Virtual Lecture Focuses on Learning During the Age of COVID-19
UKZN’s Professor Vannie Naidoo presented a virtual guest lecture via zoom on 15 May to staff and students at Semarang State University in Indonesia on the theme of learning during the age of the COVID-19 (corona-virus).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, universities throughout the world shut down as educators and their students had to work in quarantine like circumstances from the safety of their homes to complete the semester. Naidoo advocated the need for on-line Distance/Remote learning as a way to ensure students and staffs’ safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges confronting learners and academics in using Distance/ Remote on-line learning platforms was also highlighted.
The lecture was very interactive and interesting feedback was received. Students at Semarang State University indicated that they missed the traditional classroom and found the shift to learning in virtual places often isolating and lonely. For their part, lecturers at the university added that they felt engulfed at having to adapt to the new virtual learning platforms and technologies at such an accelerated pace. The demands that go with adapting to these new teaching technologies is often stressful and coping in such a difficult circumstance like the pandemic is overwhelming. To overcome challenges facing these educators, Naidoo insisted, ‘Educators needed support and connectivity with their family, friends and fellow co-workers in order to ensure their overall wellbeing.’
Naidoo observed that on-line Distance/Remote learning during COVID-19 is a new platform during the current climate for both learners and teachers and stressed that there is no “ONE best way” of embracing this new teaching approach. Educators need to adapt to the changing needs of their students during this time and adjust their teachings plans where necessary. A flexible approach is called for, as a prescriptive way of doing things will be detrimental to both academics and students. She added that on-line Distance/Remote learning is unchartered territory: ‘We are like Vasco da Gama as he set sail on his maiden voyage to India. Learning during the age of the COVID-19 pandemic is new, stressful and often overwhelming. These are unchartered waters for both teachers and learners, as we have been accustomed to the traditional classroom and the luxury of face-to face social interaction between the students and the lecturer. COVID-19 has made social distancing a crucial mechanism to help prevent the spread of this virus.’
She added that the psychological impact of COVID-19 could have negative effects on both students and academics. One of our biggest challenges is that during this COVID-19 pandemic both students and educators are grieving the old way of “normalcy”. Coping with change has a ripple effect on the wellbeing of our teachers and learners. Teachers and students’ wellbeing during this pandemic is crucial in order to facilitate quality education. Although both educators and students must maintain social distancing, it is essential to make sure that they are engaging in social connectedness and interaction via virtual platforms like Zoom, Skype, learning platforms like Moodle, WhatsApp and phone calls, so that they remain connected as a learning community. This fosters the idea that the students are not alone during these trying times.
Naidoo believes that the only way forward in such unsettling and formidable times is “to never give up”. Our will to survive, achieve and overcome in the most difficult of circumstances is what makes us truly human. In this present climate, both educators and learners must try to maintain a positive mind-set as often as possible. Students need their teachers to create “normalcy” amidst the current climate of uncertainty, sadness and death. Giving students hope and having them continue their studies makes them feel purposeful during this current pandemic. As dedicated academics, we must continue our programmes via virtual platforms, and strive to make it possible for our learners to have quality education, even in the mists of times of uncertainty and emotional turmoil.