Choosing an online platform
RGCFS had already started to prepare to move online even before the government announced the Circuit Breaker. Zoom was a platform we could easily go on, as we have conducted teacher training with our partners in Malaysia and Australia. However, we were also aware of its issues. I will not comment further on it as their issues are well-documented.
We evaluated various online platforms, discussing the merits of the solution they provided. Eventually, we settled on a customisable, open source programme that is very popular in the tertiary sector. We know that at least one Singaporean university is using the very same programme. To ensure we have bandwidth, security and privacy, we setup our own servers. We call it the Future School Virtual Classroom.
Another challenge we faced was how to change our current lessons. Online lessons are not simply delivering the same lesson we have. We had to rethink of ways to engage our students, now that we cannot see them physically. Furthermore, we had to rethink of how we presented our worksheets and other teaching materials. In the end, our curriculum writers had to rework some of the worksheets and the teaching materials. Given the tight schedule they faced, I am thankful for them.
Yet another issue we faced is, how to get the worksheets to students and how to get them back after each lesson. This was made worse when movement was basically curtailed during Circuit Breaker. We knew that the easy way out would be to send soft copies, expect every parent to print out hard copies and then scan them back to us. However, we understand that everybody was struggling at that time, with Home Based Learning while working from home. Hence, we arrived at this current solution, which involves close tracking of whether worksheets have been delivered and marked scripts have been sent out. On top of that, our teachers keep a close eye on whether students have submitted their work.
I believe our parents are thankful of what we have done. They have also been understanding when something goes awry, which will happen, given this current situation. I am very thankful for our understanding parents.
The most difficult hurdle is to teach the teachers how to teach online lessons. Not that they do not know how to teach – many of the teachers in RGCFS have more than 20 years of teaching experience. Rather, it was how to use the new tools and how to deliver lessons via a computer screen. We managed to get them all trained before the Circuit Breaker. Even now, they still discuss on how the lessons can be improved. Thus, I am sure we are delivering high quality lessons to our students.
There is no doubt that all these preparations even before the actual online lesson have been tough on everybody at RGCFS. All of us have learnt valuable lessons in terms of materials, worksheets and delivery. All these are just some of the challenges we faced, even before a single lesson started.
We continue to look for ways and means to ensure that your child has an enriching experience with us even with online lessons. Watch this space for Part 2 and how we are making learning online as close to a physical classroom experience for your child. We at RGC are undaunted by Covid-19 and we strive to give a comprehensive and an enriching experience that will continue to enhance and equip in your child’s learning journey.