One of them is 16-year-old high school student Hazel. “We get more homework than learning materials, so we spend more time working on them. Sometimes we stay up until 11pm to reach deadlines,” she told The Conversation Indonesia recently.
Moving class online also creates an additional burden for teachers as they have to incorporate technology in their learning method, a skill not many people possess.
Other challenges for online learning include lack of internet access, poor quality of teachers’ capacity and student-parent readiness.
The Indonesian Teachers Association has proposed the use of blended learning – a mix of online (distance) and face-to-face (in-class) delivery – as a way to create an effective learning environment amid the pandemic.
The system offers a wide range of technologies, including web-based courses, live videos and conference calls. These can be used to support traditional education settings.
Several countries in Europe, such as Germany, Norway and Denmark, have started to adopt this learning method to help them conduct classes amid the pandemic. By having a mix of online and offline classes, opening schools is manageable during the pandemic.
Blended learning may work in Europe, but it still has a long way to go to be implemented in Indonesia despite its potential to reform the country’s education sector.
The owner of a pre-school in Cirebon, West Java, Lismah (52), has tried to implement blended learning during the pandemic. She acknowledged the difficulties in conducting online classes, with many of her students’ parents having limited technological resources.
“The students are given homework […],” she said. “The teachers remind the parents of these homework through a Whatsapp group, but we’re aware some parents don’t have mobile phones.”
“We’re expected to work harder. We have to prepare both online and in-class learning activities. Those activities must be synchronised, so they don’t overlap each other in reaching the learning objectives,” junior high school teacher Aris (39) from Cirebon told The Conversation Indonesia.
Edi Subkhan, a lecturer in education technology and curriculum at Universitas Negeri Semarang in Central Java, also argues that schools and teachers must firstly have the capacity to implement this learning method.
“There are teachers who can follow this method because they are skilled in operating various technologies, but there are also teachers who have yet to fully understand what online or even blended learning is,” he said.
Returning to school amid the pandemic, even in a blended learning setting, can also be unsettling after a long period of separation from in-class learning.
Zamzami Zainudin, a researcher at the University of Hong Kong, explains the challenge of “recharging” students upon returning to in-class learning.
“Many students become too comfortable with distance learning because they are separated from in-class learning for a long time. So when in-class learning resumes, they need to be recharged. This becomes the teacher’s challenge to motivate them back from zero,” he said.
Teacher Aris believes that implementing blended learning during the pandemic can increase the ability of educators to conduct effective distance learning, especially in terms of using technology.
“Whether we like it or not, teachers are forced to be creative in using information technology. We have to choose which technology fits the learning activity, learn how to use it, and then evaluate how we used it to see its appropriateness in the learning setting,” he said.
Edi supports this notion. He thinks blended learning can serve as the first step towards an information and communication technology-based education system.
“With its flexibility in combining online and face-to-face learning, we can build an education system that doesn’t force it to be fully internet-based, because we’re also considering the social, economic and geographical context of Indonesia,” explained Edi.
Zamzami added that blended learning would also open doors for emerging technologies in Indonesia’s education sector through, for example, augmented reality and computational thinking.
“There are many emerging technologies in the field of education that Indonesia still lacks. Blended learning is the most simple form of technology that we can start with,” he said.