Why is video conference not enough for moving class online?

Apr 8, 2020Blog, e-learning0 comments

A contradictory fact surges in the coronavirus, many companies switch to remote working forever after weeks adapting this ‘quarantine time’ model. No space cost, no timing matters, only deadline quests. Retrieved from CNN, some schools in the U.S will be closed for the rest of this academic year. But in terms of  education, one may learn anything even a perfect try with Shakuhachi flute and balley from Youtube and Coursera – as the open visual libraries, but remote learning can never be enough to alternate or cover physical classes. 


It’s gone again“, Tina Blark slightly sighed. “We lost connection twice just for this morning, bam bam!” hearing some of her students complain they couldn’t hear her voice due to the unstable internet line, others were dumped out of their meeting session in the middle of the unit. Tina, a professor teaching Macroeconomic teaching at Academy of Finance (Bactuliem), is just one of millions lectures in the world must pronto transit to remote teaching using video conferences (Zoom, MSTeam, etc.) as schools shuttered by the time social distancing – ‘One world: Together at Home’ is the highest prioritized solution to constrain the COVID-19 pandemic spread.  “But this is not gonna satisfy us” – Tina added. 


why video conference is not enough for moving class online?

Illustration from Unsplash


Truthfully, governments globally hardly take any rest in dealing with countless arisen problems over the past 2 months that could be briefly listed:  freeze social activities, address tests and treatments for confirmed cases, meanwhile work by all costs for economy painkillers, part of them being combating fake masks, scam news,  food speculation and so on. But many weeks prior to enacting ‘work from home’ and ‘social distancing’, schools and training facilities are the first ‘vulnerable’ objects asked by the authorities to stay home to be safe from the ‘hotspots’, ranging from K12 to university students, dragging along their teachers.  Dramally, the Coronavirus wobbled and knocked at education as the initial factor, and much worry has been added in while all students and education workforces have to keep up with their pace and carry on performing their mission via online distance learning – a situation they have never faced before. It’s real-time learning and reactions between instructors/ students matter in this transition. 


Why video conference

Zoom app – Illustration by Unsplash


By far, Zoom, the best medium for current practice, has been madly used to organize classrooms and to lecture. 

Getting a meeting ID and having around 25-100 students attend per virtual class is an uneasy process. Here are some of 99 drawbacks that have been reported by lecturers and students in university and higher education. 


How to operate the ‘conference’ system? 

Teachers/ trainers should prepare a computer configured with a camera, strong internet, unlimited Zoom host, good sound infrastructure beforehand, which also means they have to get used with Zoom, check their connection bandwidth, camera and even order a mic in the shortest span if they are going to host the class. Even not tech-savvy, one must surpass their known harbors to become one regardless of ages or Windows/ Linux/ Mac OS operation tho. They need to know how to share their screens, and at least check attendance. 

Students may burst out laughing to learn that: “Hello, can you hear me”  – the Adele lyrics prophesying this situation with a very loud voice from their ‘spotlight’ speaker, and “Hello, how are you” from the other side: the students. Or “Hey, why don’t you change your participations’ name, appearing Oppo, Iphone like that?…” – Clearly, using Zoom creates such situations where you fall from your chair laughing. 


Virtual is just a virtual

The readability and availability can go out of the blue because of low  batteries, overcrowding lead to poor internet connection, electricity collapse, noisy ambient surrounding sounds from home, above which students might miss one or more parts of the lectures. What if all they can hear  is the frustrated “iii-ee-uuu” sound of low connection. Yes, again echoing the lyrics of Adele “Hello from the outside, at least I can say that I tried” . One/two/ may ask again in this part, one/two or more may require repetition in who-knows-what part, it bothers other students and drains the lectures ôut, since they must speak in a louder and clearer voice than usual, repeat maybe more than fifth. A quiet schoolsque, soundproof hall or physical classrooms installed fully and readily  with education equipment comfort way better and solve this problem in just a blink of an eye. 

Why video conference

Tina and other teachers confessed, during their class with Zoom, they have asked students to mute their Mic and open access to only Camera to get their students’ reactions. But to a professor giving lectures to almost 25- 100 human beings (or even more), they just can see only a maximum 3-4 faces while they are sharing screens (which are PowerPoint slideshow, or typing at a screen, as normal). When stopping sharing, only 20 -25 participants are available to see per page scroll. If having them make speeches, it becomes an impossible mission to pay attention to every student. Students did lose their chances to speak out and deliver their opinions in a face-to-face manner before the discussion board takes place. 

It also got to do with synchronization by inconveniently assigning in-class tasks in other platforms and switching back to Zoom to continue teaching with other lessons. 

In other subjects requiring partial practice like Physical Education or Visual Arts/ Designs, instructors struggle powerlessly with mere theoretical units under screens, where they should have helped and quickly assisted their students tutorial. It’s hilarious and meaningless to the point that students send a recorded video they workout in Physical Education and send to the teacher. It’s even getting harder to a much more complicated subject like  Advanced Math. Lectures are incapable of assessing the understanding level from their students just through 1 or 2 students screens so they cannot pre-moderate speed, give away more examples if necessary. We truly see the real role of the direct reactions and relationships between mentors and students that cannot be done virtually. 


It has so much to do with engagement

Remote learning doesn’t sync with online learning courses, it’s far more different. E-learning courseware has been designed with learning logical systems and progress, e.g.:  If one does not finish ABC they can’t understand the next part, and edutainment with strong supporting multi- visualization, may include, while in a video conference, it works as a video call in 1-2h, nothing left but engagement is the most important then. Class basically needs a minimum slideshow, as long as they present quickly the main points and helps students keep track tô the screens. In remote learnings, bare slideshow and voice from lecturers are not enough to retain engagement and trigger students in the long run, of course excluding those studious. Lack of reactions, unable to voice up, no eye contact, no visual emphasis designs in advance – make conference learning a ‘seriocomic’ dilemma,  same with e-learning and physical class but none truly of the two at all. 

Minh Hai Nghiem, born 2001, a Vietnamese law student from Law National University admits only 4-5 out of his mates actually learn in an Economy class, the rest 90% turn off their cameras, even turn off the speaker from their lectures, surfing Facebook or chatting over another problem, listening to Spotify or even watching Netflix when the lessons taking place. On the other hand, also the lecturers cannot ensure all of their students are listening after the screens. Time is set, 1h or 2h30m for each class, no more. It’s reasonably unapproachable if one wants to assess the teaching and learning real outcome of this very ‘situation’ teaching methodology kind.


Prestige and Education Fee will be questioned

Learning based on Zoom and other software that are designed for video conferences is considered a waste for available campus infrastructure, campus activities or bootcamp, where prestige and value of an education institution now relatively rely on mainly the instructors/ lecturers, digital infrastructure, the reputation and creditably that built back and forth. Education Fee will be questioned by parents and students, why it costs so high, it’s just online learning after all. 

Many schools have to discount the fee to reduce this pressure, but to those who are not in the same road for strategy, they should think of producing as soon as possible a stunning e-learning course in substitution. Explore it here !


 In a nutshell

To this lockdown, we have no other choice but to transit to this teaching and learning methodology – and totally go with it, but this way of learning exposes quite many unpleasant and can never replace traditional schooling. It places a huge responsibility tô the teachers and likely expands their workload while unable to work out as efficiently and unable to cover with a massive number of participants per class session. Social is still the key. 

But fear not, we should quickly move tô the next scheme of combining it with a special e-learning course designed mainly in Coronavirus to patch all that weak points of distance teaching, to have a hybrid advanced learning that brings out good quality. Discover in our next articles!  

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