Pros and cons of online teaching and learning

Pupils in class at Sea Point High School

While various online platforms are proving adequate to educate pupils during the pandemic, most are in favour of a full-time return to the classroom instead of the rotational attendance during lockdown.

Sea Point High School principal Leana Le Breton says they are using WhatsApp and Google classroom to educate their pupils.

“We use Google classroom to instruct the learners, I believe it is an enhancement and the learners are improving as we go on. Besides that we have the smart board and WhatsApp too, for maths and physics we have found tools to enhance the teaching of these subjects. Our teachers have adapted and they are positive about using these platforms, exploring their creativity with these tools.”

She added that some pupils do struggle with access to data.

“I’ve been informed that data is a financial expense and some of the kids just don’t have access when they get home, so that limits their online learning.”

Sea Point High Grade 12 pupils Mihle Mjangqeka, 17, and Olwethu Matshoba, 18, say they also see lessons from other schools online and this is assisting their learning.

“At first it was a struggle, it was different to the norm but as time went by we had to adjust and we are making the most of the information being shared on Google classroom,” said Ms Mjangqeka from Philippi.

“We watch YouTube videos of what we are taught and it’s made it easier. I can say we are coping with this, we get notes from the teachers and we can revise on our own at home. With the YouTube classes we are getting other perspectives so that’s helping us to understand. On Facebook there are students from other schools that we are friends with, so we get to see other teachers instruction and that helps us, we get to learn so much more,” said 18-year old Ms Matshoba from Gugulethu.

Zikhona Kolisi teaches mathematics and maths literacy and agreed that online platforms are of immense assistance.

“It’s been a good experience; we can reach and teach the learners from the comfort of your home and the comfort of their home and even if the learners are not here I can still teach them,” Ms Kolisi said. “I can download videos from YouTube, I can create my own, there’s so much more resources to use, there’s enough content and I can share it with the learners. The con is that they can contact me after hours, I’m on duty all the time.”

Lee-Roy Saville says he enjoys the advantages of teaching English remotely but he is wary of the pupils’ work ethic.

“We can’t always be certain that the work is being done, so we have to have faith that they are doing the homework and reading at home. We are more accessible and I can send them work at night and most of the time they respond positively. When I was off from school I communicated with them via WhatsApp as to which activity to do, and most responded with thumbs up,” Mr Saville said.

At Gardens Commercial High, principal Dylan Tommy says that due to the staggered school schedule the pupils are struggling to adapt to this “new normal”.

“It’s a struggle for most of them to find their rhythm, to find a routine at home whereas at school they have a routine. We need to be realistic about the learner’s self-discipline when at home, there are many distractions. They are engaging but not at the same level they would have if it was normal schooling,” Mr Tommy said.

Grade 9 pupils, Nicole Munetsi and Naseema Patel, both 14, confirmed Mr Tommy’s concern.

“When they send the work you may not understand it, but when you come the next week to school we ask about it. So it’s hard when you at home and you don’t understand. I’d prefer to be here and taught by a teacher as there are so many distractions at home, K-pop, K-dramas, music on YouTube,” said Ms Munetsi from Summer Greens.

“I don’t like it at all, I get distracted easily because when I’m on my phone I go into other apps and before you know it the day is over and I’ve done nothing. I would rather be at school, the teachers are better at explaining and I’d rather be with my friends,” said Ms Patel from Bo-Kaap.

Herzlia High school principal Marc Falconer acknowledged that teachers are missing the human element.

“In many ways online learning is more efficient than a blended learning model with some pupils present and some pupils online. Trying to balance both properly is impossible. What we really have lost is the human contact and that cannot be replaced by online learning”, said Mr Falconer.

At Vista High School the teachers are using the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) e-portal to instruct.

Afrikaans and English teacher George Longwe junior says although there is a disconnect between teachers and pupils, this is the future of education.

“I’m excited about this method of learning. We need to guide them and get them to a point where they understand their responsibility, there is a mind shift that has to happen, to the learners, as this is the way the world works, children have to work online, the world works online,” Mr Longwe said.

Cellphones are used to teach via WhatsApp.

The WCED said their strategy over the past six years has been aimed at ensuring that learning can take place any time, anywhere. Years of planning and the implementation of the WCED eLearning Strategy has paved the way for 21st century digital learning and the global trend of blended learning, they said.

The Head of Education in the Western Cape, Brent Walters, said he was extremely excited about digital and blended learning and the opportunities that it can bring.

“We need to lay the academic foundations of reading, writing and calculating, and complete the 12-year cycle with citizens who can contribute positively and productively to society at large.”