Written by: Fajar, Wen Qi and Christine
Edited by: Gan Pei Zoe
As students, being confined to home during this MCO has been one side of the coin when it comes to studying. The other side has been experienced by lecturers who are teaching from home. Students all sort of know how they’ve been coping, but how about the lecturers? What have lecturers been doing during this three month MCO?
Mr. Saqib Sheikh (interviewed by Fajar)
One of the first lecturers Echo Media talked to is Mr. Saqib Sheikh from ADTP who teaches Journalism. He recently returned to campus, as did the rest of his department, to work office hours while the 7th iteration of MCO (Recovery MCO) is ongoing . Despite their return, face-to-face classes won’t be happening again for the foreseeable future.
Mr. Saqib has been doing pre-recorded classes instead of live online. When asked why, he explained knowingly, “well if I was a student I would like to just have the pre-recorded lectures”. He explained that it’s also for the ease of students’ schedules as they tend to be more active at night. While there haven’t been any significant issues with the lectures, he’s found himself communicating with students in the middle of the night, something that under normal circumstances he would not entertain. (Many people have expressed under MCO, their work-life balance has become worse).
He does, of course, miss his students and definitely prefers working under normal circumstances as working from home provides many distractions (as he said this we heard loud banging noises from his background). His words of encouragement to students who will be studying from home for the foreseeable future: “Stay focused and try not to slack off. Really try to get the most you can out of the online sessions. Set up a routine as it’s really easy to let yourself go, and remember, we’re all in the same boat so don’t despair”
Ms. Lai Sok Yee (interviewed by Wen Qi)
The next lecturer Echo Media interviewed was Ms. Lai Sok Yee from AUSMAT who teaches Mathematics Methods (MAM) and Mathematics Specialist (MAS). Due to the pandemic along with the government’s order to stay at home, Ms. Lai has been off-campus for about 4 months from March and returned to campus only in mid-June.
In terms of conducting classes, Ms. Lai has come to the decision to conduct her classes through a “flipped classroom” where she records short lectures for her students before having live classes on Microsoft Teams. Her general lesson structure would include a recap from the previous lesson, students’ reflection from the video and discussions on example questions and exercise questions. She believes that online learning would benefit her students to better understand difficult concepts especially the brain-wrecking theorems in Mathematics.
Besides students benefiting from online classes, lecturers benefit from it as well. Ms. Lai stated that working from home to carry out online classes saves the time usually spent on getting ready for office and traveling on the road. However, she still faces some technical difficulties during class. For instance, she’s been a little annoyed with the connection issues with programs such as OneNote or Microsoft Teams as she would sometimes get kicked out of the program midway during classes. On one hand, she prefers working from home, but on the other hand, she misses teaching in class as online classes can’t provide her with the “human touch” with her students. She misses interacting with her students, hearing from them, and seeing their expressions to gauge their understanding.
With online learning becoming the new norm, she wishes for her students to hang in there and be patient, “We are all in this together. We got to just continue to do our part by staying at home, practicing proper hygiene and social distancing to break this COVID-19 chain. Stay well and safe”.
Dr. Evelyn Toh Bee Hwa (Interviewed by Christine)
Not only were students challenged by having to adjust to online learning, the lecturers were challenged too.
Dr. Evelyn Toh Bee Hwa is a Marketing Channels lecturer as well as a supervisor for Research Projects. She shared about how online teaching was for her. She light-heartedly joked about how the first ten minutes of every lecture was highly frustrating as she had to ask, ‘Can you see me?’ ‘Can you hear me?’ repeatedly for every lesson she conducted during the semester. Yes, this was as frustrating for the lecturers as it was for the students.
Dr. Evelyn did admit that this was new for her and she had to learn new things along the way, but the best part of it was that she had students who were co-operative and that made the process easier for her. She chose to use live lecturers because she wanted to ensure that her students could stop and ask her questions as she taught, so that no one got lost. This was also better for her as she deeply enjoys connection with her students which she missed as a result of the pandemic. Dr. Evelyn teaches her physical classes in a very hands-on way, which made online teaching quite the challenge at the beginning.
Despite how confusing and frustrating the new system has been, there was still some laughter. As she shared about how she instructed one of her classes to space the assignment lines with double spacing and one of the boys piped up and asked; “Should we double space the letters?”. Imagine how that would look! A retail class turned typography lesson, hilarious!
Although the lecturers initially struggled without the support of e-books and other necessary tools, she made sure she gave out all her contact information, including her personal number, to ensure that her students could ask questions whenever they were stuck, and if they needed any help whatsoever.
Her best advice to students next semester as they continue with this new system is to be co-operative and inquisitive as that will help them learn better as well as make it easier for the lecturers.
With the reopening of the library and most other facilities on campus, students are returning to be in a better learning environment, even if they will not be sitting in lecture halls anytime soon. Remember to follow the SOPs, wear a mask as much as possible, and don’t become too complacent as a second wave can happen to any country no matter how COVID-free they have become (for example, South Korea). To those who have returned, welcome! And to those still staying at home, thank you for staying safe!