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)