Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our university has switched to online teaching and learning since late March 2020. Many people say that the young generation, in particular those who was born after 2000, grew up with digital gadgets and they have adapted to the digital life, almost naturally. If that’s the case, then I’d think that my university students would do well after switching to 100% online teaching and learning.
I was both right and wrong.
I was right because many students actually enjoy the ‘flexibility’ brought by e-learning. All materials are now online, so students can learn anytime and anywhere. Many students are glad that they don’t need to commute from home to uni. They can also sleep in and no longer need to rush to 9am classes. That’s highly appreciated in June and July during the Australian winter! How nice!
I was also wrong because I saw many students struggling in learning. These students couldn’t handle all the teaching materials on a timely fashion and simply couldn’t cope with the ‘lack of structure’ in their daily lives. These students found them always trying to catch up and hard to catch up. At the end of the term, they didn’t perform well and (as usual) they complained.
So, I was curious as why this pure online learning environment didn’t work for every student? Are they supposed to be the ‘digital generation’, who works ‘naturally’ with online learning? After talking to some students and my colleagues, then I realised that the reason why some students couldn’t cope well in this pure digital learning environment was simple due to the ‘flexibility’ of digital learning. Too much flexibility!
In the past, uni students needed to come to campus in order to attend classes or group activities. Students had timetables that were filled with classes and of course, various deadlines for assignments and exams. In the past six months, students, although still have timetables of courses, were not required to attend live online lectures. Most lectures were pre-recorded, in order to accommodate any inconvenience students may have due to COVID. All of a sudden, students’ timetables have become ’empty’ because students could always watch a lecture video at a convenient time. Sounds great, doesn’t it? In fact, no. This has caused quite a bit stir to how students study in the uni.
Without a timetable and with so much flexibility, it becomes individual student’s responsibility to keep up with the learning pace. You may wonder: isn’t this what uni students always do? Yes, in the past when the timetables exist and lectures were not always recorded. Now that students are not required to attend classes at a specific time, everything can be done later! Sometimes, later becomes never until deadlines come.
Remember how you spent your last Sunday? You may sleep in and woke up at 10.30. Then enjoyed a brunch while swiping through various social media accounts on your mobile. By the time you were done catching up with friends’ updates on social media, it was already midday and you were also tired (yes,it’s tiring to go through Apps on you mobile!). Then, you considered doing something that’s long overdue. Since it was a free Sunday without any plans, it was so easy to push whatever back to tomorrow and left it to next weekend. By the time you finished your Sunday dinner, you wondered what you had done on Sunday? Hmm…. can’t quite remember…..
Some people are good at organising their tasks and managing their time. Their calendars are filled up with events and reminders so they know when things will come up and when they need to deliver some outputs. Other people who are not good at managing self will fall through the cracks and become the victims of online learning. Their days become totally ‘free’; free from to-do tasks and lectures. Then tasks and lecture videos accumulate quickly after a few weeks. By the time they realise that they need to finish an assignment, they just found out that they even haven’t gone through lecture videos and lecture notes. They can’t self-drive themselves to finish their goals with an empty calendar.
Training your kids to self-drive and achieve goals is extremely helpful for your kids’ future. No matter how smart your kids may be, if they cannot self-drive themselves to success, then they will never be successful. As a parent, you can’t ‘drive’ your kids forever. You may ‘manage’ their homeworks, assessments, extra-curriculum activities and even deadlines right now, but you can’t ‘help’ your kids like this forever. I saw university freshmen falling through the cracks like this every year, because the freshment year also happens to be the first year that many students don’t have parents managing their studies and lives. Flexibility and freedom are like a double-edged sword; don’t let it cut you.
A self-driven person can drive himself/herslef through difficulties and challenges in order to achieve goals. With some smart ideas and hardworking, then the person can succeed one day. So, stop managing your kids’ lives. Instead, coach them to become self-driven kids.
Dr. C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com
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