Over the past month, Chulalongkorn University has had to migrate its classes online as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in lecturers and students having to adapt to new classroom experiences and additional burdens including the “Working From Home” situation.
Both teachers and students require more time and effort in preparing classes and doing personal research than for normal classes, which have added to the stress of Social Distancing and fear of contracting the virus.
Assoc Prof Athapol Anantavorasakul of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty of Education, introduced new online teaching methods from the early days of the pandemic to allay parents’ fears for their children’s health. All 5 of his subjects were changed from the former discussion-based teaching to large and small group sessions. Students were asked to post video clips on the subject’s Facebook page to engage comments from fellow students, and projects that required monitoring had scheduled group online advisory sessions. For individual projects, a buddy system was introduced to help students bounce ideas and relieve the stress of isolation.
As news broke that Chulalongkorn University personnel and students had contracted Covid-19, students that returned upcountry were treated with suspicion by their own communities, and they were subjected to self isolation, a feeling also shared by those remaining alone in Bangkok. Some were worried about family living in other high-risk countries, while others lived in infected condominiums. Assoc Prof Athapol would conduct personal chats to allow them to share their worries and relieve their stress.
One problem is the amount of work assigned by lecturers, who had to adapt to new teaching methods without advance preparation, and the need to take into consideration the workload of the students, or their individual circumstances such as economic background, online learning tools, and home environment. The lecturers themselves are unacquainted with online teaching methodology, so it is thus necessary to prepare for future situations of increased online teaching to set standard formats, he said.
Associate Professor Dr Pol Capt Suchada Sukrong, deputy dean in charge of Student Success, Faculty of Pharmacy, proposed online teaching training workshops for lecturers. Problems lie in practical skills training sessions, and how to prevent cheating during tests. The time frame for lecturers receiving research funds should also be extended so they can complete their projects.
Her concerns included teaching efficiency, evaluation methods, the effectiveness of live feeds due to disparity of internet connections in different regions, as well as venues and timing for requisite student field work. She has tried to address students’ problems through surveys via Google Form, Live on You Tube talks with student association committee, faculty committee and class heads.
Advisors are encouraged to call students in their care, as well as their parents, to provide support and advice, while assuring that the university’s administration has measures to offset their concerns.
To enable her classes, which require both lectures and practical cadaver dissection, Asst Prof Pawana Chuesiri. Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Veterinary Science, has had to resort to visual aids such as videos and Zoom conferences, the Blackboard application for tests, as well as Microsoft Teams to solve problems during exams. Although lecturers have been quick to adapt, there is a constant need for improvisation with regards to equipment and fair exams and appraisals, she said.
One technique is to make agreements with students on self-learning methods via the online content she has produced, while she acts as advisor, answering queries they may have through Line group chats. Problems can be solved with direct access between students and teacher, as well as close coordination among faculty members to streamline the courses and prevent overlap of assignments and exam sessions.
First year Education student Phasin Wangphaibul said is concerned with an increased workload and communication with his family. He feels that his family see him as taking it easy, not lifting a finger around the house, when in fact he is taking lessons, so it is necessary to explain his daily timetable to his family.
To create a balanced workload, he proposes bi-weekly homework assignments.
Phasin is most concerned with evaluation methods for online classes for the success, fairness and transparency. The university should also consider offering a partial refund on fees to help families facing financial difficulties.
Second-year Science student Naruephorn Cheochalalai emphasizes the need to set a daily routine, and keep to it. Some courses with multiple teachers pose some confusion regarding how marks are to be given.
Improved communication channels between teachers and students would help overcome problems. She agrees with the idea of fee refunds, especially for courses with missed laboratory work.
Asst Prof Dr Nattasuda Taephan, head of the Centre for Psychological Wellness, Faculty of Psychology, affirmed that the unexpected need to change teaching platforms to the online format without sufficient preparation was a cause of stress for teachers, students and parents alike.
Students have shown admirable commitment to this new learning experience, but this could be marred by their stress. It is therefore necessary for teachers to communicate with students, getting them to share their concerns so their stress will not build up, she said.
Instead of going straight into the content at the start of a class, teachers should initiate a discussion forum so they can share their feelings and instill confidence that they have all the support they need.
Parents should provide support to their children by helping create a daily routine, but not increase pressure on their children. Allow them space and time for their studies, and keep communication channels open to discuss concerns, provide moral support and initiate leisure activities.
Online learning requires both computer time and practical work which is a test of the students understanding of the lesson. Students have to be attentive and disciplined. Chatting with friends or playing games is not a way to reduce stress as they might think, but a way to escape reality. To overcome stress from excessive workloads and sense of isolation, she advised students to think of Social Distancing as Physical Distancing only, since emotional isolation will pose psychological issues. Those living alone should stay in touch with friends and family, find time to relax, stay positive, and refrain from consuming negative media.
Teachers, on the other hand, should be aware that although they may have additional burdens from normal classes, this is of value, not only to themselves but also to others and to society in order to achieve job satisfaction, she said.
Students, teachers and personnel of Chulalongkorn University who need support during the Covid-19 pandemic can contact the following:
- CU Student Corner, Tel: 09-3936-9255, 06-4249-5596
- Chula Student Wellness, Tel: 08-5042-2626. To make an appointment, go to wellness.chula.ac.th
- Centre for Psychological Wellness, Tel: 09-9442-0996, LINE ID: chulacare, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- COVID-19 Call Centre, Chulalongkorn Health Centre, Tel: 08-0441-9041