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Student Essay: Online Learning Environment and Myanmar Adult Learners during COVID-19 Pandemic

Myanmar students should take advantage of online access for their learning. Online learning, also called electronic learning, is a virtual learning style in which teachers and students rely on internet-based tools and materials. Although there is an abundance of online platforms available across the country, most Myanmar students do not seem to see the benefits of online learning. Some learners believe that it is nowhere near as effective as studying in physical classrooms. However, I strongly believe that students should be more open to online learning for their continuing education. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector has changed dramatically. The government and private sectors had to suspend schools and their projects. We, as a result, have to adapt to new technologies to proceed. Likewise, many education institutions have slowly resumed their programs through online platforms such as Canvas, Moodle, Cambridge One, Blackboard, etc. Nowadays, numerous classes are online and offer various courses for those who are qualified to enroll. 

Online learning has indeed pros and cons for learners. The weakness of online learning is that some activities are unworkable, easy to lose motivation and interaction, such as connection issues or IT problems. The biggest challenge for Myanmar students is they do not have laptops and as a result, they are not educated enough to access computer literacy. When I shared online free courses with my juniors and friends, they said, "I would like to join, but I don't have a computer. Using the phone isn't comfortable for learning." It could be the reason why very few students from rural areas join online classes. 

As far as I can tell, a larger percentage of learners benefit from online learning. First of all, it saves expenses related to accommodation, transportation, and learning materials. Online classes are more affordable than in-person classes that middle-class people can access. For instance, I am a Rising Star from Wedu, Leadership Development Program for women worldwide. It would not be possible for me to be a rising star with an international mentor to guide my goal and participate in some international programs if the program runs in person. In addition, I got the opportunity to join online seminars and international scholarship sharing sessions which were led by Wedu. As a learner, I have improved self-study, responsibility, and confidence. I prefer online classes over face-to-face classes because self-study is more informative, and I do not need to worry about the expense of accommodation and transportation. 

Secondly, online learning trains learners to improve self-motivation and time management. They need to accomplish all the assignments on time without getting motivation from their classmates or teachers in an in-person room. As a Program Assistant at an education institution, I am helping 34 students across Myanmar to continue their studies online amid the coup and COVID pandemic. At the beginning of the course, students did not like online learning due to some difficulties. But now, my students have improved a lot. They motivate each other virtually, use various communication channels to do group work, and most of the students get high grades in their final exam. Therefore, students are recommended to take advantage of the current trend of online learning.

Last but not least, I believe online learning will become more mobilized soon. Technology is progressing day by day. More universities and institutions are now adopting online platforms in their teaching to continue their programs, though the world is suffering COVID-19 pandemics. According to the YouGov future of learning report, the majority of participants admitted that online learning provides the same benefits as campus-based institutions. The online programs will grow slightly and gain more interest among the learners. Moreover, they offer official certificates, diplomas, and degrees that can prove your skills. The future of online learning will be more accessible and more inclusive of study space. 

Many people are concerned that they might not be able to follow the advanced technology and cannot be independent without physical support. Although I was born in a rural area and had never touched a laptop until attending my second year of university, I now receive many certificates from online courses. The online courses are not only for rich kids but also for our middle-class families. We should embrace our challenges and keep moving slowly. If we can develop online courses, the education of Myanmar will be better in the future. 

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do" by John Wooden. It is time for us to train ourselves in the new learning space to access higher education opportunities. Time is precious, and we should take chances on online accessibilities for education. In the near future, I am sure to say that online learning will be the next big thing for learners due to its countless advantages. 

This essay is written by Nilar Aye, a student from the 2021 Parami summer course, Writing for Social Change, taught by Dr. Frances O’Morchoe, a Faculty in Humanities at Parami Institute of Continuing Education (PICE). 

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