8 E-Learning Elements: the new Effective way to Education?
By Chloe Ho and Tay Khye Vern
Education institutions around the world have been temporarily closed to contain and curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taylor’s University students, both new and returning alike, started a new semester via the Taylor’s Integrated Moodle e-learning System (TIMeS) two weeks ago. Bringing the issue closer to home, we decided to feature an article which highlighted the thoughts of students from Taylor’s Law School on e-learning. With the opportunity to access education from the comfort of our homes, could e-learning be the new effective way to educate?
A top priority for students who want to excel in their studies is being able to absorb knowledge taught by lecturers, thereby applying the knowledge into assignments and examinations. However, with the introduction of e-learning, students are unable to meet physically with their tutors and lecturers. Hence, e-learning requires independence and discipline: in planning time to watch recorded lectures and actively taking an interest in their studies.
While collecting feedback from Taylor’s law students regarding the effectiveness of e-learning, Nakeeran from semester 4 commented that the combination of both synchronous and asynchronous classes creates an effective environment for learning. “As the lecturers are still available for consultation, I do think that the paradigm shift from physical lectures to virtual classrooms are not detrimental to our learning process,” he shared.
Learning is a participative process, and the best educational experience comes from lecturers actively engaging with students during lectures. However, with the current situation, one might expect engagement levels within the online classroom to decrease. Although the pandemic has been disruptive to normal teaching styles, the sudden shift to an online environment has been smoothed over as lecturers put in their best effort to utilise everything online learning has to offer.
In fact, students have been quite satisfied with the engagement level of lecturers despite the shift of environment. Jing Huei from semester 2 finds that she has ample time to prepare before classes as lecture recordings and slides are uploaded days ahead. Moreover, she added that online forums were created for students to discuss any relevant topics, thus making lessons feel more participative. "Lecturers also host calls to make sure that we're doing well and keeping up with our scheme of work," she said.
As student-lecturer interaction shifts onto the online landscape, it is endearing to see lecturers putting in the effort to familiarise themselves with online learning and make classes more engaging for students.
E-learning scored a major brownie point when it presented us with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a recorded lecture while we are still clad in our PJs. For those who are introverts and prefer being in a quiet environment with lesser social interaction, having access to tertiary education from the comfort of our bedrooms can be a dream come true. Harjas from semester 5 shared how she saw the bright side of being able to study in her own space. “It definitely comes down to the type of person you are,” she said.
However, the downside of spending too much time studying alone can be a little demotivating for some as one would miss the social interaction with friends and lecturers. While isolation can be eye-catching at first glance as we take a break from overstimulation, too much of it can be deleterious to our social and emotional well-being.
4. Ease of access
Accessibility to online content is now crucial more than it ever has been for students and lecturers. According to Jasmine Jee, a semester 4 student, “In these difficult times, efforts have to be made to ensure online resources are easily accessible at all times as there are no other resources for students to rely on for their studies.” An overwhelming volume of people logging into their servers means that connection is more prone to crashing, and "it can be really frustrating when access to the TIMeS Portal and other online library databases is denied".
Indeed, with the closure of educational institutions as well as the implementation of social distancing, e-learning is the next best alternative when it comes to education. Thus, it is necessary to maintain the upkeep and smooth running of online educational platforms.
Due to the nature of e-learning being largely independent, most students agree that more effort has to be put into making sure that they are constantly up-to-date with lecture recordings, online announcements and webinars. This poses a particular challenge for juniors in law school, especially those who have just entered university.
Nimesha from semester 2 commented that online learning entails more effort on the students' end, “especially with the occasional technical issues faced on TIMeS and laggy videos”. Other than technical issues, time management and finding a suitable place at home to study without distractions from family members also proves to be a challenge for students. Therefore, more effort is required to create a conducive e-learning environment.
Students are often encouraged to express and voice out their opinions, to research diligently and formulate learned opinions. As such, tutorial classes are specifically kept to a small number of students to facilitate a comfortable environment of sharing.
With the implementation of e-learning, some find that “online facilities provide for an even better sharing platform for both students and lecturers”, as observed by Joel Tan from semester 3. For example, as most interactions are now online, it is more convenient to “copy and paste links to online resources” to be shared to the entire classroom. Furthermore, he finds that “lecturers pay closer attention to a student’s reaction through their voices" when they are unable to observe a student’s body language and facial expressions.
Seemingly, e-learning has allowed for more active sharing within the classroom and while it hinders real-life interactions, one would quickly realise that verbal and non-verbal communication skills are essential for effective expression and communication.
A crucial aspect of law school is to expose the students to the wider legal world, and this can be done by hosting a multitude of events. Taylor's Law School has been organising a lecture series that touches upon specialised areas of law, colloquially knows as 'DiaLAWgues', where students get the opportunity to learn from learned judges and lawyers.
With the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), the talks have necessarily pivoted onto the realm of online platforms. In that regard, some students find it easier to attend these online events. Natalie Leaw, a semester 3 student, says she can "focus better because it’s not after a long and tiring day in university”, adding that she doesn’t have to dress up to attend those talks is another plus point. As such, these small but meaningful conveniences would make it less of a burden for busy university students to attend these events. Furthermore, guests of honours are more likely to accept an invitation to speak because fewer logistics are involved (travelling, free time etc.). Indeed, as Natalie noted, “there are more events and talks that are accessible to us now”.
Since students are at home during this period, personal expenses such as food, accommodation, and transport would be significantly reduced. However, Jing Hui from semester 3 shared that although she has been saving some money in terms of accommodation, she would still prefer attending classes physically. This is because students are still required to pay full tuition and resource fees although most of our studies will be conducted online this semester.
On the surface, online courses available on public platforms are considerably cheaper than classroom learning, but this does not seem to be the case with e-learning in Taylor’s. In that sense, students would appreciate lower education cost should the university see a future for online learning after the MCO.
The shift to E-learning has been a learning process for all involved. As this pandemic continues to affect the world, more paradigm shifts are to be expected. Therefore, new innovative methods of ensuring our continued survival and growth in education must necessarily come to the fore.