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“THE LIGHTS ARE ON, BUT NOBODY’S HOME” MAXIMIZING LEARNING IN THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT

S. O Sullivan 

Khalifa University (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Student engagement can be a challenge in the traditional face to face classroom. Thus, the transition to online learning, which happened as an emergency measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, has come to the educational forefront recently. Faculty and students were not prepared for the rapid transition and now, almost one year into the pandemic, lessons have been learned on what works and does not work in the new terrain of the online classroom. Connect with colleagues, be visible and engage students are the new mantras. A plethora of new pedagogical challenges faced us. How do we engage our students? How do we get to know them in an online environment when we haven’t even met them in person? How are they managing this new “norm” and is it affecting their learning? What new issues in online learning do I, the teacher, need to be aware of?

Online classes present additional barriers to engaging students which do not occur in face-to-face contexts. The way people learn face-to-face is significantly different in the online environment. An unexpected difference for many was the impact of online learning on students who, as part of their culture or religion, do not wish to be seen online. How do we include these students and work with them in this new environment whilst respecting their request for online privacy? This paper reviews the experience and lessons learned from the transition to online learning in a first-year medical degree course in the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.