Although online teaching using learning management systems (LMS), such as Moodle, is not a new practice for academicians at the colleges of the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB), a sudden transition to teach a curriculum primarily designed for face-to-face teaching through a full mode online teaching has stirred angst especially amongst RUB lecturers.
This sudden change in approach from face-to-face to online has posed challenges for tutors as they had to adjust their teaching methods to online learning environments.
According to a research done by Kinley Seden (PhD), lecturer at Samtse College of Education, online teaching appears to be rooted in traditional content delivery where technology is merely used for creating convenient access to lecture slides and reading materials rather than developing innovative teaching strategies to facilitate deeper learning.
Besides, it affects their performance and motivation to learn better, consequently, affecting the quality of online classes owing to student’s lack of readiness. “Today’s students are tech savvy but most are not equipped with the academic skills to do well in online classes,” she states.
The research paper on ‘Opportunities and challenges of online teaching’ was presented during the two-day National Conference on ‘Higher Education Teaching-Learning in Bhutan: Innovation, Adaptions, Opportunities, and Challenges’ on 5 July in Royal Thimphu College (RTC).
It was co-hosted by the Samtse College of Education and Paro College of Education in partnership with Department of Adult and Higher Education under Ministry of Education.
The research show that online environment benefits more than what the traditional classroom environment offers.
“Use of multimedia tools remains a significant advantage of conducting online teaching. Further, the diversity and dynamic nature of multimedia could provide opportunities, enhancing the digital pedagogy,” is states.
The research also found out that online teaching allows students to take advanced courses that would otherwise not be accessible to them, like exposing both teachers and students to online teaching learning platforms such as Zoom, Google meets, SoloLearn, Udemy, and many more to widen their academic exposure and understanding.
She said that online teaching is flexible and accessible as it provides freedom to do their works and found out that the teachers benefit by learning technology skills and if they embed technologies in pedagogy, it can provide greater potential for social learning and co-construction of knowledge.
However, Kinley Seden said there are challenges associated with online teaching besides the benefits.
She said that many higher education academics commence with little or no training for online instruction. As a result, online instructors face challenges related to designing, facilitating and responding to the diverse needs of students.
The research found out that an online instructor must design the course in advance, prepare materials, and schedules among others.
“Such demands of online teaching make many academics feel apprehensive and not appropriately equipped to teach on a full mode online teaching,” the research states, adding it demands teachers to learn the usages of technologies in their teaching as there is a transition to online teaching.
Furthermore, it contends that tutors encounter problems regarding instruction like not being able to organise interactivity among the students, conduct online lectures and assure active learning during online sessions, provide fair and timely evaluation and develop the content and define strategies of its delivery.
Another challenge associated with online education is assessment in an online environment. The research shows that exams as a common tool for assessing student learning and assigning grades. More recently, online exams for students are conducted via LMS or other testing platforms.
However, such modes have raised both academic and non-academic issues in relation to designing and administering online exams as well as monitoring students’ behaviour during the exam, the research shows.
Besides, that online examination environment makes it easier to cheat as there is absence of monitoring.
In Bhutan, status of ICT-integrated pedagogy in higher education is at an early stage and is affected by low-speed internet connectivity and a lack of adequate resources as well as training in ICT-integrated pedagogy.
In addition, online teaching demands learners to be well organized, self-motivated, and possess a high degree of time management skills to keep up with the pace of the course.
Therefore, for an online program to be successful, the online course, the instructor, the technology, and the learner are to take advantage of the strengths of this format and avoid pitfalls that could result from its weaknesses. “It recommended respective colleges to support lecturers in their acquisition of ICT knowledge and skills to equip them for the digital age.”
Additionally, RUB may determine strategic interventions in the area of resources support and capacity development of RUB academics in the use of ICT to complement everyday teaching and learning practices.