I have always been made to believe that the current group of students that I am teaching are digital natives. I was also told that these students grew up with a smartphone in one hand and a laptop in another. However, a recent survey among my students have identified some shocking results. They actually are not that fond of learning online. In fact, they prefer face to face learning.
When I asked them the reason behind it, a lot of them pointed out that they prefer face to face lessons because more information and notes were imparted to them. They disliked the tasks given online since they would have to do their own research.
Some of them noted that the workload was ok, however, what was daunting was not knowing if they were on the right track. As such, they preferred face to face classes where they can be constantly guided by the teacher.
Preference or Dependence?
While I understand the joys of learning in a face to face class, I always loved the autonomy of learning on my own. For context, I teach English with the faculty of education. Since we are not a science or practical based faculty, a lot of the knowledge and concepts can be discussed. There is no one right answer as long as you can justify your stand.
A lot of the students know this. But many still prefer to be told what the "right" answer is. This leads me to wonder if many of them prefer face to face classes because its a preference or because they are dependant on being told what to do.
This is common in my culture where students are expected to do as they are told. I had a funny question the other night. The students were supposed to submit a video of a speech. Near the submission date, students were wondering if they should be standing or sitting when presenting their speech. For me, that was a non-issue but nonetheless, it made me wonder if they needed me to spoon-feed them on everything.
It worries me since it shows a lack of autonomy and I wonder if they would be alright if we continue to learn online more often due to the pandemic.
This entire experience has made me implement more exercises to promote autonomy. They say that education is all about programming. I say we should focus on empowering. Hopefully the students come out of this as better thinkers, not followers.