Before COVID-19 Gurdeep Pandher had never considered teaching an online class.
“I had always believed that to be effective classes needed to be taught in-person,” he explained. “I had no experience with teaching online, so when COVID hit and people suggested that I should start teaching online, I was a bit hesitant.”
Despite that hesitation Pandher, who teaches bhangra, decided to give the world of online teaching a try. He hosted his first online class in March.
“To my great surprise 70 people joined me from all over Canada – all of the provinces and territories were represented,” he said, “so many people came to learn bhangra online and that was quite motivational for me. It gave me a huge boost and really inspired me to continue.”
Given that early success Pandher decided to set up weekly programming online. “I started teaching six times per week, mostly on the weekends when people have more time to participate,” he explained.
“Since that point I have been teaching online and lots and lots of people have been joining in. I’ve been meeting people from all over Canada, and also from the US and Europe. It really surprised me when I saw the huge response.”
He added, “It’s going really well now. I have some really dedicated students who join me every week. That’s quite wonderful.”
The programming is being offered through a “pay what you can” model so that it will still be accessible to those with lower incomes. Pandher is also donating a significant portion of his earnings to COVID-related charities focused on food banks and mental health.
“If people sign up to join a class online they can expect both dance and a workout,” he explained, “Bhangra is a fun dance and great workout too. Some people join for the dance, some for the exercise since it is such high energy”.
There are also mental health benefits from taking part, something that Pandher is seeing evidence of in the messages he is receiving from participants. “After my classes lots of people send emails about their experiences,” he said, “people let me know that they are having really positive experiences. It seems to be benefiting people.”
“Before COVID I was not sure if teaching online could be effective, after COVID I realized just how effective it can be,” he added, “It will never compare to real classes, but people still learn and get excited. And it comes with a whole suite of associated benefits: you can do it from your home; you don’t have to drive there; it’s more accessible; it saves time since you don’t need to budget travel time to and from class; and your family and/or housemates can participate with you.”
Despite all of these pluses, online teaching does come with its own set of challenges. “First and foremost, you need reliably good internet speed,” says Pandher, “Online teaching has really reinforced for me that we need our government to pay more attention to making high speed accessible to everyone.”
Pandher’s online programming has been receiving lots of attention from the media, including CBC, CTV and Huffington Post.
“The experience has been great although appearing in so many interviews in such a wide range of time zones has involved some intensive scheduling to fit in as many reporters as possible,” he said.
“It has touched my heart that our media cares – that if you’re trying to do something good and are trying to help people – that the media wants to support you and share the story. I’m really thankful to all the media in Canada – big and small – for reporting on my work.”
Whether or not bhangra is for you Pandher encourages everyone to give online learning a try.
“If one class doesn’t work for you, try changing the teacher or class until you find the right fit for you. It has so many benefits – when we stay at home we become less motivated to work out and I feel like these types of programs really help to get us out of our bubble and do something.”
Pandher’s online offerings include beginner and progressive bhangra classes. Registration to take part can be done through his website, https://gurdeep.ca.