Online class can’t offer lessons of ‘real school’

School is different in Hong Kong since the coronavirus. (Toby Shin/YJI)

HONG KONG – With the coronavirus pandemic, students lost their physical classrooms and the benefits they got from personal interactions with teachers and their fellow students for many months.

Even as schools are re-opening, it’s unclear what impact those months – or any changes to come – will have.

Senior high school students in Hong Kong were able to take important standardized tests this year. It’s a good way for them to prove they’ll be successful at university.

But all the changes this year mean the future may not be that bright for the students who would expect to be sitting for the exams in less than 10 months.

Classes in local schools were suspended for four months starting in January due to coronavirus concerns. Students could only take part in classes through online platforms, such as Zoom.

Sophia Cheng, a teacher at Wah Ying College, a senior secondary school, said that was her first time using online platforms like Google Classroom and Zoom. She said it was hard for her to use and hard to keep track of each student’s progress.

Teachers are normally used to face-to-face teaching. Some older teachers, especially, are not familiar with the newest technology. They may have trouble using screen-sharing, recording or other features for online classes and it may disrupt class progress.

Online classes instead of physical lessons also requires student motivation.

Unlike in traditional classrooms, no one will respond to a student who dozes off in the middle of the online class. It may be hard for students to open the learning materials and learn only by themselves without help.

Parent Loretta Tse said that her 16-year-old daughter only turned on the Zoom platform and plays video games all the time. She had to go to work and could not supervise, and it severely impacted her teen’s studies.

With rapid technological advancements and the increasing popularity of online teaching platforms during coronavirus times, many may start wondering about the future of student’s education.

Will there still be a real school? Will student just sit at home and watch lecture videos?

Tse said that in Hong Kong, parents are out of the home for work so it is necessary for students to get to school and have lessons.

Despite rapid technological developments, physical class is essential, she said. In a classroom setting, students can also get the benefit of discussing lessons such as mathematics problems.

As a teacher, Cheng said that meeting students in person was better than using an online platform. While internet technology can help students with studying, it definitely could not take over traditional education, according to Cheng.

Schools are not merely about imparting factual knowledge. Young people cultivate important life skills and learn about effective communication from being in the presence of teachers and fellow students.

Society doesn’t yet know the price students will pay for missing the lessons from traditional classrooms.

Toby Shin is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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