In the Name of Allah, the Most Gra­cious, the Most Mer­ci­ful.

As-salā­mu ‘alaykum wa-rah­mat­ul­lāhi wa-barakā­tuh (Peace, Bless­ings & Mer­cy of Allah be upon You).

The best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it [Bukhari].

Acqui­si­tion of knowl­edge is manda­to­ry upon every Mus­lim. The thirst for knowl­edge in a sin­cere believ­er is ever- last­ing. It does not dimin­ish with con­di­tions, cir­cum­stances or age. A sin­cere seek­er takes the dif­fi­cul­ties in his or her stride and keeps the focus on learn­ing. Coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) may be seen as a chal­lenge by many, but mil­lions around the world are switch­ing to remote teach­ing as an alter­na­tive. Suh­ba (com­pan­ion­ship) is vital for Islam­ic learn­ing, but there is no rea­son that some of the basic free tools can­not be used at least in the short term for Islam­ic teach­ing and learn­ing.

In this short blog, we will give a review of all the free options which are read­i­ly avail­able for you to use.

Email/YouTube:

You can pre­pare detailed les­son plans for par­ents to exe­cute and email them to par­ents. Sup­port for the par­ents can be pro­vid­ed via emails, as they ask fur­ther ques­tions and look for help. Lessons demon­stra­tions and expla­na­tions can be giv­en via YouTube.

WhatsApp:

The great­est advan­tage of What­sApp is its famil­iar­i­ty by most peo­ple and ready avail­abil­i­ty on most plat­forms.

You can eas­i­ly cre­ate a What­sApp group for up to 254 mem­bers. You can also use broad­cast mes­sages of What­sApp and quick­ly dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion and this fea­ture should be used along with oth­er options in this arti­cle.

The dis­ad­van­tage is that “group calls” are lim­it­ed to 4 peo­ple only, so you can only teach 4 peo­ple live at the same time. Anoth­er dis­ad­van­tage of What­sApp groups is that phone num­bers are vis­i­ble to every­one and pri­va­cy is affect­ed.

Google Hangouts:

Anoth­er pop­u­lar plat­form which is read­i­ly avail­able and you can video (or audio) teach up to 10 peo­ple.

Rayyan Insti­tute is pro­vid­ing FREE accounts for mak­tabs for sup­port­ing up to 100 users, and it is strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed for British mak­tabs to take advan­tage of their won­der­ful offer.

Skype:

Anoth­er pop­u­lar plat­form which is read­i­ly avail­able and you can video (or audio) teach up to 50 peo­ple. The dis­ad­van­tage is the reli­a­bil­i­ty of con­nec­tions and some­times due to net­work con­straints, the con­nec­tion might drop or become unus­able and this seems to affect Skype much more than oth­er options.

Zoom:

Warn­ing: Zoom has a num­ber of Security/Privacy issues. Due to con­tin­u­ous and per­sis­tent prob­lems with hack­ing and shar­ing of inde­cent images, Sin­ga­pore has banned Zoom in their teach­ing. We strong­ly advise against using Zoom for online teach­ing. 

This is anoth­er teach­ing plat­form with addi­tion­al tools for teach­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion. You can video (or audio) teach up to 100 peo­ple for 40 min­utes, but it does require peo­ple to get famil­iar with the app and its var­i­ous set­tings. Users can also access it from their phones, and free users can share their screen.

Microsoft Teams:

This requires paid Office 365 sub­scrip­tion! Microsoft teams is part of Office 365 suite, which lets you share your doc­u­ment, screen and have online meet­ings and pre­sen­ta­tions with hun­dreds of users. The dis­ad­van­tage is main­ly relat­ed to costs as this is not a free option!

IBEAMS:

This is a paid sys­tem but cheap­er than oth­ers and address­es many of the needs of teach­ing. This sys­tem allows you to not only teach but also pro­vide home­work (track activ­i­ties per stu­dent), con­duct quizzes and Exams. We encour­age every­one to eval­u­ate the demo. This is a com­pre­hen­sive, scal­able teach­ing sys­tem suit­able for many of the rou­tine activ­i­ties in a Maktab/Madrasah, some of the fea­tures being as fol­lows:

  • Man­age from home eas­i­ly
  • Newslet­ters to parents/teachers/admins
  • Set homework/tasks and track com­ple­tion
  • Eas­i­ly add links to exter­nal video, audio, quiz forms etc.
  • Feed­back from par­ents
  • Par­ent por­tal
  • Teacher por­tal
  • Testing/grading/exam/progress sys­tems
  • Merit/achievements fea­ture to moti­vate home learn­ing dur­ing this time
  • Mass SMS send­ing
  • Communication/messaging fea­ture between admin/staff/teachers/parents (Note that par­ents can­not com­mu­ni­cate with teach­ers direct­ly as per guide­lines)

Feedback, Analysis & Recommendations

I have checked all the options pre­sent­ed by Wifaqul Ula­ma over the past 2 weeks. The Madaris indeed have many options but most are not capa­ble of deploy­ing these options and/or using them to their max­i­mum poten­tial.

