To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 among students, the Ministry of Education will introduce a mix of remote and traditional classroom learning called ‘blended learning’ in the new academic year – 2020/21 – commencing on November 1.
In an interview with Oman TV, H E Dr Abdullah bin Khamis bin Ali Ambusaidi, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Education, said all teaching staff will be trained ahead of the school year.
“There will be a training programme for teachers and support groups on how to use e-learning platforms and deal with distance learning,” he said.
“Education will be blended – a mix of traditional education and distance learning – which will help reduce direct contact between students and teachers,” H E Dr Ambusaidi added.
Muscat Daily spoke to citizens about the new decision and found that most welcomed the move.
Dr Tantawi Gabr, a parent, said, “Blended education has become a necessity due to the coronavirus. Schools have a major role in preparing students to accept the blended education system. Traditional education is essential and necessary because it allows a positive and direct interaction between the teacher and student and between the students themselves. I think online education is not enough.”
For Sultan al Rawahi, another parent, blended education is good and keeps pace with educational developments. “We are preparing by providing laptops to all our children. I believe blended education will help future generations keep pace with technological developments, and I hope Internet services will be available in all of Oman by the end of the year.”
Placed at the other end of the equation, teachers like Ali al Shiyadi too are welcoming the move. He believes blended learning in all study programmes will improve and accelerate the learning process of students.
“The future of e-learning will be blended learning, a mix of traditional instructor-led courses and self-directed e-learning courses,” he said.
“Blended learning aims to improve the learning process through an adequate mix of teaching techniques.”
According to Badis Saleh Gharbi, deputy HoD for foundation courses at Bayan College, teaching methods and the best ones to match a particular educational system have been debated over the last century.
“The whole world has grown in that time and developed thanks to innovative technology, and yet somehow, school systems have stayed the same. The world has been flooded with new devices — personal computers and smartphones – but their potential still hasn’t been fully realised for education. Finally, the term ‘blended learning’ had been coined – a new system of learning and directing education.
“The terms ‘blended learning’, ‘hybrid learning’ and ‘flipped classrooms’ represent a formal education programme that brings together the best of classroom and online learning. It is worth noting here that learners and educators like blended learning because it complements classroom learning in the right way. Additionally, ownership of mobile devices and technological gadgets is growing exponentially and this has brought many benefits to the e-learning space.”
Gharbi added that in Oman, some colleges have successfully shifted to online and blended learning classes to cope with the fast growing demands for remote education. “Blended learning is the best approach because it can support both off- and online teaching methods.”