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School is out; is learning too?

It has been weeks since students suddenly went on an unscheduled break brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health and safety of students come first. Students usually welcome breaks from the drudgery of the classroom. This was however sudden and promises to bring a lot of complications. Students understand this will not be the vacation they want to be. There are unfinished submissions, tests, and assignments that somehow must be met, not so much to satisfy what regulations require but for the sake of good old learning. Administratively, school authorities have options like mass promotions and waiving of other requirements. Because the crisis is unprecedented, no alternative is easy or without consequences.

The first challenge is finding alternative learning strategies that need to be on the ground immediately if students are to catch up on missed sessions. Many schools are in different states of readiness, lacking the infrastructure, trained faculty, and subject matter content adapted to a new learning modality. Because of the physical restrictions, delivering instruction from a distance is not only necessary, but is the only way. The internet is the most logical, cost-effective solution. Physical delivery of educational packs and modules, as in the early days of distance learning, is not even an option anymore, lest the virus will also be delivered.

While some schools are in acceptable levels of preparedness, others are not. A teacher who is unawares and unprepared still must project authority and knowledge, while struggling to be relevant. The setting has suddenly become eerily strange and desolate. Somehow, students cannot be allowed to be idle and be given the impression that they can take a base without swinging the bat. 

In desperation, a confused and insecure teacher may attempt to hide and compensate for deficiencies by resorting to intimidation, which unfortunately is not limited to the classroom. Requiring tons of materials for upload with tight deadlines will hound the student no end. Barriers of time and space no longer provide parameters for determination of reasonable output. Students often suspect that teachers will not read what students submit. The exchange could be one way, with teachers requiring uploads but hardly downloading anything worth calling a lesson. If the student has the misfortune of having more than one teacher of the kind, the stress can take its toll harder than any other learning environment.

School administrators should watch out for these situations and make sure that the shift to alternative learning is supervised properly, with clear policies and directions. Lesson content, instructional design, and requirements must be reviewed. Faculty activity online must also be monitored. Nobody should be allowed free reign in cyberspace. The rules of decorum, mentoring, and effective instruction still apply. The danger of incompetent faculty wreaking havoc on the lives of students is real. If left unchecked, it will not only be school that is out. Learning is out too.

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