Since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, a lot of educational institutions from schools and universities rushed to get an online solution in order to keep their classes going and their students safe at home, But Lebanon’s problem with e-learning goes way back, before the COVID19 era.
As a contributor to the education sector, I’ve been in close encounters with different trials to make e-learning successful in Lebanon. In this article, I will be tackling some of the concerning issues in this field.
In the past years, there have been many trials by educational institutions in Lebanon to make e-learning more accessible, yet the obstacles to this endeavor can be categorized under 3 main titles: curricula structure, teaching staff, local circumstances.
One of the main issues affecting the good deployment of e-learning in Lebanon is the structure of the Lebanese curricula. The problem may be more present in schools than in universities, as our school system hasn’t been truly refreshed and updated since tens of years ago. I am not talking about updating the information in books and references, I am talking about updating the teaching methods, revising the structures of the curricula, and implementing new approaches to deliver information to students.
The Lebanese educational system is based on “stuffing” students’ brains with information regardless if it’s important to the learning process or not. In simple terms, they throw 100 basketballs towards the ring and hope that one of the balls makes it in. when in fact, they need to learn how to shoot the ball effectively through the ring and decrease the number of balls dramatically, thus decreasing the amount of energy spent on making the shot!
Many schools that tried deploying an online teaching platform threw in all the bucks on the platform itself and paid little to no attention to the teaching staff qualifications to use such platforms. This was a dangerous gamble for many schools as many of the teachers couldn’t use the platforms properly which is the most critical point in delivering the information to the students. it’s like putting a non-driver in the driver’s seat of a Ferrari and asking him to win a race! we all know that’s not gonna happen!
If you’ve never been to Lebanon, be warned, what comes next might be shocking. Although it is 2020, yet Lebanon is still living the dark ages, literally. people of Lebanon to this day suffer from a shortage of electricity on all of the Lebanese land, where the government provides electricity in separate periods of the day with an average of 8 to 10 hours per day and people rely on private generators to cover a portion of the rest of the day. of course, internet access is directly related to electricity supply, so with the shortage of electricity internet access becomes limited as well. Now imagine trying to run an online teaching platform with a shortage of electricity and internet access! as a matter of fact, this might be the direct and the most influential reason for the failure of such systems in Lebanon.
It is not ethical in our business to list the problems without suggesting or highlighting the paths to the solutions. So I will shed some light on some practical steps by which schools can overcome the above obstacles.
First, concerning the curriculum structure, I know an individual school can not change the curriculum by itself (this needs to be done on the ministry level) yet, there some ways to make the material more compatible with the online platforms. note that all online teaching platforms are modular and are built on an activity basis. By that I mean you can’t just throw information as a text to the student and consider it done. Such platforms lack the personal touch of a human teacher, and to overcome that, they use interactive activities like animations, photos, presentations, short videos, etc, to deliver the information more easily to the student. This is called “Project-based Education”.
Second, and the most crucial step, training the teachers on using the platform properly. The easiest way for the teachers in some schools was to record the lessons as videos and send them to the students to watch it, and this was the biggest mistake the caused the system to fail. A video will not reflect the ambiance of the class, or human touch the teacher. In class, the student is forced to concentrate and focus on the teacher because of the teacher’s presence and the atmosphere of the class is suitable for nothing but to study. whereas, watching a video of the teacher on his tablet, laying down on the couch, and pausing whenever there is distraction around him is not a teaching environment. So, teachers must master the platform and all of its features in order to create an immersive experience for the student and not just use the platform as a YouTube channel! a 2-minute video followed by a question, followed by a piece of writing to read and so on will keep the student more immersed in the process.
Third, and last, we can’t as schools or individuals solve the problem of electricity or internet access for the whole country, yet, we can find a workaround for the students to have offline access to the material. There are few platforms out there that provide this feature to its clients but it’s somehow costly. I’ve been working since the beginning of this year with a new startup in Lebanon to provide the perfect platform for the Lebanese educational sector solving all of the above issues and providing more professional tools and features to deliver the information efficiently and effectively, but more on that will be published later.
whether, you tried online teaching platforms before, or this will be your first year using one, take the above points into consideration for a better and smoother transition from in-class to online education.