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Covid 19 and Independent Learning at the Tertiary Level

By April 20, 2020Uncategorized

It is no doubt that we are all currently living through challenging times. I’m hard-pressed to find anyone or anything that remains unaffected, even in a minute way, by this novel viral infection. In the wake of this pandemic we have all learned what we can and cannot do remotely.

As it relates to independent, active learning, whereas some countries are well ahead of the game, I am not certain if we in the largest English-speaking Caribbean country were, or are ready. Notwithstanding, I must commend the leaders of our prestigious tertiary institutions for quickly reacting to the crisis using the best means at their disposal. Some of our universities already had well established e-learning platforms whereas others were in their piloting phase. However, technological challenges aside, the crisis begs the question, are our students ready to learn on their own? Honestly, the answer concerning the majority of our university students would be a deafening no!

Is it the type of students enrolled? Is it our teaching style? I do not believe there is a panacea to this problem. And it would be foolish to think that this is a linear issue. It is a rather complex issue that comprises contributing factors that include: test taking skills, learning style, teaching style, aptitude, attitude and other socioeconomic factors. It is sad to observe that students who are growing up in such a technologically savvy era are indeed more lackadaisical than those of us who had less devices to assist us. These students who will readily utilize the Google search engine to find the answer for an assignment, seem incapable of utilizing the same engine when trying to submit an assignment, as a file that is too large to attach to an email.

No, I am not writing to lament about the students and their laisse faire attitude to learning. Neither am I solely blaming our educators. I believe the proverbial writing is on the wall. We need to objectively review our teaching styles in a manner that is more supportive of independent, online learning. A concept that, upon its inception was shunned, but now is the one tool we have in the toolbox. We need to find constructive ways in which we can gradually put learning back into the hands of those to whom it rightfully belongs…the student. It is my hope that out of this pandemic, and our race to stay ahead of the curve we are trying desperately to flatten, that concrete and feasible best practices will arise. The use of technology in learning has long been meandering its way into our classrooms. It is time to give it a place of prominence and nurture innovative, critically thinking, well rounded brilliant global citizens that will become the next generation of Nobel prize winners. It will not be easy, but neither is it impossible. Stay safe, stay smart and RESEARCH!