The challenges of online learning

The Piam family.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, teachers and parents find themselves working together to save what is left of the school year.

The Ministry of Education has set up Learn at Home, a portal that helps parents with resources to homeschool their children.

As well, the province is also offering Eurêka!, an online learning support available in French to students in Grades 1-12 to help with their school work and learning, along with TVO’s Mathify which offers math tutoring for free.

However, some teachers such as Julienne Kengne Piam, a kindergarten teacher at École élémentaire Antonine-Maillet in Oshawa, says online learning is not quite the same.

Piam, a mother of five, says online learning limits her ability to see her students, to see if they are struggling with assignments, or to just check in with daily life activities.

With the online classes now implemented, she hopes this will not become the new norm for the country.

“Because there’s no interaction,” says Piam. “It’s not the same thing.”

She says right now in her online classes, only 15 of her 30 students have attended.

The situation is not only challenging for teachers. It’s also tough on parents.

Celina Simpson, a single-mother in Oshawa, was a bus driver during the school year. When the pandemic struck, she quickly found herself unemployed. She has gone through three jobs in the last week.

“It just sucks,” she says.

The struggle to earn money is real, says Simpson, despite economic help from the federal government.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides people who have been laid off due to the pandemic with $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

Simpson’s daughter hopes to start kindergarten in the fall, but right now September is an unknown and she hasn’t heard anything about registration.

“I’m guessing (the school) is just waiting to do to what the government tells them to do,” she says.

Many parents now question where the school system will be in September.

For now, Piam is concerned about students trying to finish, especially those with special needs.

“There are sometimes many students that have special needs, maybe behavioural needs, or health needs. It’s difficult because when it’s like that, you cannot teach properly. All the students cannot be equal,” she says.

With this forced situation of online learning, she is convinced online class is not the way to go for younger students.

“Online teaching in the future, I’m not sure it will be a good idea,” she says. “Maybe for secondary or university.”

The provincial government has announced that schools will remain shut until at least May 4.