By Dr Ali Salman
COVID-19 and the Movement Control Order (MCO) have changed the way we socialise, work, shop and study, making us adhere to new ways of doing things termed as the new normal. Education and learning has had a share of this disruption resulting from the MCO.
This October semester, universities across the country would be welcoming students back to campus for physical F2F lectures, while others would be having hybrid lectures. Meanwhile, there are universities which would still carry on with online lectures. Likewise schools would be receiving pupils for STPM, second semester. The remaining pupils would continue with online learning.
So far talks and workshops have been organised on skills for lecturers in managing online teaching and learning. The irony is that less attention has been given to parents and the learning environment of the students who are mostly at their various homes due to the spread of COVID-19 and the Movement Control Order (MCO).
It’s therefore time that attention is given to parents in order to raise awareness of their crucial roles in facilitating online learning of their children and, at the same time, playing a motivator role.
Similar to the conventional learning environment, a parent’s role and influence on student success is as well important in the online learning environment. Parents serve as a coach for their students, at any age, and support them through their learning process. The same way parents can mentor and encourage students who travel nearby for school, a parent also plays a crucial role in a student’s online learning.
The roles parents play in online learning
Online learning is continuously complimented for its ability to reflect individual needs and reflect a conducive environment at a per-person level, especially during pandemic leading to closure of institutions. Online learning can create high achievers given an appropriate environment, especially for younger students, setting a stronger scenario for success.
Students should see their parents as mentors and coaches, knowing that they won’t be misleading or overly positive, but constructive and goal-oriented. They need to emphasise the bigger picture and understand how the responsibilities of today point to the larger intention.
Students who see their parent’s role as a secondary educator will often become confused or challenged with weighted opinions. A parent who is authoritative in his or her approach to task-oriented actions can also rid a student of his or her independent learning style. Matching the objectives of a parent and a teacher can build hostility or demotivate. Hence, finding the balance of grooming a performer for long-term success as opposed to seeing education as a chore, is critical.
In addition, there are cases where parents fail to have empathy, especially for university students, ordering and assigning them with house chores and disrupting the students’ online learning. This adds up to the stress of online learning the students are already experiencing.
Finding the appropriate parent coaching behaviour can vary at different age groups and parents are required to adapt to the changing needs of their growing child in the way they learn and how they respond to learning, especially in an online environment.
Parents set the standard
Parents have the advantage in controlling the online environment since their children stay with them at home. They should be instrumental in setting the pace, building a physical space intended for online learning and continuing to encourage in the absence of a daily face-to-face interaction.
Parents and teachers have different roles. While a teacher or instructor serves as a guiding force in subject matter, a parent knows when to lean in and lean out of their children’s experience. They are not meant to serve as the home-schooler in conjunction with online course leaders. Instead, they offer support to the learning structure, and reinforce the goals that can be accomplished in and out of school with education.
Accessibility is important. Online learning affords students their own pace and exploration, and heightened accessibility to their instructors. However, often, a student, especially those at younger ages, can’t diagnose issues they are having in the online learning environment. Setting a monitoring schedule or allowing check-ins can keep a parent up to date and knowledgeable of when their input might be necessary.
By designating an area of the home for learning, parents can also keep an eye on progress and learning styles. Noting behaviours, opportunities and barriers allow parents to adapt or adjust the standard as necessary to create the ideal path and learning environment for their children.
Parents live by example
As parents are well aware, children are quick to point out the discrepancy in their behaviour with their parents. Action they say speaks louder than words. This is not different in education.
Positioning education as an incredible accomplishment can reinforce the importance of doing well in school, regardless of their own background. Setting an increased value for education and learning can come through in how a parent dictates online learning time, prioritises needs and the personal attention they can provide.
Educating in an open environment like the home, children can watch behaviours in their parents. If parents push online learners to remain committed and work hard, parents must reflect this in their own behaviour. Children are apt to adopt behaviour they feel beneficial. Setting a similar pace and expectation in whatever a parent’s emphasis to a child’s learning pattern can build work styles and expectations for a student to follow.
Parents have a direct impact on the education their students receive, especially in an online learning environment. Hence, being a coach and reinforcing values through difficult times where we are experiencing new normal can empower students and ensure positive impact.
Dr Ali Salman is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Language Studies and Human Development, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan. He is a researcher on Development Communication, New Media Audience Studies, Social Media and Politics, and New Media and Entrepreneurship