Cost, connectivity among work-from-home, e-learning concerns – Borneo Bulletin Online - Freelance Rack

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Cost, connectivity among work-from-home, e-learning concerns – Borneo Bulletin Online

Izah Azahari

Forty per cent of the people were found not implementing the basic measure of using an antivirus, while two-thirds of respondents do not update their operating system (OS), putting their device and data highly at risk, on top of only 58 per cent who use a secured Wi-fi connection for e-learning or remote work.

This was found in an online survey conducted by Brunei Computer Emergency Response Team (BruCERT) from April 17 to 23, to understand the local experience of studying or working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The results of the survey were shared with various government ministries, agencies, organisations and made available to the public.

The survey was aimed at individuals in Brunei Darussalam who recently adopted online learning or working from home (WFH) as a result of social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 conducted through an online survey form via the link publicised via the Telegram account, BruCERT social media accounts, emails from BruCERT and forwarded through WhatsApp.

The survey received 3,000 responses with a completion rate of 100 per cent over one week from April 17 to 23, where participation of the survey was voluntary and no gratuity or reward was offered in exchange for responses.

It was found that almost half of the respondents consisted students and educators at 26.17 per cent and 22.13 per cent, while 30.20 per cent was made up of civil servants, 16.83 per cent private sector employees, 2.27 per cent self-employed and 2.40 per cent
were unemployed.

The survey found that 72 per cent of respondents have fixed broadband at home, while 16 per cent use mobile broadband and the remaining 11 per cent only have Internet access on their mobile phone, where 11 per cent of the respondents also reported to having more than eight online users at home, while 48.23 per cent have only between one to four users, and 40.43 per cent have between five to eight users.

Over half of the respondents spend eight or more hours online each day, while civil servants spend shorter hours online compared to private sector employees, and a vast majority of respondents at about 83 per cent utilise laptops and 74 per cent utilise mobile phones to facilitate online learning or remote work.

Other devices include desktop computers at 16.70 per cent, tablets at 16 per cent and other forms of devices at 1.47 per cent.

Meanwhile, multiple online platforms are being utilised for learning or working from home, where the main platforms are WhatsApp at 83 per cent, Microsoft Teams at 50 per cent and Zoom at 48 per cent. Other platforms included Edmodo, Telegram, Skype, Google Classroom and ClassDojo.

Only 1.63 per cent of respondents said they fell victim to Zoombombing (a form of trolling where a random person shares disturbing content to shot participants during a Zoom call) or similar incidents on other platforms.

The survey showed that one-third of the people prefer working from home, while around three-quarters of students and educators prefer to be in school, and around 60 per cent of civil servants and private sector employees prefer to be at their workplace.

The survey revealed that the main challenge faced is speed and performance of the Internet connection and the cost of Internet subscription, where 54 per cent of respondents said they face too many distractions at home, and 45 per cent have issues with time management.

A common issue was the struggle of working from home while also dealing with their children’s home schooling. Other common challenges were higher electricity bills, longer working hours, lack of a proper workspace at home, and health concerns such as eye strain, headaches, back pain, ergonomics, and eating more frequently. Some respondents have reported low productivity while others are much more productive at home.

Students’ main difficulty was cost and availability of devices and Internet connectivity, and many have admitted to a lack of motivation and self-discipline. Educators are having difficulty assessing their students’ level of understanding, printing copies of students’ learning materials at their own expense, and issues with communicating with parents.

Civil servants are having difficulty shifting to online work when documents are still paper-based, and issues with bosses who are not supportive of working from home and some bosses insisting on holding meetings in person. Both civil servants and private sector employees have mentioned working longer hours at home, and some miss socialising
with colleagues.

Online activities such as social media, online messaging and video calling have increased during home-based learning and working. Other activities include online conference calls and researching resources for online learning.

Respondents also made comments and suggestions for solutions where student respondents said most are having issues with cost, speed and availability of Internet connectivity and suggest free Internet for educational purposes or an affordable student plan. University student respondents said they are having difficulty accessing books and journals for research, where interns are concerned about their interrupted internships and suggest full-time research project or volunteering instead of doing nothing at home.

Other suggestions include financial assistance or a donation platform for the purchase of laptops or gadgets for underprivileged students, and to limit online learning to normal school hours. Some students remarked that online learning is a great start towards modernisation and achieving Brunei Vision 2035.

One educator said, “Apart from limited Internet availability and devices, it really comes down to self-discipline, commitment, time management and honesty.”

A few educators expressed concern for less fortunate students who have to be absent from online classes for a number of reasons, causing them to feel left out. Teachers provide Home Learning Packs, but these students feel less motivated and neglected as they cannot join online classes. The hope is for the government and the Ministry of Education (MoE) to reach these children immediately.

One educator who finds WFH more productive shared some advice. For a successful WFH, the educator suggests to set aside a space, corner or room as your office away from home distractions; Practice good cyber-security measures; Mind your data usage; Schedule short daily video conference calls with your colleagues to start your day; Communicate effectively by utilising different online tools; and track your daily progress and submit this as a weekly report.

There were other comments and suggestions made by those in the civil service, private sector, self-employed and unemployed, among which stated that without this pandemic, people would never know how technology works and there are actually alternative ways for both working and studying if it cannot be attended physically.

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