By Arianna Chaves Durán - Student of the Master’s degree in Teaching English with a Mention in Direction and Evaluation of English Programs
On March 6th, 2020, the way I was used to teach changed dramatically. An invisible enemy called COVID-19 spreades quickly around the world and arrived in Costa Rica. As a result, the contents, activities, and evaluation methods that I had carefully planned for my group of ESP adults needed to be reinvented. Did I have the expertise to teach in a virtual environment? Was my curriculum intended to be taught virtually? The answer to both questions was no. Like me, thousands of teachers around the world were facing the same challenge. According to the United Nations (2020), nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries were sent home. In the next paragraphs, I will discuss how teachers and institutions have revamped curriculum design with the intent to adapt it to virtual education.
First of all, to create an effective curriculum, the student’s needs and environment must be taken into account (Nation & Macalister, 2010). Because of the pandemic, learning is no longer happening in a physical classroom. It is now occurring at home. One of the best ways to ensure the continuity of learning is through the digital world. As a result, institutions and educators globally have adopted the usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in a synchronous and asynchronous way to deliver educational content and achieve the learning objectives.
In terms of synchronous learning, educators are currently using diverse Learning Management systems such as Moodle, Microsoft Teams, Blackboard, among others, to create video conferencing sessions, chat rooms, and break-out rooms for real-time communication with their students (Dhawan, 2020). Moreover, asynchronous learning has also been incorporated into the virtual teaching and learning process while promoting independent and student-centered learning. According to Perveen (2016), through discussion forums, online blogs, and recorded lectures students can interact with other classmates, solve problems and experiment by learning at their own pace.
Besides the above-mentioned changes in curriculum design, educators and institutions have also adapted the instructional activities for the virtual world. Reimers & Schleicher (2020) state that a large number of websites and online applications are currently being used by teachers worldwide to support learning. Teachers have adapted the activities with online resources where students can brainstorm about specific topics, review content through online games and quizzes, practice information by using hands-on tools, and construct new knowledge by using multimedia and collaboration platforms.
Finally, evaluation plays an important role in this transformation. Teachers and institutions have mainly embraced formative assessments in virtual learning. Through diagnostic, follow-up exercises, and self-assessment, teachers and students obtain feedback not just about the final outcome but regarding the whole learning process (ECLAC- UNESCO, 2020).
In conclusion, I certainly believe that, through unfortunate events, individuals become more resilient and creative. Undoubtedly, teachers and institutions around the world are a great example of adaptability. As shown in previous paragraphs, data prove that changes have been made to reinvent the curriculum for virtual learning. Face-to-face lectures are now transformed into self-study courses or online sessions in Zoom. Group work is now developed in discussion forums and formative assessments are now more significant than we ever imagined. As a teacher, I have experienced how the curriculum has been changed in a way that promotes student’s active learning and independence. There is still a long way to go, and there are elements of the curriculum that cannot be changed overnight; however, I am positive that educators and institutions are on a good track.