More students start online learning, errors ensue

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More students start online learning, errors ensue

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A teacher instructs sixth-graders online in an empty classroom at an elementary school in Daegu on Thursday. [NEWS1]

Adjusting to online classes continues to raise challenges as another 3.12 million students - including elementary kids for the first time - started their school year remotely Thursday in an experience still riddled with technical glitches.

A total of some 4 million students, as they brave the coronavirus pandemic at home, are now trying to sign onto their school’s interactive learning classes as well as government-run e-learning platforms. But it has been a trying process for parents and students alike.

The Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) and Korea Education and Research Information Service (Keris) are running e-learning websites to supplement individual schools’ lessons, but continue to face difficulties with server overloads, unstable networks and the sheer number of students trying to log on simultaneously.

Students faced major lags or were unable to log in at all when they tried to access the Keris site Thursday morning as school started at 9 a.m.

They quickly shared on social media that the e-learning center server was down, while others said that their teacher told them to self-study while waiting for the website to come back online.

Likewise, some EBS online lectures were again inaccessible to students.

The errors come despite EBS and Keris both working on expanding their servers and resolving the technical issues over the past week, in preparation for the millions of students starting their semester.

The new school year usually kicks off at the beginning of March but has faced multiple delays before education authorities finally decided to resume with online classes over the course of three weeks in April amid continued precautions over the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 9, the new school year commenced nationwide unprecedentedly through online classes for the first batch of some 860,000 third-year middle schoolers and high school seniors. This gave a week to iron out major issues before students in the remaining middle and high schools and older elementary kids in grades four to six also kicked off their semesters on Thursday.

A third batch of students, the remaining elementary students in grades one to three start their school year on April 20. Kindergartens and child care centers remain closed.

Remote learning is generally comprised of interactive classes through video conference between the teacher and students; prerecorded online lectures; and assignments for students to complete.

Like last week, teachers unused to virtual learning faced difficulties running an interactive classroom through apps like Zoom and even getting through basic tasks like a virtual roll call.

But there were some schools that have been preparing to hold interactive classes for the past week and found that their hard work paid off.

Choi Seung-hyun, a 27-year-old teacher at Hwarang Elementary School in Nowon District in northern Seoul, successfully held an interactive class for his 28 fourth graders Thursday morning through his computer, seated in an empty classroom.

Choi and his colleagues have practiced holding such interactive classes one or two hours daily over the past week because they see the importance in such interaction with their elementary school students.

Even with such preparation, there were times the screen flickered or the audio couldn’t be heard.

Some parents who are being forced to supervise their children because of this new remote learning system lamented that this new school year was tormenting parents. Even without technical issues, students may have difficulties concentrating on their lessons without adult supervision.

Lee, a 39-year-old resident of Seoul and mother of an elementary school student said, “As we can’t log on, my kid is playing and I am just pressing ‘refresh’ over and over again, wasting the whole morning. I worry whether regular classes will be able to be carried out properly.”

BY SARAH KIM, NAM YOON-SEO And JEON MIN-HEE [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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