Wednesday, June 23

Concerns about effects of prolonged remote learning


Goh, Amos, Fadzri and Gan

KOTA KINABALU: Prolonged open distance learning may have adverse effects  on youths, the future generation of the country, according to a law student.

Fadzri Azham said while there were some benefits from ODL, it may cause students to become ‘stagnant’ when conducted for a long period.

“Since the first movement control order (MCO), I can’t deny that we have progressively adapted to the situation with ODL.

“Current technology is greatly utilised by students and educators, and there is also a rise in the number of students who excel in their studies, possibly due to open book tests and assessments.

“But the continuity of online learning, which students have undergone for almost a year, may cause  students’ thinking  to become ‘stagnant.’

“One of the reasons being that students now rely on everything being in front of them, such as the Internet and text books while answering exam questions,” Fadzri said when contacted by The Borneo Post.

He also said he wondered if students actually attained knowledge through the method of online learning.

He was concerned that students were now more like a software which transferred data from one place to another, without synthesising or applying the information gathered.

He also said that it was easier for him to forget or discard information attained through online learning, compared to the physical classes he used to attend.

“For me, ODL is not as impactful as physical lessons because it doesn’t encourage critical thinking.

“I don’t have to make the effort to memorise things because all the information is in front of me. I think this fails to sharpen my mind.

“For a law student such as myself, we would normally have to memorise a number of principles and cases, including its names, facts and decisions of the case.

“This is done by having an in-depth understanding of the case. But for ODL, we don’t have to memorise anything as the book or the Internet are there to provide answers during an exam,” he explained.

Fadzri was also concerned that prolonged ODL would result in a decline in quality of graduates and their work, as ODL increased chances of plagiarising and copying each others’ work.

He expressed these concerns in light of the reinstated MCO in Sabah, which is to begin on January 13. He added that he was disheartened by the government’s failure to act proactively after the chain of infection was significantly reduced last year, following several rounds of MCO.  In sharing his hopes for the near future, Fadzri called on youths to take this situation as a lesson.

“We are the future leaders and we are able to determine the present government. We should know our rights and the importance of our voices in determining the sustainability of our beloved country,” he said.

Meanwhile, local business owner Amos Thien was deeply worried about the effects of a second MCO on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as the economy as a whole.

“Most SMEs do not depend on the government for cash assistance, nor do we have financial backing from large stakeholders. We are purely dependent on the public’s buying power to sustain our business.

“With the MCO in effect and the public not allowed to go out as they used to, it’s game over for SMEs.

Loans, rental, salary, utility bills are still ongoing costs even during the MCO. In order to survive, most SMEs will have to start reducing cost, and the first cut is often staff and their salaries,” he said.

As the backbone of the economy, Amos urged the government to provide feasible assistance to tide SMEs over. He cautioned that if SMEs were to collapse, the economy would collapse as well.
Amos called on the government to implement automatic six months’ moratorium on loan repayments, continued wage subsidy programmes for all SMEs and discount on electricity and water bills for six months.
Activist Gan Chee Chan said if the MCO can reduce the rate of Covid-19 infections, the people should accept it with an open heart as it is for the good of everyone.

“The community must work with the government, especially with the Ministry of Health to curb this pandemic.

“Without the cooperation from the community I believe Covid-19 cases will keep increasing,” he said.

“So let us take care of ourselves. We are the frontliners in this matter for the good of our family, our society and our country.”

Kenneth Goh described the government as being slow in action, saying that it could implement the MCO earlier instead of waiting for the situation to get worst and then started to react.

He also felt the government is slow in acquiring vaccines as other neighbouring countries already started their vaccination programme in early December last year.

“We are too slow and our target is to only begin with the vaccination by end of the first quarter of the year,” he said.

He also suggested that not the whole of Sabah should be put under MCO, but only the areas with high records of Covid-19 cases while other areas could continue to carry out their daily businesses under a more eased MCO.

Nevertheless, he hoped the government is making the right decision and the MCO will not be prolonged as it will hurt businesses and employments.