The opportunity to strengthen online teaching has been widely discussed in the context of COVID-19. In regards to Vietnam, although technological services have been widely employed by businesses and in people’s daily lives – these services and tools have seldom been applied in education (Nguyen & Pham, 2020). The implementation of online learning is crucial not only in the context of COVID-19, but also for the long-term future in order to respond to new societal, economic and digital needs in an ever-more digitised world.
COVID-19 signals an opportunity for Vietnam to review its online training capacity, IT infrastructure, national policies, and legal frameworks regarding online teaching and learning. Teachers will be working on the front lines in this transition, and training teachers for the challenges of a digital classroom is complex; but, a key element in ensuring effective implementation of online teaching is building capacity – ensuring that academic staff have sufficient capacity to meet this challenge (Burns & Gottschalk, 2019).
Teachers at saigonchildren’s Thang Long school learning about how to organise online classrooms
Building capacity in online teaching for teachers is a fundamental first step as teachers will be playing an active role in helping students integrate into the new digitised learning environment. As Burns & Gottschalk (2019) states, “new expectations for teachers require building new skills and capacity for the teaching workforce”. It is essential they have adequate knowledge and training, willingness to make change, and the necessary tools to implement the reform as planned; without this, “the best policy reforms risks being derailed at the level where it counts most: the classroom” (Burns & Köster, 2016; Burns & Gottschalk, 2019).
Online teaching requires academic staff to have adequate capacity in terms of familiarity with, and use of, online communication tools and virtual learning environments. Firstly, they require sufficient ICT skills to address technical challenges that may arise for themselves and for students. Secondly, they may be required to design different strategies from their usual methods of teaching for an online environment. Thirdly, the ability to foster an engaging online learning environment “demands a special approach to staff development, which goes beyond the training of basic ICT skills” (Mallinson & Krull, 2013). Teachers will need to “promote learner-to-learner interaction, engage learners in regular activities, and cultivate a sense of self-directedness in students” (Mallinson & Krull, 2013) in order to retain attention and engagement from students in an online classroom. What works in a face-to-face learning environment may not work in an online learning environment. The aforementioned requirements demonstrate the significance of building capacity for teachers – teachers will be required to break patterns and learn new behaviours, which “requires ongoing training and preparation as well as support and capacity building” (Burns & Gottschalk, 2019).
Thang Long school’s teachers being trained on ICT skills for online teaching
It is important to design a capacity building program that is aligned to the needs and readiness of the teachers. Mallinson and Krull (2013) suggests two approaches. A staged approach, which uses incremental steps to match readiness levels of the teachers – exposing them to a less risky journey moving online, and meeting the varying needs of different schools; or a peer support and mentoring focused approach, which establishes a staff community focused around educational technology to provide opportunities for staff to share experiences, ideas, and reflections – minimising an over-reliance on outside experts as sources of knowledge, resources, and solutions to community-specific issues. These approaches can be used in conjunction to ensure an efficient, adaptable, and sustainable implementation: taking incremental steps to ensure teachers feel less overloaded with new information and lose motivation; and creating a staff community to empower teachers to take control of their own professional developments in sustaining, renewing, and transforming teaching and learning online.
Thus, building capacity for teachers for online teaching is a necessity. A fundamental first step in helping teachers frame their professional competences around integrating knowledge and skills to support the digital literacy of students in an increasingly digital world, foster an engaging learning environment in an online classroom, as well as supporting and protecting the emotional well-being of students. Building capacity for teachers is essential to ensure the success and long-term sustainability of implementing online teaching and learning.
Burns, T., & Gottschalk, F. (2019). Building capacity: Teacher education and partnerships. In Educating 21st Century Children: Emotional Well-being in the Digital Age (pp. 243-262). Paris: OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/6d543b7b-en
Burns, T., & Köster, F. (2016), Governing Education in a Complex World, Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264255364-en
Mallinson, B., & Krull, G. (2013). BUILDING ACADEMIC STAFF CAPACITY TO SUPPORT ONLINE LEARNING IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17 (2), 63-72. Retrieved February 4, 2021, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1018279.pdf
Nguyen, H., & Pham, T. (2020). Is COVID-19 an opportunity to strengthen online teaching? University World News. Retrieved February 4, 2021, from https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200512154252178