Reak is a Grade 9 student at Xavier Jesuit School. Today he ate lunch earlier than usual and went to the computer lab. He checked the internet connection and turned on the camera doing his hair. And after one deep breath, he looked through the English materials he had prepared, clicked on the video conference application, and pressed the JOIN button. Today is the day to participate in a cultural exchange program with students in Korea once a week.

After Covid, indeed, online education has been increasingly adopted all over the world. Schools were forced to be closed for infection control, so teachers and students resorted to online technologies such as video conferencing and education apps. Even after the pandemic situation eased, virtual conferences and other online materials remain in our daily lives.

Xavier Jesuit School also participated in various online classes or cultural exchange programs. In the 2021-2022 school year, Grade 7 to 12 students participated in cultural exchange programs through hybrid courses where students watched video lessons from Korea and did activities with facilitators. English Speaking Club students joined a cultural exchange program via real-time video conference calls. And primary school pupils are exchanging English posts with Argentine students through virtual post boards.

The easy access to Online Lessons gives students better communication skills and saved time and money on transport. Meanwhile, we cannot avoid the fact that it reduces personal contact, and sometimes the school cannot provide the quality equipment and necessary connection speed for the lessons.

“It’s amazing that we can meet other country students online and have a conversation. But if it’s possible, I would like to meet them in person. That way, I can tell them much more things using body language or showing them around,” said Noreak, the Grade 9 student participating in a cultural exchange program with SIS students in Korea.

Unlike traditional on-site learning, in an online classroom, it isn’t easy to expect enough interactions between students-to-students and students-to-instructors. For instance, their sights get narrower only to the monitor, and they feel reluctant to raise questions or answers in a silent (muted) virtual classroom.

What we’re going through right now would be a transition period of distance learning. Even though it’s unstable, when the students meet the new world through a virtual environment, their eyes glitter in interest.

Katherine, the primary school principal, shared how much students actively participate in the online pen pal class with Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion Primary School Argentina. “As they read pictures and self-introductions of other elementary school students across the globe, they wonder how to talk with them and want to express themselves. I believe that the goal of this exchange program is not just to improve student’s language skills but to get to know the cultures of other countries, introduce their own cultures, and express themselves to the world, and broaden the way children see the world.”

The demand and supply of online education will continue to increase. To ensure that online education provides a complete experience to students, educational organizations and teachers should constantly work on it. For example, the computers were all replaced last July. We hope the installation of new desktops and stable Internet connections can help students take online classes more reliably. Xavier Jesuit School will continue to strive to foster digital literacy skills that enable students and teachers to access and manage the information safely and appropriately, as well as understand and integrate the data and generate the information in need. We hope we can work with our collaborators who support virtual education from planning to finishing to get abundant interactions and rich educational experiences from remote activities.

This article was originally published in the Xavier Jesuit School Cambodia newsletter.