Reflections on the Traditional Classroom Setting and E-learning Experience

Hafid Chahidi is a young poet, independent translator and part-time EFL teacher from Morocco. He is doing a two-year (2014-2016) Translator Training Specialized M.A Program at the King Fahd Advanced School of Translation in Tangier. He received his B.A degree (majored in Linguistics) from Ibn Zohr University in 2014. He has been involved in various translation projects and educational activities relating to poetry, EFL education and journalism. A number of his poems have been published in various international magazines and journals. His first collection of poems entitled ‘Nostalgia’ will find its way to publication soon.

Guelmim, Morocco
Apparently, the suitability of either the traditional classroom or the virtual one for the promotion of the education system has been a subject of much debate among experts and practitioners in the field. The efficiency as well as usefulness of the two educational ‘’platforms’’ that both share the same significance and value should come into the spotlight to drastically improve, what I shall call, the philosophy of the teachinglearning process.

A considerable number of Moroccan teachers are still thinking of the traditional classroom setting as an indispensable part of the whole teaching and learning enterprise. For some of them, this framework represents a real-life educational environment which will eventually be of enormous value to students’ future academic achievements. Indeed, a face to face interaction between students and their instructors would help the former to develop their personality as well as the way they visualize the world.

 It is common-sense knowledge to experts, teachers and students-researchers in the education field that the social development of students is “critical to learning,” i.e. the traditional classroom provides a suitable context for students to effectively communicate and freely share their thoughts with their peers in a direct way. This, of course, may result in developing certain skills which are highly needed among 21st century students as collaboration and innovation, to mention but a few. By the same token, students can receive direct feed-back from their teachers on various tasks performed inside the class. However, the advantages of the traditional classroom setting are limited.

For this reason, there are some limitations that desperately need to be considered. Kerzazi (1995:46), as a case in point, summarizes the major difficulties encountered by teachers in what he calls “oversized classes” in the following points:

A.      “Students are unmotivated.
B.      There is lack of discipline in our classes.
C.      Teachers have a lot of corrections.
D.      Teachers have to cover a long syllabus.”

It appears that classroom management is a typical issue faced by the majority of Moroccan teachers in various stages, particularly at the secondary and high school-levels. Commonly, in the class, teachers encounter an unlimited number of problems related to the disruptive behavior of some students which might negatively affect the whole teaching and learning processes. On the same theme, the problem of large classes, as Kerzazi (1995) argues, might reduce the level of motivation in students. Therefore, learning is at stake here.

From another perspective, students are sometimes deemed as passive learners in this sort of educational setting depending on the approach adopted by the instructor, whereas teachers are generally considered to be the only source of knowledge. Whilst the teacher plays a significant role in the traditional classroom, students usually stand out as mere ‘inactive’ consumers of information as well as knowledge, particularly at secondary, high school levels and sometimes at university as well.

 On the other hand, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has recently revolutionized the teaching-learning enterprise; it has substantially served both teachers and students in so many ways. Since new methods of learning and teaching are a vital prerequisite in the future schools and colleges, the use of ICT in “South-South”schools becomes a necessity to abreast with the fast pace of the developed countries.

In the same vein, due to the fact that learning styles tend to be different, it is claimed that some students can do better and demonstrate an impressive performance whilst they are involved in aspecific e-learning context, but this view needs to be empirically explored in some detail. Besides, this modern educational setting might be of prime importance to students with special needs who cannot manage to regularly come to school to follow through their courses.  Normally, e-learning is considered as an effective pedagogic solution that might help to partially solve the major problems of large classes. It is fair to say at this point that e-learning technology has exponentially expanded the educational horizon and has equally made teachers see the teaching-learning process in a new different way.

But if truth be told, e-learning technology cannot compensate students for the real living educational experience in a campus: school or faculty staff staying with students and interacting with them. Also, dropouts in online programs can be easily observed. Needless to mention that teachers’ constructive feed-back, in this context, often cannot be directly given to their students at the opportune time, for some errors and remarks should be directly clarified by teachers to their students either individually or collectively.

To cut a long story short, in such a globalized and changing world in which we live nowadays, the students of today and tomorrow, especially in Morocco and the Maghreb countries in general, need to continue learning “digital” and “21stcentury” skills with regard to the valuable e-learning experience that is, to my thinking, essentially complementary to the traditional classroom context.

Kerzazi. A. 1995. “Ways of Adapting Large Classes: Meeting the Challenge” MATE Proceedings: Casablanca.

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