Muscat: Specialists in Oman’s education sector and psychologists have asked for lessons to be made more interesting, so that students will be more encouraged to study during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With the coronavirus affecting so many aspects of theirs and their families’ lives, students may not be able to provide as much focus as they would normally give to their academics, which makes it all the more important that the lesson plans devised by schools and universities are devised in a way that continues to make them eager to learn.
Jasim Al Balushi, who is the deputy head of the Department of Professional Development and Humanities at the National University of Science and Technology, said although online classes were offered to students enrolled there, many of them naturally did not have the inclination to study right now, because the virus brought with it many other, more pressing concerns.
“Right now, mentally, students cannot focus on their academics,” he explained. “They will definitely think about how the current situation will affect their families. In addition, not all families might have fast internet connections and other facilities required to learn online. Some of our international students have already gone home, so they have made safety their primary concern, and they feel they can resume academics when they return. When you interact with only three or four students out of 20, we need to then re-teach them when they return, because if we don’t, this will really impact their grades.”
Al Balushi said the National University had created lesson plans on online learning tools for students to follow, and had allocated times for them to discuss their subjects with their teachers as well as answer any doubts they had.
“The results were understandably not what we expected. If, for example, I have 20 students in a group, only four or five will get back to me. On Gmail, maybe two or three students will send me things to check, and on Google Classroom, everyone is enrolled, but only three or four actively participate. I feel that while online teaching is a great tool, it is maybe not as effective during times of crisis.”
“While all of us are required to spend time in isolation, those who are not used to it over long periods of time will surely feel its negative effects,” said Dr Nuhaila Al Rawahi, an educational psychologist in Oman. “This is particularly true in the case of the younger generation, whose minds are still being formed, and are required to continue studying, even while many of their parents and relatives are either off work, are working from home, or have reduced working hours.
“Schools should take this as an opportunity to evaluate their teaching methodologies and styles and engage their students in this journey of change,” she said. “There are also opportunities to explore technologies or even present it as a project between two different year groups where the task may be to develop an app solution which is a great introduction into the tech-space.
“Despite the seriousness of COVID-19, it really has opened the doors to explore opportunities,” added Al Rawahi. “The more relevant teaching is, the more engaged the students will be in learning making the e-learning experience more enjoyable.”
Anuya Phule, a psychotherapist at Hatat Polyclinic, added that while teachers did normally play a role in motivating children to study more, given the limited time they could now spend with their students, it was the responsibility of parents to take a more active role in their child’s education, and encourage them to focus on their academics.
“Right now, a lot of parents are spending time with their children at home,” she said. “Children are obviously worried during a time like this. Their young minds are very impressionable, so they will naturally ask you what is going on. You need to take this opportunity to make learning fun, and make sure they focus on their academics.
“It is natural to feel anxiety, it is natural to feel worried, and the stresses of social isolation can also have an impact on your mental health, so academics are a great way to channel your mind elsewhere and keep busy,” added Phule.