One thing I learned during the COVID-19 situation was that I prefer face-to-face classes to online classes. I’m writing from the point of view as a teacher AND a student.
As you may know, when we were required to self-isolate and I couldn’t run classes, I created a few downloadable lessons for my students which they could purchase and do at their own leisure. The lessons were reasonably ok given the short time I gave myself to create them in, and the limited resources I had available, and I’m happy that I was still able to keep students actively creating art.
I could have run regular Zoom classes at specific days and times, but I chose not to for a few reasons, including the difficulty of setting up three cameras so students could see me, the paint palette and my painting; distractions at home whilst I’d be running the classes; and my lack of confidence in the security of Zoom.
I did however, join an online language class as a student, via Zoom and whilst it was ok, I found that it definitely did not compare to face-to-face lessons. The quality of some of the students’ cameras made them difficult to see; there were occasional hiccups in the tutor’s presentation; there were quiet moments and then moments when everyone would speak; and I have to admit, I was easily distracted by my cats, my phone, and having to sit in one spot staring at a screen for over an hour! I really wished that we were all in a proper classroom together.
So here’s why I think face-to-face learning is much better:
1. As a teacher, it’s much easier for me to engage with my students. I can keep an eye on what stage everyone’s at and pace my step-by-step demonstrations so they are timely for everyone. When demonstrating, I can ask questions, get answers straight away, and vice versa. Also, students can see the whole process right in front of them rather than on a small screen which just shows a small section of what I’m doing.
2. I’m able to provide better one-to-one attention for students who have questions about the painting they’re working on. I can sit side-by-side with them and show them how they do a particular brush stroke, or mix a certain colour etc.
3. There are less distractions. Once at class, all thoughts of washing that needs doing, pets that want attention, dinner that needs to be cooked etc are left behind at home.
4. The classes are on set days at set times, making students more disciplined and committed. Online (and in particular downloadable) lessons can be done at a time suitable for students but life often gets in the way, and those lessons get put off for the “right day and time”. And sometimes they never get done!
5. It’s an opportunity to socialise. Being in a room filled with people talking, laughing, asking questions, moving about, and working towards a common goal is not the same as being in a room alone watching people on a screen. We are social beings and face-to-face interaction is so important to our well-being. In my classes I have seen problems being solved, new ideas discussed, friendships being formed, and encouragement given at every opportunity.
6. And finally, I truly believe that being away from home, in a classroom filled with like-minded people, is the perfect stress release. No matter what’s going on in your world outside the classroom, once you are painting and interacting, external worries are left behind. I know this because students have told me how they’ve come to class stressed and gone home feeling so much more relaxed. That in itself is enough reason for me to continue face-to-face classes.
So, if you have the choice, then go to an actual class to learn something, rather than online. Of course there is a time and place for online learning too. Not everyone can get to classes for a number of reasons, mainly distance or clash of days/times with other activities. But if you do have the choice, then face-to-face should win every time.