Distance learning amid a pandemic such as the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) provides not only a safe environment for both teachers and students but also an opportunity to take advantage of technology to make education more interesting and effective.
“While being implemented for the first time on a local and global scale, my experience with distance learning has proven its effectiveness and the results have paid off,” said Sama Ayoub, a grade 11 student of Qatar Academy Doha (QAD), about her experience of the digital platform.
She noted that as students at QAD, which adopts the International Baccalaureate (IB) system, they are equipped and prepared to adapt to such circumstances.
Due to the nature of the course and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Ayoub said they already completed almost all of their learning online: from research, projects and presentations to quizzes, among others.
“Where essentially, the use of technology and online platforms is submerged with our education. Thus, these experiences and gained skills have become very useful during this time,” she added.
QAD has been well-equipped with an e-learning platform and readied its faculty in advance even before the Covid-19 outbreak.
Ayoub said that the need for distance learning at a time like this became a fundamental issue for 11th grade students like her taking part in the IB Diploma Programme.
“This is due to the fact that the IB relies on external examination that assumes the learning across the two years of the diploma to be consistent while meeting the syllabus requirements of each individual subject,” she said.
“However, after continuing the school year through distance learning, I am grateful for the support of the school and staff that have done their best to ensure our remote learning experience will not put us at a disadvantage upon writing the May 2021 exams, that are an accumulation of two years worth of learning,” Ayoub stressed.
She added that teachers and staff members at QAD are also available even after designated school hours to communicate where students can seek further guidance, which “I believe has increased the benefit received from remote learning.”
Asked about what she missed most about school, Ayoub said first is the lively classroom environment and atmosphere that gave them an opportunity to engage in class discussions and group work, which both are effective learning aspects, “followed by the IB programme and ones that we rely on a daily basis prior to remote learning.”
“I also miss the diversity in the methods and sources of learning, such as physically going to the library and after school sessions for certain subjects,” she said. “Personally, the most important aspect I miss of school is the extra-curricular activities I indulged in on a daily/weekly basis, such as student council, model united nations, robotics etc.”
Rashed al-Nuaimi, also a grade 11 student, said distance learning allows students like him to interact with teachers through video and voice calls using the GoToMeeting platform, apart from emails and Google classroom.
Mohamed Anan, another grade G11 student, said QAD’s online learning kept him protected and safe from Covid-19.
“In terms of preventing the spread of Covid-19 and protecting myself and my family, as well as society as a whole, I have not gone out of the house since the beginning of the closure of all schools to comply with the directions of the Qatar national leadership,” he added.
Sharing his view, experience and assessment on distance education as a parent, Yaser al-Nuaimi said: “Direct follow-up is done on a daily basis through daily observation and discussion with my children about lessons and methods of education used remotely. My evaluation of e-learning experience at QAD is excellent since e-learning is not a new in this educational institution.”
Another parent, Zahara, echoed the same statement saying that distance learning or remote work is the future.
“Our role as parents is to provide an appropriate and healthy environment for studying in these exceptional circumstances, and encourage them to organise and manage their time,’ she said.
Primary Years Programme co-ordinator Sana Alavi schoed said that programs such as Seesaw and Google Classroom serve as QAD’s main platform for e-learning, providing students to have a voice, choice and ownership.
She said students work submissions on Seesaw and Google Classroom are evaluated by the teacher.
“Furthermore, teachers are doing face-to-face conversations through GoToMeeting to assess students understand and to ask questions on student work. This along with student participation will be used to evaluate student learning,” Alavi added.