Online Courses in the New Normal Time

By Mihi Park, Centre for Language Studies

I taught LAK2201 (Korean 2) last semester during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was my (and many colleagues’) first time converting the course into online in the middle of the semester. It was not a simple change from A to B, but it required a new design of the entire procedure of teaching and learning.

My module was a foreign language module, and was originally designed as a flipped course, meaning the students were required to prepare themselves with the e-lecture to participate the in-class lectures. After the conversion, I continues to provide a similar weekly routine; a self-preparation with the e-lecture (recorded and asynchronous), two real-time online lectures, and a self-reflection note to review their own learning. The weekly workload was designed to encourage ownership of learning and autonomy among the students so that they participate the online lectures actively.

In addition, I provided a guide to co-lecturers regarding a tool management skill for effective online lecture delivery, and conducted few demonstrations of online lectures with them via Zoom. Such efforts ensured all the co-lecturers in the module speak the same language in a same manner.

However, assuming my students experienced a fully online language module for the first time at NUS, I expected anxiety to a certain extent among students. The anxiety was, indeed observed time to time: students asking more questions than face-to-face lectures, getting nervous about the assessments, or not wanting to speak up in a target language. Such anxiety will be reflected in the NUS official feedback, particularly due to a short notice of the conversion. Also, the students’ feedback is often influenced by the rapport between the teacher and students, or among the students. Online course made it challenging to build a constructive rapport within the class, and thus the students missed peer support, teacher’s assurance, and timely feedback, that would be impactful in the official feedback.

To address this point, I plan to compare the students’ feedback with the one of the same module from the previous semester, so that I can understand in which aspects the students are impacted, e.g. the mode of learning, assessment, or contents itself. Moving forward, the feedback will allow me to learn how it could be improved and revise the approach in coming semester.

Despite the challenges that we’ve gone through, the four-week online course became a reminder to me that learner’s autonomy and teacher’s facilitation are equally important to achieve the intended learning outcomes, particularly in online learning mode. Based on my observation, the biggest roadblock in conducting online lectures was the unpreparedness of some students and the expectation of the instructor’s full responsibility. In other words, ownership of learning must be addressed to the students. Therefore, in coming semester, I will dedicate one or two lectures at the beginning of semester to enforce the students’ roles and how to manage learning in my LAK4201 (Korean5).

In fact, this kind of training could be done at university-level, because such a skill is considered a general academic skill that the students should be equipped with in higher education. Each module may adopt different approaches to accommodate online teaching, but students’ involvement in learning should be highlighted to achieve a greater learning outcome.

Providing a flipped course would be another way to ease the barriers to online lectures. LAK4201 has been a flipped course for the past few years, and I will continue to provide the e-lecture prior to real-time online lectures, with a hope to encourage students to participate the online lectures actively based on their preparation.

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