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[Part 2] The New Normal Series - Online Education with Eric Ha

Many researchers think that the world will be re-shaped following COVID-19 with many changes in all areas. This transformation will open up big opportunities for countries which have appropriate strategies and policies to respond successfully to the new context.

With regards to activities implemented by the education sector to fight against COVID-19, Minister Phung Xuan Nha emphasized that ensuring safety for students is the first priority. Therefore, all schools were closed, MOET has implemented distance learning online and on television. With this proactive and flexible approach, online learning has proved to be effective in the early stage, not only in managing students during social distancing but also ensuring continuing learning despite school closure. Although teaching on the internet and television is a temporary measure in the context of COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Nha emphasized that the education sector would take this opportunity to accelerate the digital transition.

On this article, together with Eric Ha - our 2019 Alumni and also the CEO & Founder at Student Life Care, we are going to discuss the opportunities of online learning as well as looking at the broader picture of implementing blended learning modes moving forward.

In your opinion, is learning online as effective and what are the challenges of online learning?

Online education has grown exponentially during the pandemic and adapting to this new method brought many challenges to both teachers and students.

For teachers, even though there were training sessions on how to deliver online classes, as they had to adapt to this new method in such a short period of time, the quality of these online classes was only at an acceptable and temporary level. I believe many factors affected the quality of online classes. Most of the feedback that came to me is about how hard it was to manage students in online classes as they were very easily distracted. Many schools overseas have special programs designed for online teaching with many features mimicking face-to-face teaching like capturing student’s reactions, providing reports and tracking the student's attention in class. But in Vietnam, most online classes were conducted through Zoom, which is just like video call, video conferencing and it doesn't have those special features. Therefore the teachers had to think about how they could create rules to discipline the students but it provided limited results. I think to overcome this issue, teachers should have more activities during the class to attract students attention and also have them fully engage with the lesson. This also could be implemented to offline teaching instead of the traditional way of teachers speaking with a board and students just sitting there noting down everything without having interaction with each other.

For students, while learning still went on, it was not the same as offline learning and especially students with dated technology, they may find it difficult to keep up. Aside from that, students in remote areas, having access to education is already a big challenge, not to mention online learning. To overcome these challenges, we have to look deeply to find a way to make education more affordable and accessible to all.

At the 2019 Dialogue, we discussed how important quality teachers are, and the fact that technology can't replicate this. What does this mean for the future of online learning and will we see greater blended learning modes be implemented moving forward?

In Vietnam culture, we highly value the role of teachers. We believe they play a big role in children’s development and even call them second parents. Therefore, I don’t think online education could possibly replace the ongoing traditional method for early-stage education.

But for higher levels such as high school, college and university, we could try to apply blended learning. However, blended learning is still a new concept in the market. Therefore, to fully apply this we have to take baby steps and maybe experiment it on a small scale before officially bringing it out.

I believe this crisis has altered the education system everywhere and the need for flexibility and creativity are key to successfully getting through this COVID-19 pandemic.

What have you done to contribute to society during this COVID-19 crisis?

As the founder of Student LifeCare, I and my team have tried our best to help the overseas students’ community navigate this pandemic in every possible way.

First, during the pandemic, there was a lot of misleading information on the Internet and social media which led to confusion and panic to our students. So with our direct connection with all the universities and the governments from different countries, we created a platform to provide the most accurate and most updated information for our overseas students.

The second thing was to calm everyone down and let them know that they were not alone. We tried to collaborate with our partners to provide activities such as online Karaoke sessions to keep them entertained during the lockdowns. We wanted to make sure they are emotionally supported.

We created a shopping assistant program in Australia and Canada where we gathered groceries orders and then passed it to our “student heroes” to buy and deliver it. By doing so, we were able to reduce the risks of everyone being exposed to the virus and at the same time creating more jobs for the students as most of them lost their part-time job during lockdowns.

Learn more about Eric here.


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