COVID-19 AND THE NEW NORMAL: THE PROS AND CONS ON TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
In December, 2020, the outbreak of the corona virus (COVID-19) began in Wuhan, China. It causes mild to severe respiratory illness including death. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has put in place guidelines to help curb the spread of the disease which include, wearing of facemask, washing of hands often with soap and water, the use of hand-sanitizers, social-distancing and a healthy nutrition lifestyle. The virus has since spread worldwide affecting the lives of every human on earth and their business, educational lives and general way of life. Early 2020 saw countries on lockdown as a way of curbing the disease and this has led to the new normal. “The new normal” is a current situation, social custom, etc., that is different from what has been experienced or done before but is expected to become usual or typical. The new normal has however affected various aspects of our lives and education cannot be left out. The new normal in education is the increased use of online learning resources as a way of continuing the process of educating students. Different online learning platforms have been adopted all over the world including Zoom, Moodle, Google meet and even on our social media platforms like Telegram and WhatsApp. The online learning however have some advantages and disadvantages which will be explained below.
To begin with, accessibility of time and place is one of the pros of online learning in tertiary institutions. This is because, students are able to attend classes from any location and not restricted to a certain geographical boundary like their school campuses. Also, online lectures can be recorded for future reference by the students. This allows students to revisit the recorded audios at their leisure time.
Also, online learning promotes efficiency in teaching and learning. Lecturers are able to adopt efficient methods of teaching buy incorporating online learning resources rather than the traditional textbooks. Lecturers now make use of videos, PDFs, Podcasts and Audio files to aid teaching. This is the new normal as opposed the old method of teaching.
Furthermore, improved student attendance is another pros of online learning. This is because; lectures can be taken from home or any other location and not limited to the lecture halls. This will lower the chances of students missing class due to one reason or the other. Despite online learning in tertiary education has some pros as part of the new normal, it also has some disadvantages.
One of the disadvantages is technology issues. It’s no news that Africa is not well advanced in technology and therefore there is bound to be some internet connectivity glitches. In areas especially small villages and towns where there is little or no network, students will find it difficult to access the online lectures and if they are able to, disruption of the class is bound to happen as a result of poor internet connectivity. This can lead to lack of continuity in learning for the child. This is detrimental to the education process.
Another disadvantage of online learning in tertiary institution as a result of the new normal is high data expenditure. To access classes online, students will need to constantly buy data if not, they will miss lectures for the day. This will increase the cost of the data expenses of the student. And in Africa where the cost of data is relatively high, students are faced with additional expensive with their school fees.
Furthermore, inability of students to focus on screens is another disadvantage of online learning. Most students easily get distracted by their social media messages or other sites while lectures are ongoing and they learn little or nothing at the end of the class. It is therefore, the duty of the lecturer to keep the class as interactive and engaging as possible to help students focus on the lesson. Also, most students find it difficult with focusing on the screen for a long period of time.
Finally, there is a sense of isolation. Students are used to physical lectures where they get to see and interact with their friends. The new normal has however limited that from happening as students will be expected to cope alone having lectures with no sense of interaction with their teachers and friends. In this situation, it is imperative that the school allow for other forms of communication between the students, peers, and teachers. This can include online messages, emails and video conferencing that will allow for face-to-face interaction and reduce the sense of isolation
The above advantages and disadvantages can be said to have contributed to the new normal in the tertiary institutions as a result of the CIVID-19 pandemic. Both lecturers and students will have to adopt and cope with the me method of learning. Decoding and understanding these positives and negatives will help institutes in creating strategies for more efficiently delivering the lessons, ensuring an uninterrupted learning journey for students.