online education

On-line schooling to avoid wasting the varsity 12 months in Lebanon

The Internet connection is far from perfect, there are still many bugs and the technology is not efficient enough. But the will is there. To save the school and university year of almost one and a half million students in Lebanon. Since the forced closure of schools and universities due to the corona virus on February 29, only one buzzword has now applied: distance and online learning. Even imperfect, even with hiccups, clumsiness, even partial and incomplete, it stays better than inactivity and idleness. And until the end of the pandemic, it is the only alternative to physical presence in the classroom. Of course, this requires a computer and an internal connection or, in the worst case, a connected mobile phone.

So far timid, despite the repeated closure of educational institutions, combined with successive crises in the country – strikes, fires, popular uprisings – the process, which is still in its infancy, has no choice but to develop today. For two weeks now, e-learning, distance learning on the Internet, has been set up at private schools and universities. It improves a little more every day, taking into account the need to revise old notions, multiplying application exercises and passing on new lessons, while emphasizing interactivity and creativity. For this, each institution uses the platform(s) that it considers most suitable, Pronote, Google Classroom, Google Drive, Nearpod, Edmodo, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Zoom… knowing that certain organizational tools of the school and university life were already operational.

(Also read: When Télé-Liban taught high school graduates)

Necessary training
“Even before the coronavirus, our establishment used a platform that regulated the school day, made it possible to communicate with parents and to send proof sheets to students in the event of closure,” explains Maria Pascalides, professor of history and geography in the complementary classes a private French-speaking University. But since the pandemic hit, we have a duty to do more and bring new concepts to students. The teacher sends links, documents, photos and exercises to the students. These in turn submit their work, which is graded. But at the moment she is not using live virtual lessons or even videos with her students. “That is not a matter of course. On the one hand, “despite their familiarity with social networks, students are not using the tools properly”, on the other hand, she recognizes that “the school system has been shaken up”. Hence the need for teachers to “do a not really difficult but new induction training with a virtual system”. Without forgetting that at home “kids have to try harder” to work because they are challenged by TV, music and friends.

Experiences vary from one company to another. Some have been preparing for the transition since October 17, the date when the popular uprising against the Lebanese political class began. Others have not changed their habits and continue the classic method of learning. This determines the adaptability of the students and the level of anxiety of their parents. Louis-David, a final year student at a French-speaking college in Aïn Najm, admits he is ahead of other learners. “Our facility has been developing virtual classes since the October demonstrations,” he explains. Initially, the process was limited to repetition exercises. But management quickly explored new methods, virtual classes by appointment, video conferencing, live Q&A, advice, graded homework… “It seems like the time for adjustment is practically over”. All that remains is adherence to a timetable and to perfect the coordination between teachers to avoid overloading the students.”We should be ready next week,” he hopes.Pending the French Baccalaureate exams can’t be any other way.

(Also read: Let’s Hear What the Coronavirus Tells Us Edited by Emilie SUEUR)

The deadline for the French Baccalaureate
Noor and Maurine were educated at two institutions in Achrafieh and Metn that practice online teaching and are in fourth grade. When asked about the distance learning experience, the first one causes a few hiccups, particularly the poor internet connection and that frustrating sense of not learning new concepts. In short, he misses classes. “We are given simple ideas. These are just revisions,” she regrets. In the second, learning takes place as if the students were in class. “The teacher posts a video, photos, and documents, or explains a concept live to the class they previously invited. It’s difficult, but we can ask the necessary questions and send our homework for correction,” she explains. And students who don’t have a computer can “just write their homework by hand, take a picture with their cell phone and send it to the teacher, because the software allows it”. When the young girl says she has no trouble adjusting and organizing, other students perceive the teacher’s physical absence as a handicap. “Working online requires willpower and good organizational skills,” she says.

(Also read: Covid-19: The revenge of the state, Commentary by Anthony SAMRANI)

concerns of parents
This worries Jenny, mother of a fifth grader and a boy in CE2, convinced that this new way of learning “requires the constant presence of a parent”. While everything is going smoothly for her young son, she says she is skeptical about her daughter’s math skills. “My daughter is weak in math, I can’t help her and I don’t know if these terms will be picked up when schools reopen,” she admits. Without forgetting that the atmosphere is not conducive to studies. “I have to work an hour and a half every day so that the homework doesn’t pile up. »

Here and there we organize ourselves, but the solution remains temporary. “We are making progress in the program, the interactivity is very good and the students work almost four hours a day,” observes the director of the Collège Melkart, Faouzi Makhoul. What is certain, however, is that “online teaching is not as effective or as efficient as face-to-face teaching”. “Nevertheless, this remains the best solution at the moment, since students have to be ready for the French Baccalaureate in their final year,” he says.

It must also be said that the already existing inequalities within the education sector are likely to increase further. Between the private sector and a public sector that is still too archaic, of course, but also between the private institutions themselves. the Secretary General of Catholic Schools, Father Boutros Azar, also coordinator of the Federation of Private Educational Associations. “On the other hand, I worry about institutions that don’t have the ability to develop distance learning, about teachers who are unfamiliar with new technologies, about the most disadvantaged who don’t have an internet connection, and about students from the terminal,” he says, inviting the TV stations to give classes like they did during the Civil War.

(Also read: A doctor is banned from working for criticism of how the epidemic is dealt with)

More relaxed and at the same time more demanding students
At university, the challenges are the same, if not greater. With the gradual introduction of online courses, the same problems of organization, technology and teacher training appear. With size difference. At the moment only theoretical courses are offered. Internships, internships and job applications will have to wait for better days, especially in the case of surgical procedures. So you have to “make progress in the theoretical courses so that the catch-up practice, as soon as the companies open, puts the focus on practice”. This explains Professor Ronald Younès, Head of the Department of Oral Surgery at the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Saint-Joseph (USJ), who redoubles his ingenuity to make his virtual interventions interactive, whether in lectures, summaries of articles or clinical studies . He doesn’t hesitate to lend a hand to a colleague who is less technically savvy when needed. “I find that the students concentrate better than in class. They are motivated and relaxed at the same time,” he says. However, he acknowledges that the virtual classroom exposes teachers to harsh criticism from students. “Hence the need for proper preparation coupled with creativity and good class management. »

Elsewhere there are critics. A student from the American University of Beirut (AUB) who recently took his first online philosophy class seems disappointed. If the course has gone relatively well, the young man who asked for anonymity insists on the need for better coordination. “The lesson times are arbitrary and I don’t understand why I have to take my statistics class at 7 p.m. on Sundays,” he complains. Not overly optimistic about the process going smoothly by the end of the year, although he says he’s “sure the teachers are doing their best”, he believes the system “simply isn’t on track just yet”.

Fortunately, the process is improving. “The first session was catastrophic, the second very good and the third perfect”. This is how Youssef, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at LAU in Jbeil, summarizes the courses he has been taking remotely for about a week. “It’s like I’m physically there,” he says. Except that the student is convinced that nothing can replace human relationships. “Virtual learning is just a stopgap solution,” he emphasizes. It’s so much better if we meet in class. »

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Covid-19: Can the Lebanese health system withstand the epidemic?

The Internet connection is far from perfect, there are still many bugs and the technology is not efficient enough. But the will is there. To save the school and university year of almost one and a half million students in Lebanon. Since the forced closure of schools and universities due to the coronavirus on February 29, a single buzzword has…

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