Top Tips: How to set up online classes in a refugee camp

Top Tips: How to set up online classes in a refugee camp

When COVID-19 restrictions put a stop to in-person classes, we had to think creatively about how to keep the learning going. The break-in routine was going to affect the progress our students had made and, more importantly, it was going to remove the one social activity they had every day. This was bound to have a negative impact on their wellbeing – living in refugee camps is isolating, with or without a pandemic. 

While learning online is a global norm, transitioning to online teaching in the refugee context was bound to be a challenge, but we had to give it a try. 

After navigating a mountain of WiFi issues, sign-up challenges and Zoom quirks, we managed to get our students online! They were finally able to learn and socialize together again! Being online also meant that teachers who had taught them in the past could join in too. 

If you missed the heartwarming moment captured in the first classes, you can see it here:

We were approached by several educators working in the refugee context for advice on how to set classes up remotely. Here are our top tips: 

  • Engage people you know in the process 

Our past students have been essential ambassadors in the process of transitioning to online classes; from spreading the word to translating messages and participating in focus groups. Their insight into the needs of their peers, the challenges they might face, and the topics they would be interested in learning ensured the usefulness and sustainability of the classes. 

  • Put posters up in places that are visible 

One of the biggest challenges we faced was contacting potential students, new and old.  To publicize our activities, we put up posters in different languages in public places we know are frequented by refugees and locals. 

  • Maximize attendance 

With our youngest students, attendance to online classes is often dependent on the availability of their parents’ phones. To make this easier, we grouped siblings of a similar level together so they could join on one device. 

  • Create guidelines

Most of our students had never heard of Zoom. To help them navigate it we created visual guides and translated them into the mother-tongue languages of all our students. 

  • Do placement tests 

This is useful to determine the level of each student while highlighting any glitches.  Online testing helped us understand the practical issues that can arise when delivering online content and allowed us to prepare contingency plans to run the classes as smoothly as possible.