lectures and instead of using chalk or board marker when needing to write something in addition to what I have on my presentation, I would use a blank slide.

I have gone completely paperless for the assessment and evaluation of my students’ performance. I am using the Google form for all my tests, quizzes, assignments, and  graded exercises. It is through the university’s portal that I send my students link to those Google forms. They take them using their cell phones, tablets, or laptops. The Google form has features that could be used to prevent and discourage students from sharing answers.

Even the submission of course requirements (projects, homework, etc.) should be done virtually as well. I created an electronic portfolio for each student using the Google Drive folder where they can drag and drop  (upload) whatever they need to submit. I also created a common class folder (through Google Drive) where I upload lectures, reviewers, and other documents and files related to the course).

Except for the “paperless” assessment and evaluation of students’ performance, all of the foregoing are things I have been doing before the pandemic. I just figured that as a 21st century teacher teaching 21st century skills, knowledge, and values to 21st century students, it is my obligation to embrace computer and information technology so I could be more efficient in the performance of my duties and obligations as a teacher.

Face-to-Face and Online English Lounges: A Comparative Analysis

doi: 10.18178/ijiet.2022.12.9.1698

ABSTRACT

Research was conducted to examine how an English lounge program at a university affected students’ speaking ability and their attitude toward their foreign teachers and to determine if there were significant differences in the effects between the program delivered face-to-face and online as perceived by the two groups of respondents – students and teachers. This study is a descriptive-comparative survey research. Frequency analysis, mean comparison analysis, t-test, correlation analysis, and regression analysis were the statistical tools used. The computed mean values show that as perceived by the participants, the program, implemented face-to-face and online; improved the students’ speaking ability and their attitude toward their foreign teachers to a great extent. Results have shown that as perceived by the participants both versions of the program improve the students’ speaking ability and their attitude toward their foreign teachers and that students’ attitude toward foreign teachers is strongly correlated to (and significantly influences) the development of their speaking ability. The findings convey the importance of establishing  rapport between students and teachers in the development of the speaking ability of students. It also reveals that online English lounges are as effective as when they’re implemented face-to-face.

You can read the whole article here…

Why I Preferred Synchronous Learning

We could be living now in the last days of the coronavirus pandemic. We can now go back to almost everything that  we used to do before the deadly contagion struck. It’s business as usual. Everything is seemingly back to normal. However, we should still keep our guard up for we know how unpredictable this pathogen called covid-19 is.

Barring the emergence  of a deadly variant of the virus aforementioned, all classes in our university (and elsewhere) will be conducted face-to-face next semester.

I miss doing classes in the classroom  but the truth is…  I have already come to like conducting online classes and I am not certain anymore which of the two modes of delivering education – traditional or virtual – I now prefer. Whichever, I am ready.

But I could actually heave a sigh of relief now that we will be heading back to the “real classroom” and meet the students in person. Why? Actually, I found virtual classes more difficult to conduct. Probably because I did my classes synchronously. I could have chosen the asynchronous method and things could have been easier. Conducting actual classes online is far more challenging than preparing videos. I am not saying that the method  I chose (synchronous) is more effective than the other one when it comes to online language learning. Extensive research is needed to verify which of the two methods – synchronous or asynchronous – is better.

I don’t know why I feel like  I am not performing my pedagogical functions when all I do is prepare videos of my lessons. It is as if I am shortchanging my students when I don’t actually teach. With classes being run in real-time and the students and I attending together from different locations, the synchronous method, somehow,  gives learning a semblance of formality. Teaching online using this method  gives the students a chance to participate in the discussion and a chance to ask questions when necessary. It also gives the students an opportunity to present to the teacher whatever class-related concerns they have.

All of the above cannot be done if a teacher teaches by just uploading videos.  In asynchronous learning, teachers rely on the assumption that students are responsible enough to watch the videos and perform the activities they require. Lest we forget that assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.

