Covid-19 has affected many sectors, including the field of education. On March 27, 2020, the Singaporean government enacted new measures that suspend both centre-based tuition and enrichment classes. The aim of this new stipulation is to reduce the intermingling of students from different schools, potentially increasing the risk of an infection.
Obviously, the safety of students and tutors should be a primary concern. The governmental measures make sense and by the time an eventual opening of education facilities is considered, new possibilities should be sought to diminish everyday interruptions as much as possible.
Needless to say, parents right now are worried about ensuring educational continuity while the circuit breaker measures last.
Some educators have begun pursuing opportunities for safe and uninterrupted class completion. Digital technologies and online tuition possibilities provide the alternative that many parents are seeking.
The Annexe Project has announced a couple of swift moves aimed at bringing everyone online for a safe and effective learning opportunity.
Mr. Alvin Yeo, The Annexe Project founder, principal and Mathematics tutor had a hunch even before the government announced the circuit breaker measures.
“I had a premonition that a possible lockdown was going to happen. So I researched online teaching platforms and found out about Zoom. After learning how to operate on Zoom and doing a few trial lessons, we signed up for corporate accounts so that our online lessons can be recorded and we could allow up to 100 participants in online lectures,” Alvin said.
Embracing a 100% Online Learning Experience
The Annexe Project tuition centre in Singapore specialises in Math and English to help students achieve their academic goals. These students have been quite excited and accepting of the new remote learning methodology, albeit some hesitancy.
The trial lessons via Zoom in the end of February went pretty well, as kids nowadays are pretty tech-savvy and they like the idea that lessons can be recorded and re-watched after lectures.
Others like the idea that these videos can be downloaded and saved for future reference, like before an exam or before the O or A levels. Some students also voiced out online and video lessons could be beneficial in the future to reduce travelling time and having to visit the centre every single time.
Some students were apprehensive about bringing physical lessons to online. These students like the physical presence of the tutor in the classroom. An online lesson, for them, loses the personal touch and they feel like they are not going to understand as smoothly as before.
Parents were also concerned about their children adapting to the system of online learning. They also had some security questions. Most of them were pretty assured after the first lesson and actually liked it! They were acquainted with the safety features of the online platform and the safety protocols followed by tutors.
By the third day of the lockdown period, The Annexe Project was 100% operational online and all lessons were successfully run via the digital platform.
One of the biggest changes that took place as a part of this transition: “One thing that I modified in my approach of using the online platform during my lectures was to use two accounts to teach. So, on one account, I would share screen with my students so that they can see what I am writing and my solutions on my writing pad. On the other account, they would be able to see me clearly speaking to them and addressing to them. So if I make a joke or make a silly expression on my face, the whole class would still be able to see me “in action” rather than just “hearing it”. By doing this, I’m hoping to bring the classroom-experience to them, by reminding them that I’m still with them and that they are not alone in this journey ahead. “
Real Learning in a Virtual Classroom: How Does It Work?
Currently, all of The Annexe Project learning opportunities are available online – the one on one tailored programmes, the small class tuition groups and the big class groups of up to 20 students. Whether they need H2 Mathematics tuition or other tuition classes that are available in our tuition centre, students have to complete the same “onboarding” process to begin participating in the The Annexe Project Zoom classes.
Minimal Equipment and Technical Requirements
The equipment that students need include Wi-Fi, an internet-enabled device (desktop, laptop, tablet), writing materials and a calculator.
How are Lesson Materials Being Distributed
Before a lesson, all notes and materials will be emailed to students. Some students have highlighted that they do not have printers at home or if they have run out of ink. In that case, a paper-based copy of the lessons would be mailed to them on request.
Students will be provided with a log-in password, which is changed every day to tighten security measures. The students are added manually to the Zoom meeting room based on authorised usernames that we have in our list, unfamiliar user ids will be declined. After all students have signed in or when the lesson has started, the virtual meeting room is locked (this means even with the password, you won’t be able to join in unless you request permission from me via another communication channel).
Lessons are run using two Zoom accounts:
- One for sharing lecture notes and model answers.
- One for Alvin to maintain face-to-face contact with students and to communicate with them like they are in a physical classroom.
The way that Alvin teaches online doesn’t differ much from the way he teaches in the normal classroom settings. He would explain clearly and slowly and make sure everyone is on the same page. Apart from sharing the study materials Alvin would speak to individual students at random intervals every now and then. Certain questions would be asked during a session make sure everyone is on track.
Sometimes students will ask their own questions while a session is ongoing. If the question is relevant, it will be addressed. After the class, one-on-one opportunities for asking questions will be provided. The consultation time will typically last 15 to 30 minutes.
Lessons are recorded and recorded sessions can be downloaded, saved and replayed, enhancing the learning process even further.
The updated lesson schedule is available on The Annexe Project website. During the month of May (revised School holiday period), there will be extra classes for all students. Most courses will be available twice a week instead of the usual once a week.
Troubleshooting for technical issues experienced anytime during each session will go on for at most 15 minutes. If the technical issue is resolved, lessons are resumed and the lectures will be extended to make up for lost time. But if the issue cannot be fixed on the spot, lessons will be postponed to another day.
The Annexe Project has not introduced a change to the fees and the pricing structure that applies to its learning opportunities. Teaching standards are still being followed and lecture quality isn’t compromised as a result of the new medium being used.
Moving Forward: Virtual Lessons Becoming the New Normal?
According to Alvin, online learning opportunities could easily become the new normal. The way of teaching is highly efficient and it prevents interruptions in the event of unforeseen circumstances like the Covid-19 lockdown. While being together in person does allow for a different kind of connection, having individual consultations after the Zoom classes still makes it possible to tailor tuition to the specific needs of each student.
In the future, Alvin plans to keep both online and classroom learning opportunities, giving students the best of both worlds. For many, online classes can reduce travelling times and enable uninterrupted learning whenever a student isn’t physically capable of going to the classroom.
To learn more and sign up for The Annexe project online classes, please visit the centre’s website and select the learning opportunity that you’re interested in. You can also get in touch with us by filling out the form on the Contact Us page.