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. Ho
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:
- Which of the two methods is more effective – synchronous or asynchronous?
- 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.