Of course, if asked which method of online learning they would prefer – synchronous or asynchronous, the majority (if not all) of students would choose the latter. Why? Come on! You know the reason why. It’s the same reason why most teachers prefer to just prepare videos of their lessons than actually teach them online –  CONVENIENCE. I would be judgmental if I would say that the reason is LAZINESS. So, I am not going to say LAZINESS but rather CONVENIENCE. Right?

Between attending online classes for 2 hours or watching video lessons  for half (or even) less of that time, which would students choose?

Between preparing video lessons for 2 hours (or perhaps even less… or it could a little  more) and actually teaching for 12-16 long hours per week, which would teachers choose?

I made my choice. I decided to teach online synchronously  for the past 5 semesters. Not because I was aiming for martyrdom nor am I dreaming to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church should several centuries later they would decide to finally choose among teachers a saint.

I already said the primary reason for me opting to embrace the synchronous method  – I don’t feel like I am performing my functions as a teacher when all I do is prepare videos of my lessons. For me, just posting video lessons is not teaching. Not actually meeting the students (even if just online) is not giving them enough guidance in the learning process. It is wrongly presuming that all of them are independent learners who could learn sans the direct supervision of the teacher. It is also wrongly presuming that all of them would watch the videos and that when they watch they do so from the beginning up to the end.

I also thought that just letting students watch the videos by themselves would also deprive them of the chance to have meaningful interactions with other people possibly exacerbating the feeling of  isolation, emptiness, and sadness  brought forth by the pandemic. Covid-19 blues were real and conducting online classes synchronously could have given the students an opportunity to meet their classmates and friends even just virtually. 

Am I an old-school teacher thus I prefer synchronous learning?

I probably am in the sense that I believe that online or otherwise a teacher is a teacher and they must carry out their pedagogical functions completely and effectively, no ifs… no buts.

But I am not (old-school) in the sense that I consider technology as an integral part of my being a 21st-century teacher.  I am not  an expert in technology but I am enthusiastic about it. I am a digital immigrant having been born in an era when computers were still in their developmental stage. But I tried my best to keep up (not with the Joneses but)  with the digital natives. There’s nothing they could learn that I wouldn’t be able to. I exerted effort and invested  to learn how to use all the application software and programs that would make me a more effective teacher. I explored (and keep exploring) online platforms that will keep me up-to-date on the most recent innovations in education in general and language learning in particular.

The world is slowly reverting  back to the face-to-face method of delivering education. Both teachers and students will soon go back to the “real classroom.” I am saying hello again to the traditional way of teaching-learning – but with a twist. The pandemic paved the way to the evolution of the educational process. It’s now the era of blended or hybrid learning. Online learning is entirely not an offshoot of the pandemic. It has been practiced in the academe for many years now but its implementation was not done in the magnitude of what we witnessed during the time when the health crisis was at its worst. The deadly pestilence  fast-tracked that evolution.

When offline classes are held again, I will determine which part of what I do as a teacher could be “computer-mediated.” For one, my assessment will completely be paperless. All my tests, quizzes, and other graded exercises will have to be done online just like how it was during the time that I conducted online classes. Submission of requirements will also be done virtually. I will create an electronic portfolio (Google Drive folder) where students should upload their projects and homework.

At this point, everybody in the academe should be keeping their fingers crossed that no new variant of this coronavirus would suddenly sneak in and force schools to again hold classes online. But should there be a need to do so, there should be crystal clear answers to the following questions:

  1. Which of the two methods is more effective – synchronous or asynchronous?
  2. In which subjects/courses synchronous (or asynchronous) is applicable?

There is a need to conduct research to determine which of the two methods of conducting online classes is more effective and whether or not one method is applicable to all subjects/courses. Schools should not give teachers a free hand in choosing which method they should use. The schools must be the ones to decide which method is most applicable to a particular subject based on the results of studies conducted. The schools should also take into consideration the fact that students have different learning styles. This means that some of them could learn better without the direct supervision of a teacher, but some need to be supervised closely.

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