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Behind the screen: students talk about remote learning

Cambridge Learners  Covid-19  eLearning  

On government advice, South Korean schools closed to students at the end of February. Since then North London Collegiate School (NLCS) Jeju has taken their learning online. Now more than six weeks on, we asked some of NLCS Jeju’s students what they thought about the experience and how they think it will change the way they learn in future.

Melanie (Minjae) Kang

Year 11 student Melanie is 17 years old and wants to become a teacher, specialising in psychology in international schools.

At first things were strange, but we’re getting to be experts in online learning now. It sometimes feels like I’m having an eternal, lazy vacation with lots of free time but lots of work too.

My favourite thing is that I can work at my own speed, and I like tasks being set out at the beginning of class. In Korean history class I can finish my tasks earlier than other international students because I have more background knowledge, and then continue with revising other topics. If I’m facing difficulties, I can take my time and practise my skills.

If I had to choose between online and classroom learning, I’d still choose classroom learning since it’s easier to reach maximum concentration, but online learning could be useful in the future.

I’ve always found it difficult to study at home, so I used to go to cafes and libraries. Since I’m now ‘forced’ to study and stay at home due to Covid-19, I’ve had to find ways to make myself concentrate and engage in class.

Our school couldn’t continue all our co-curricular activities online but I made my own activities such as exercising, reading books, and cooking. I usually have time to jog at night, when not many people are around. I meet my neighbourhood friends to exercise, and I keep in contact with my other friends through texts.

NLCS Jeju has sent out lots of surveys to check how we are handling the situation. My tutor, housemistress, assistant housemistress, and even our house captains have contacted me several times to make sure I’m okay.

Fred (Sang Yoon) Lee

Year 11 student Fred is 17 years old and is considering studying politics or economics at university.

It has been quite a different experience across different subjects. During history class our teacher used Google Hangouts to deliver an interactive lesson just like how it would be in a ‘real’ lesson, while in biology we mostly did independent study, completing tasks and asking questions.

My favourite part of online learning is having more of my own time because travel time is reduced, and it’s been a joy to not wear uniform.

I would love the ability to mute people in offline lessons! Sometimes I feel the need to intensely concentrate and I don’t want to be interrupted by my peers chatting through a class.

In the past I used to be relatively awkward asking questions, but online I’m often more comfortable with it, because I’m comfortable with technology.

To be frank, the biggest downside is that it can be difficult for me to stay focused on online lessons; sometimes I would just turn off my camera and have a rest – not a good thing!

Being at home used to be quite relaxing and, in the very early days of online learning, studying at home just felt like an extension of holidays. Now though I find myself exhausted from just simply being confined in a limited space for weeks.

My friends often message each other or do video calls to talk about our IGCSEs. It would be good if teachers kept using video calling when school returns to normal, so we can keep having effective communications with our teachers.

Leo Pei

Year 10 student Leo is 16 years old and is considering studying economics.

I really miss going to school and being socially active. I was afraid that online learning might not allow me to achieve my fullest potential. Although there are limits in virtual learning, such as the lack of time to ask questions, my passionate teachers make up for it through sacrificing their personal time and trying to keep lessons as productive as possible. I think I can achieve just as much through virtual learning if I put in the effort.

Coronavirus also allowed me to think about my future and get closer with my family, which is a fortunate thing during an unfortunate time. Since we are ‘forced’ to stay at home, my parents and I decided to make the most of it and spend quality time together.

My dad created a list of movies that we should watch; I enjoyed ‘Bridge of Spies’ the most so far.

I’ve managed to keep in touch with my friends through Facebook and Kakaotalk. Although we are not together, I do not feel so detached from my friends after video chatting with them.

The thing I’m most grateful about in terms of school is my music lessons. I am currently preparing for the violin diploma. Luckily, online music lessons are even better than lessons in school: my teacher has set up two computers, one for watching me and one for marking my music.

Grace (Yeeun) Park – Year 10

Year 10 student Grace is 16 years old and is planning to study engineering at university ahead of a career in science and technology.

When I first started virtual learning, it was very awkward but after a couple of weeks, I got used to it and was able to get the same quality of education as offline classes.

Sometimes, I can actually get more help because my teachers can access my documents and are able to put comments and check my answers while I’m doing my work.

Some teachers have filmed videos of themselves or inserted voice clips in their presentations, and they give us feedback via commentary on our documents.

In physical education, our teacher gives us a choice between exercising freely outside and following a video. Whichever we choose, we have to write a log with our comments about each week’s exercise.

The self-quarantine life has had lots of ups and downs. I have been able to start new activities such as baking and making mosaics with stickers, and I also started piano again, which I haven’t played for two years.

However, I have sometimes been very frustrated that I can’t meet my friends and hang out, and that I have had to stay at my house. My friends and I keep in touch by texting and video chatting.

Teachers sometimes extend classwork as homework and assign homework as well. Having so many subjects it can become very confusing, so I’ve started to write a daily schedule and to-do list. I will keep on doing this even in offline classes because it helps me remember my homework and what I did in class that day.

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