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Posted On: 30 March 2020 12:00 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 09:11 am

Online learning programmes: pursuing education amidst coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

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written by Romeo Ezekiel Ocfemia

The recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to numerous challenges for different sectors in Qatar. However, with the help of the Qatar Government, numerous organisations have been assisted in multiple factors

It was announced by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOE) on 10 March 2020 that all schools have to be suspended for the sake of the faculty and students of Qatar. However, with the approval of the MOE, various schools in Qatar have been given permission to make use of Online Learning Platforms (OLPs) to continue the education of its students. Schools in Qatar are making use of the online platform, Zoom Cloud Meetings and Google Classroom to conduct online classes in the individual’s respective abode.

With no concrete date set for the continuation of classes, I interviewed Mark Lentz, Head of School and CEO of GEMS American Academy, one of the numerous schools that have adapted to online learning, and asked him questions in regards to the current status of the students.

Online learning programmes: pursuing education amidst coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Image credit: Mark Lentz, Head of School and CEO - GEMS American Academy Qatar

1. What platform does the school use for online learning?

Mark Lentz: The current COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for educators and learners in many learning communities worldwide. One constant in education is change. The best educators deal with change by finding innovative solutions, adapting, and providing quality learning opportunities for their students.

As Head of School at GEMS American Academy Qatar (GAAQ), I believe we have done exactly that. Some of the biggest challenges to this rapid transition to online learning are students' access to technology and parents’ ability to support them at home.

Educators need to differentiate their instruction to different family’s ability to successfully access and utilise our curriculum. At GAAQ, I believe, we have developed a very well differentiated plan by combining synchronous (live sessions) and asynchronous (individually completed online assignments) lessons. Our teachers are also in direct contact with their students and parents to help tailor our online learning program (OLP) to their needs.

We are using a mix of online learning resources based upon student grade level and subject area. I believe one key to our successful implementation of our OLP was students' regular use and access to these technologies during a normal school day.

Online learning programmes: pursuing education amidst coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

2. How effective is the online platform being used?

Mark Lentz: I believe it is being used very effectively. Parent and student feedback confirms this belief. No plan is perfect and we have had to adapt the program a few times and will continue to do so. Because GAAQ has a close working relationship with all our parents and students and regularly asks for their feedback the successful adaptation of our OLP has been accomplished as a partnership with parents and students. Over the last week we have received overwhelmingly positive comments.  

3. How would you describe the overall action of Government organisations in Qatar to try and flatten the curve of those infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Mark Lentz: This is not my area of expertise. That said, in my opinion the Government in Qatar has done an excellent job monitoring the situation and reacting accordingly. This has been a steep learning curve for all governments worldwide, but I can honestly say that I am quite happy to be a resident of Qatar during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.