The Movement Control Order (MCO) was issued by the Malaysian government on 17 March 2020 and to start at midnight of 18 March 2020. For us in Dr D class, we have already started connecting online instead of physically attending classes, even before the MCO was announced.
Schools and universities were ordered to close, students were given extended break or having to convert to online learning. Far more troubling is that moving to distance learning isn’t as easy as it sounds. Teachers and students were caught unprepared. The phenomenon is not unique to Malaysia as the pandemic has hit the world over. It is a global phenomenon.
I have started working on my assignment. In one of the earlier classes I have enquired about cognitive constructivism – it’s a term I have heard many times during Dr D previous class POA7002. I was asked if i would take on the topic as my assignment although it wasn’t on the initial list of theories covered. It was a decision to be regretted later (but will share on that in my later posts). In this post, though, I’d like to share my views on remote learning readiness.
As I started to compile my findings, I also started to work on the wiki page which resides on University Malaya’s Spectrum portal, UM’s learning management system. Building up on the wiki page was particularly challenging in the beginning, it was not as straightforward as writing on Microsoft Word. Eventually I get the hang of it. This experience reminds me of the difficulty I faced during a class I attended last semester where I had to work on Youtube and Facebook. The initial challenges clearly were outweighed by the proficiency and level of comfort after I have gotten used to it.
The challenges of distance learning doesn’t start at the point when the pandemic erupted. It was well researched and documented over two decades (Laurie et al., 2020; Vossensteyn et al., 2015; Simpson, 2013; Murphy & Stewart, 2017; Lee, Choi, & Kim, 2013; Maathuis-Smith et al., 2011; Herbert, 2006; Berge & Huang, 2004; Diaz, 2002). Faidley (2018) found out that faculty members themselves view online learning as inferior compared to traditional learning. I’m a Gen-X and if my learning experience in this course can be of help to explain this, it has to be the generational gaps contributing to challenges in building the learning platform through social media – it is not easy for the first-timer nor the uninitiated.
This brought my mind back to a presentation by a classmate during an earlier class about the Ecological System Theory which is also known as ecological development theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1992). Bronfenbrenner’s theory essentially is about how we develop cognitively by moving outwardly starting from the individual to family and peers (called microsystem) to the larger community like neighbourhood and workplace (called mesosystem) to an even larger nation or state (called exosystem) before reaching macrosystem (which is the universal values and beliefs) and finally chronosystem which explains the time dimension throughout the learning process of the individual.
Children today are said to be digital natives – it appears on one hand easier for them to assimilate new ways of online learning. But learners are not only children; it cuts across generations. As a result, there is a moderating factor in the outwardly move – in each of the systems we are bound to face generational gaps. Earlier generations may be more inclined towards behaviourist or instructionist approach inteaching and learning. For example, as a student, one perhaps faces resistance within school and family in the use of devices like handphones which may inhibit the optimum level of knowledge acquisition. The older generation (both as students and teachers) finds it difficult (but not impossible) to getting acquainted with the online tools. In an even larger context, we may have policy-makers who are slow to recognise the importance of digitalisation and online learning. Essentially each of the outer rings within Bronfenbrenner presents challenges and resistance.
Not many teachers are explorative in nature compared to my learned lecturer (also perhaps because this is her specialisation). I have seen how challenging it is to persuade senior lecturers into digitalisation. And now that we’re halted in education delivery because of the pandemic, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon, prepared or otherwise. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake up call to educators, policy-makers and students alike.