Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

Coronavirus: pupils adapt to first day in the virtual classroom

Learners at public and private schools across the country will study at home for the next two weeks

It was a first day back at school with a difference on Sunday as thousands of pupils across the country got to grips with online learning.

Rather than board school buses, pack lunch boxes and put on their uniforms, many children faced only a short trip to the kitchen or living room of their homes in order to mark their attendance.

The rapid shift to distance learning has been hastened by the coronavirus outbreak sweeping across the globe.

Authorities took the decision to shut down schools for a month, bringing forward the spring break before commencing distance learning for an initial two-week period.

The National was at the Hol's residence in Dubai on Sunday morning.

Alicia Hol said she was excited to see what her three children would be studying in the coming weeks.

Alicia Hol with her daughter Brooke. Reem Mohammed/The National
Alicia Hol with her daughter Brooke. Reem Mohammed / The National

"The biggest challenge today was my youngest daughter’s videos as these are very loud and exciting. I put my little one in the kitchen so that she has more contact with me. I would like to leave the children to do it themselves and just act as backup," said Ms Hol, originally from Australia.

While Sarah, the eldest, was seated at the dining table, Jasmine chose to bring her desk down to the living room. Brooke, the youngest of the three sisters, sat at her study table placed in the kitchen enjoying the company of their family’s dog Felix.

Every hour or so, an alarm went off to mark the end of a lesson which helped the children complete their tasks on time.

There were technical glitches as one of the girls could not access a file because it was too large.

"There was a lot of anxiety about how this is going to work, but it is exactly like homework," said Ms Hol.

“I think e-learning looks good but the challenge is keeping them focused.

Eight-year-old Brooke, a year four pupil at Safa Community School, was perched at her laptop learning Arabic numerals and creating sentences.

Her day started with a video message from teacher welcoming pupils back at school.

The pupil was looking forward to spending her day completing lessons in science, social studies and, grammar.

“This is the first time I am studying at home and I like it. But, I miss seeing my teacher and friends,” said Brooke.

Sarah Hol, 14, a pupil at Dubai English Speaking College, started her day with lessons in Arabic.

“The lessons seem a little harder but that is because we have to do it on our own," said Sarah.

"I am excited to try a new style of learning and to study independently. I like the fact that I can work on my own and in I am not distracted by what other people are doing in the classroom."

However, the pupil said learning languages through online lessons can be a challenge, as one cannot get an immediate answer.

"I need help sometimes, but do not know where to get it," she said.

The teacher sends the pupil six lessons which she must complete within a day. In case she is stuck, she can reach her teacher through messages or videos.

For classes like physical education, pupils are sent exercise videos which they can follow. Though these are not monitored, the pupil must fill a form rating the lesson at the end.

Children complete their lessons, take pictures of their work, and share these with teachers through Show My Homework, an online tool for viewing and assigning homework.

Jasmine Hol, 11, a year seven pupil at Dubai English Speaking College, busied herself completing her history lesson on the Battle of Hastings and then finished a quiz on the topic.

Jasmine was excited to delve into Shakespearean plays, such as The Tempest, and catch-up on an hour of reading during library class.

“I miss meeting my friends and getting their opinion on my work," said Jasmine.

"Also, I feel like I am studying all day. So, I am going to work through my breaks and finish my day early."

Updated: March 23, 2020 11:49 AM

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