As COVID-19 swept the world, online platforms, remote learning and virtual interaction tools became more prevalent than ever before. With schools across the country impacted by closures, these resources have been vital in attempting to bridge the gap in facilitating a continuation of teaching and learning from multiple locations and distances. However, for online schools already facilitating lessons and interaction through the screen, there has been zero disruption to children’s learning. In some cases, parents have even seen a significant increase in their child’s engagement and confidence as they trial different ways of studying. So, as we look towards schools resuming normal practice in September, and consider a potential shift in the way we deliver education in the future, what role does online schooling play in supporting more children, and how do we ensure staff, students and parents have the necessary skills and expertise to flourish in an online environment?
Minimising disruption and providing flexibility
While edtech has certainly been invaluable in supporting students during the pandemic, it’s important for us to future-proof teaching and learning so that we don’t experience any level of disruption in the months and years to come.
This is where the role of online schooling can be beneficial. It takes the concept of using edtech in the classroom even further, providing an entirely virtual environment for teachers and students to interact within, with the added benefit of flexibly catering for specific needs, requirements and lifestyles. This also includes suiting children who need to factor in extra-curricular hobbies and career-aligned priorities, including aspiring athletes and actors who require a more flexible schedule, enabling them to catch up and access materials 24/7 without it impacting their learning experience.
Parents Yasmin Darsot and Harun Bhaijee have long been familiar with the set-up of online schooling and the opportunities it has given their children to think independently and enhance their academic progression.
Having previously enrolled their two sons at InterHigh, Yasmin and Harun also decided this way of learning would benefit their daughter. Speaking about the benefits of remote schooling, Yasmin said, “As a family, online schooling offers us more flexibility in our lifestyle. It enables us to make more judicious use of our time, meaning we can also pursue other interests, allowing for a much broader life experience.
“Opting for an online school has proven to be extremely wise given the COVID-19 crisis. The world has changed dramatically, and this has given our daughter the much-needed stability and structure in her daily life, thus easing the turmoil the crisis has caused. She looks forward to lessons and seems motivated by the whole process, and is showing more drive, determination and dedication with her studies.”
Developing skills and learning with confidence
The shift to blended learning and virtual environments has also enabled some children to build greater engagement and skills that they can take into the workplace.
Parent, Emma Beer, moved her son to an online school due to COVID-19 after – an experience many will resonate with – finding it challenging to make a credible transition from ‘mum’ to ‘teacher’. Since enrolling him, Emma said: “He’s more settled into a routine and is far more engaged in learning at home. During the first two weeks of schools closing, it was difficult to home educate my son and I struggled to find material online which engaged him, meaning I had to constantly sit next to him to keep an eye on what he was doing. The crisis has unveiled an amazing opportunity for my son to try a different approach to education.”
Suzanne Burgess was another parent who moved her child to online schooling and when explaining how her son has benefitted, she said: “He can’t be distracted as much by his peers and can focus more on his lessons. He has learnt be to be organised and conscientious towards his learning. He is becoming more independent and taking responsibility for submitting work. The whole experience has made him more engaged and willing to learn at home, and he has acquired great IT skills which is an added bonus.”
While some schools will undoubtedly be keen to go back to the same processes they had before, others will be more open to greater use of online provision – and the same can likely be said for parents. Of course, the demand for bricks and mortar institutions will sustain, but by schools adopting synchronous learning and interactive flipped classroom approaches, they can offer a more intense experience to a generation now very happy to socialise online. It’s outdated to believe that young people need to be in physical classroom to benefit from a good education.
With the possibility of a second wave to consider, it’s also important for schools to ensure teachers are fully supported and equipped with the right skills to teach in an online environment. We can learn plenty from those educators with accredited qualifications for teaching online, who are already experienced in this form of content delivery and understand how to get the most out of their students. These teachers are experienced in pedagogies for online learning and understand the different requirements for online learning vs the physical classroom. It’s important for schools to learn from this in order to help their teachers plan and facilitate effective online teaching using various tools, forums and open content, all of which will help interaction with students as well as conducting formative and summative assessment.
For all its devastation, the global pandemic has paved the way for greater use of edtech and online schooling within the education sector. We have already seen some significant benefits of online schooling during lockdown, including helping students to become more self-assured learners by taking greater control of their learning experience. As we begin to slowly resume normality, we must focus on continuing to offer a high-quality education, while providing teachers with any additional skills and knowledge they require in order to feel confident in teaching, regardless of the environment and geographical location.
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