The Impact of COVID-19 on English Language Teaching in Oman (Published)
The safety measures of COVID-19 pandemic have pushed teachers and students to shift the teaching and learning process online overnight. This article describes the encountered difficulties of coping to teaching English online in Omani public schools during 2020-2021 academic year from my experience as an English teacher. The swift transition into online learning and blended learning modes has created pedagogical challenges in relation to teacher education, teaching strategies and the taught curriculum. Turning the English syllabus into a virtual lesson format has been one of these challenges. Teaching a virtual ELT syllabus requires syllabus designers to redefine the six areas of the subject matter, design of the curriculum, the role and the needs of the teacher, the role and the needs of the student, the used assessment methods, and the roles of the context. Given the rush to implement virtual learning platform, these six areas were not given equal significance nor weight. The second difficulty, which goes in line with the first syllabus challenge, is the inadequate teacher education which was given to English teachers. Undoubtedly, offering teachers professional training courses on online instruction and blended learning instruction can yield positive consequences. Unfortunately, according to my own experience, the offered online course was short and incomprehensive. The third difficulty of moving into virtual instruction is using motivating teaching strategies. As a matter of fact, the normal everyday teacher-student interaction is missed in virtual classroom settings. Instead, teachers need to rely on using diverse technological strategies to trigger students’ motivation. The motivational issue is more vivid in online instruction as students tend to lose interest more rapidly in comparison to the situation in real face to face instruction. In conclusion, ELT has undergone through a rapid move towards adopting online instruction in the Omani context. Yet, much in-depth investigation needs to be carried out.
Keywords: COVID-19 and ELT in Oman, Omani public schools, challenges of virtual education, online instruction, teacher education in Oman, the move to virtual education