Students, teachers find virtual classrooms enriching

MUSCAT: The COVID-19 outbreak opened up a new gateway of creativity for an English literature lecturer based in Muscat.
As an ELT professional, Divya Hariharan (pictured) adapted quickly to the digital and virtual teaching methods, which benefitted her students to a large extent.
Her experience in virtual teaching included using creativity tools like virtual cards, virtual boards, moving graphics and online tools, which came in handy for her to impart the knowledge to Omani students.
During the current scenario of technological adaptation, ELT professionals took measures to ensure maximum utilisation of virtual learning platforms through varied Learning Management Systems (LMS), many of them being cloud-based learning.
To enhance collaborative learning through virtual classrooms, one of the best applications which Hariharan used was an HTML5- based open-source application with multiple security mechanisms as an online conferencing tool in Canvas to generate an enhanced experience of virtual learning to the students.

“As a facilitator, it was my responsibility to be a reflective teacher during this situation and provide a synchronous learning experience for students.
Initially, as a challenge I had to face students’ anxieties due to the uncertainties and the immediate change in their lifestyles,” explains Hariharan.
Exploiting the features of the virtual platforms, she however says that educational institutes have to extend all support to the learner and the educator.
As part of this, various faculty development programmes are being conducted online to gear up the positivity among the faculties during the crisis.
She also started researching different possibilities to adapt in the face of such an adversity.

Her focus was on the students’ perspective whenever she planned a teaching module. This Hariharan, says as she knew that they were experiencing the virtual classroom for the first time and it was her contractual obligation, to bring in the readiness from them to accept the new reality.
As she started experiencing the new mode of teaching, she was shocked to notice that students’ response to the topics taught was much better than face-to-face class sessions.

The initial concern was soon taken over by the thoughts of what practical steps could be taken to make the virtual classrooms more interesting and benefitting.
More research was made as part of this and she tried to bring variety and flexibility in teaching by engaging students more in the many digital platforms.

An author and blogger, Hariharan has published her maiden English poetry book titled ‘Livin’ the Dream’, a collection of 27 poems.