The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates some 1.52bn students – 87 per cent of Earth’s student population – are out of schools in nearly 165 countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools, universities and learning and development professionals to scale up measures to help children and parents cope with the hasty shift to learning from home.
In Oman too, the education industry’s move to remote instruction mirrors the work-from-home move of businesses. This new reality has forced a crash course in online learning plans and technology for students, parents and faculty alike. Schools, colleges, gyms, yoga centres and music institutes in Muscat are transitioning fast. But how are the learners adapting?
Maather al Balushi, 8, is coming to terms with the distractions at home as she attends classes over Zoom and Google Hangouts. “Don’t get me started about my siblings,” she says with an attitude belying her age. “In school, too, I can be distracted by some classmates but my teacher is always there for me.”
Not like school
A student of Alruwad International School, Maather doesn’t “really like the part about how hard connecting to the school and communicating is”.
Asked if it’s easier to understand new concepts in a physical classroom or an online session, she said she preferred the former. “We can easily ask questions and there is a whiteboard that the teacher uses which helps in understanding lessons. Working together online however is really hard, especially working in groups.”
Maather, however, likes the idea of online learning when she’s sick and can’t attend school.
For Adham Fathalla, a student of Classic Music & Arts Institute, the transition to online instructions has been smooth. “It’s the same with the teacher’s attitude and encouragement to support me still the same,” said the 15 year old who is learning to play the guitar.
‘Clear and interactive’
Classic Music & Arts Institute moved online soon after the lockdown. “The first class needed some fine tuning as I had to adjust the height and angle of my laptop. But after that, I look forward to my class each week,” said Aradhana Rachel Roy, 9, another student of Classic. “The Zoom classes are very clear and interactive.“
Bhargavee Save too faced a bit of a challenge adapting to the new way of learning music, but once the initial glitches were resolved, it has been a smooth sail since.
“Although being personally present with a teacher is a big advantage, in the current constraints this method of instruction is quite useful in keeping up the practice and learning on a regular basis,” she said.
While Satvik Kumar too misses physically interacting with his teacher, he’s enjoying the new way of learning offered by Classic. “I am sure I will keep up my progress even during this shutdown.”
‘Blessing in disguise’
Others in Muscat jumping on the online bandwagon are gyms and yoga centres. The Little Gym for children located in Suqoon Building, Azaiba, was among the earliest adaptors here, and is keeping its members active during the lockdown.
Vyaniti Yoga Studio in Mumtaz Residence, Ruwi, run by the veteran instructor Prema Nagesh started online classes via Cisco Webex following demand from her students young and old.
Among them is Sashank Rajaram, who has been attending yoga classes at Vyaniti since February 2018. He’s surprised to find online yoga classes equally engaging.
“Being in 12th grade, this is a blessing in disguise. I am able to practice pranayama to improve focus and concentration and subdue my anxiety. I’m grateful for these online sessions,” said the student of Indian School Wadi Kabir.
Another student of Prema, Rahma al Rahbi prefers doing yoga in the studio, as opposed to following instructions online “as some exercises and instructions are not clear online”. A resident of Al Khuwayr, Rahma, 41, started doing yoga two months ago. “A physical yoga session with Prema Nagesh – no need for a green apple,” she declared.