By Lorne Schmidt, Secondary School Principal
Schools in many parts of Asia have been forced to close classrooms and schools due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak at the end of January 2020. These measures have put schools in the unique position of offering full-time online instruction so that student learning can continue during school classroom closures. Although the challenge of developing a successful whole-school online learning program has been monumental, teachers, students and parents have risen to the task. Despite the inability to meet face-to-face, instructional opportunities have continued successfully across all grade levels. Although this is not an ideal situation, as a result of the need to provide online learning programs, there are some benefits that should be recognized.
Online Learning programs provide many opportunities:
1. Students can build highly valuable self-management skills.
- Planning: successful students plan out how each school day will be spent, set aside time to do school work, time to eat, time to be with family, time to relax, personal time, etc.
- Organization: successful students regularly use calendars and checklists to record homework and note when tasks have been completed
- Meeting deadlines: successful students prioritize and devote realistic time toward each task, across a range of tasks/subjects
- Perseverance: successful students students learn the importance of not procrastinating
- Successful students build personal ownership and responsibility for their own learning
2. Parents can increase their awareness of what their child is learning each day and can participate more actively in their child’s learning journey.
3. Students can work at their own pace. Some students are able to complete tasks set more quickly than others, so efficiency may be improved for some.
4. Students can access learning resources as required. Videos, screencasts, etc. allow students to go back and revise important lesson details if they were missed during the initial exposure.
5. Students, teachers and parents can improve and increase their technological skills. Use of new apps and programs as part of the teaching and learning process extends the comfort level and the technological skill level of all users.
6. Students can consolidate previous learning. Revision of previous curriculum content is included within the online programming and is and this is an excellent platform for students to carry out self-checks of their understanding.
7. Teachers and students may make more frequent one-on-one connections, due to the nature of dealing with individuals in different time-zones and learning environments.
8. Students will be more prepared for university and adult learning via online platforms. Many adults today are doing master’s degree programs, as well as some bachelor’s degree programs, via an online platform. There has been discussion by the International Baccalaureate [IB] organization that perhaps every student should do at least one online course as part of their diploma requirements. In Ontario, Canada, the Minister of Education announced on Nov. 19, 2019, that high school students will need to complete two online courses in order to meet graduation requirements (Bueckert). This measure illustrates the value of navigating an online program prior to high school graduation to enable more successful life-long learning as adults.
9. A stronger sense of community has developed. Due to the nature of the coronavirus situation, schools and families are working together to support each other. Overall, greater communication has been observed between teachers, students and parents in order to successfully complete the online learning programming at a manageable pace.
In summary, although the online learning platform has been challenging, it has also forced us all to grow and expand our skills, understanding and relationships beyond what face-to-face teaching may at times take for granted or address in a less overt fashion. We commend all students and parents, along with teachers and school support staff, for coping with the challenges of school closure in this time of concern and uncertainty. Thank you to all of our families for being so open to increased communication and interaction, supporting students in the online-learning setting.
Bueckert, Kate. “Ontario High School Students Must Take 2 Mandatory Online Courses before Graduation | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 21 Nov. 2019, 2:55 PM ET, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/high-school-students-mandatory-online-courses-graduation-1.5368305.
Lorne taught Mathematics and Science to secondary aged students in Alberta, Canada for 15 years, prior to teaching internationally in Shanghai and Singapore. He was the High School (Grade 9-12) Deputy Principal and IB Diploma Coordinator at Overseas Family School in Singapore from 2006-2018. He is looking forward to continuing to incorporate the best of educational practices into the TIS curriculum, while implementing the school’s mission to cultivate the knowledge skills and attitudes that enable lifelong learning and caring for the community.