I have mapped out all the pros and cons of these options, abil­i­ties of most par­ents and teach­ers and I have found the fol­low­ing to be most suit­able:

An aver­age class has 15 stu­dents, hav­ing all stu­dents log on to video stream­ing is not the best solu­tion due to chaos, tech­ni­cal issues, dropped con­nec­tions etc. par­tic­u­lar­ly with Zoom which is the most con­fus­ing of all.

I rec­om­mend­ed one Madrasah to split the class into groups of 4 or 5 kids and then allo­cate a max­i­mum time of 20 min­utes which is usu­al­ly suf­fi­cient.

Google hang­outs seems to be the eas­i­est to use. It sup­ports screen shar­ing as well. Stu­dents should keep cam­eras off unless absolute­ly need­ed. This can work as:

      • 5pm to 5:15pm — Group 1
      • 5:20pm to 5:45 — Group 2
      • 5:50pm to 6:05 — Group 3

This way the stu­dents get bet­ter atten­tion and the class remains man­age­able.

The kids are at home, the teach­ers are remote and it should be treat­ed as such. You can nei­ther repli­cate nor enact a class­room envi­ron­ment. It should be treat­ed as home­school­ing which rou­tine­ly use these meth­ods. Set dai­ly work, upload it dai­ly or at the start of the week on what a stu­dent needs to go through with book names or online links, get par­ents to con­firm if the work was done, there are online solu­tions for this as well. Emails can be eas­i­ly used to com­mu­ni­cate for this pur­pose.

Teach­ers can orga­nize week­ly oral tests where stu­dents can be giv­en a quiz from the pre­vi­ous work over a con­fer­ence call. Paper or online quizzes would­n’t work in a remote Madrasa set­ting.


Online Lesson Planning:

Teach­ers may be daunt­ed by the task of teach­ing online, but stu­dents are gen­er­al­ly more excit­ed and eager, as it is a new expe­ri­ence for them. In addi­tion, since many of the Schools are already teach­ing online, stu­dents are now used to this form of learn­ing.

It will not be easy for many teach­ers to switch from tra­di­tion­al class­room teach­ing to online teach­ing, but we are in unprece­dent­ed times. There is an ever greater need to edu­cate Mus­lim chil­dren and to return some sort of nor­mal­cy to their lives, while fam­i­lies are restrict­ed at homes. Your effort will be appre­ci­at­ed by the par­ents and most impor­tant­ly, it will Insha’Al­lah be great­ly reward­ed by Allah Ta’ala on the day of judge­ment.

  1. Plan­ning: Every good les­son starts with a fan­tas­tic les­son plan. It is more impor­tant to have a detailed les­son plan, because you need to catch and then keep the atten­tion of your stu­dents through­out the les­son. Ensure that your have your “les­son objec­tives”, “key vocab­u­lary” and “suc­cess cri­te­ria” clear­ly defined.
  2. Resources: You are no longer stand­ing in a class teach­ing and demon­strat­ing, so tra­di­tion­al resources (even with a cam­era) may not work. How­ev­er, you have the new world of YouTube, Web­sites, Blogs, Arti­cles, Doc­u­ments and Pow­er­Point, etc. at your fin­ger­tips, which you can eas­i­ly share with the stu­dents. We have delib­er­ate­ly bro­ken out resources from les­son plan­ning, because you need to think about the resources which you will be using in your les­son. In addi­tion, use and prac­tice before the les­son, so you have no glitch­es dur­ing the les­son. You may quick­ly find that stu­dents will be mak­ing fun­ny com­ments when they real­ize that you are not able to do sim­ple things like share your screen, etc.
  3. Email Les­son Plans and Resources: It is strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed to email les­son plans and resources to the stu­dents before the les­son so they can pre­pare for the lessons before­hand.
  4. Small­er Groups? With most free online tech­nolo­gies, break­ing stu­dents into small­er groups will not work. You will need to cre­ate new online group ses­sions and even then, you may find that you will not be part of them at the same time. It may be suit­able for old­er stu­dents to work on (indi­vid­ual) tasks while still being part of a larg­er group but it does not work for younger stu­dents, so you need to under­stand this lim­i­ta­tion and work around it.
  5. Tajweed: In a tra­di­tion­al face-to-face set­ting, teach­ers are able to lis­ten to indi­vid­ual stu­dents while oth­ers revise their lessons. This becomes dif­fi­cult while teach­ing online, so we strong­ly sug­gest to keep online groups as small as pos­si­ble and as close­ly matched (in abil­i­ty) as pos­si­ble.

Resource examples:

Ahsan­ul-Qawaid

Amma (30th Part):

How to make Wud­hu?

Purifi­ca­tion in Islam

How to make Pray Salah?

Fast­ing dur­ing Ramad­han

Fiqh of Zakah

Fiqh of Hajj & Umrah

Seer­ah of Prophet Muham­mad (Peace be upon Him)

Evo­lu­tion (For Old­er Stu­dents)

Athe­ism (For Old­er Stu­dents)

Mus­lims in Non-Mus­lim lands (For Old­er Stu­dents)