“Mahihirapan Akong Mag-Online Class!”

Thus says a student from a farm barrio in a large provincial city.

I suppose the most difficult aspect of online classes is the student’s end of the educational system.
Most attention has been directed to the teacher, the curriculum and the school-administered methods of teaching over a digital screen.

We hardly know if the students are ready—or have an open mindset to attune to the new methods of learning.

“Sa online po, kelangan mas mag-concentrate sa studies. At saka dapat mas habaan ang patience ko. At kailangan magiging mas cooperative.”

In digital learning, students lose that needed ‘body language’ of smiles, winks and other gestures of support from their classmates; that knowing nod or grimace of the teacher that indicates approval or disagreement.

“Minsan ang hirap makisama sa mga classmates online. Nahihirapan akong makipag-communicate with them.”

But if there is a real need and it is commonly felt, even online classmates can be helpful. “Sometimes kapag di ko masyadong nakukuha or nage-gets ang topic I’m asking for their opinion tungkol sa topic namin sa isang subject. E, lalo na sa accounting.”

They may miss the support of friends who in the classroom are all around, but in online class, there is no “hanging out with friends and group activity.”

Hence, students may feel more stress trying to glean and learn only from words and faces on a small screen. Nor are we sure if they have the technical gear to participate in an online class: “Di po lahat merong laptop or tablet. I only have mobile phone. Dalawa lang po kaming may cp dito sa bahay. So halinhinan po naming ginagamit since apat pa rin po kaming nag-aaral sa pamilya.”

Hopefully, their courses are scheduled so they don’t all happen at the same time!

“Isa sa mga challenges ay ang pagsubmit ng assignment sa due time or date, kasi paminsan-minsan nagha-hang ang connection o napuputol o weak signal! Di po tuloy nasubmit ang work ko! At baka rin mawawalang grade ako jan!”

Students of lower economic families living in the rural areas will particularly face difficulty building up their digital learning arsenal. Hence the family above, living in a progressive farm barrio of a large provincial city still has to share two smartphones among their four students.

Others may have difficulty garnering the monthly budget to pay access to Wi-Fi, but some are very clever in managing their limited economy: “Yung niloload ko po ay sakto lang para sa mga activities ko at para sa online.”

Others cannot even purchase a flash card or USB to store files: “Yung ibang files ini-istore ko sa e-mail.”
As we prepare for online classes this coming semester nationwide, it is important that we take into account the situation of our students especially in the rural areas and wherever Wi-Fi signals are weak or non-existent.

We also need to prepare our young students intellectually and psychologically for this new type of learning.