As schools have closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, families have made the change to virtual learning at home. With video capabilities, online instruction seems to closely simulate what would normally be happening in the classroom, but there are some subtle differences. Here's a more in-depth look at e-learning versus in-class learning.
The Teacher's Role
Whether learning takes place online or at school, teachers play a pivotal role in empowering students to gain confidence and discover new concepts. But the two different learning models naturally demand some variations in the teacher's role.
Even though we refer to these professionals as teachers, an educator's role is actually to facilitate the learning. Teachers rarely spend more than 2.5 hours of a typical school day providing direct instruction; the majority of the time is spent guiding effective use of learning time in the best interests of every single, individual student.
So, what does this really look like? An effective educator:
- Provides fun, innovative activities to engage students, hold their interest and keep them focussed.
- Monitors every child to maintain the emotional balance necessary to allow learning to happen. An unhappy child is not a learning child.
- Motivates students with praise and constructive positive feedback to maintain their self-esteem and to nurture their self-confidence in themselves as a unique and successful learner
- Helps students to build their socio-emotional skills to build strong relationships with their friends and the adults, and to feel a sense of belonging to the learning community
The Parent's Role
In this unusual situation of e-learning, the teachers are finding new ways of engaging their students, nurturing their students and guiding their students to learn. They are adapting their teaching methodologies, and need a deeper, shared responsibility with the parents. The relationship between the teacher and parent is always important, but in an e-learning model, it takes on new meaning.
Parents are in the driving seat of their child’s emotional balance, their physical environment and being ready to learn at a physiological level. The parents are the decision-makers for allowing their child to take a learning break (as a teacher would do in the classroom). Parents are managing their child’s behaviour when learning becomes too challenging and re-regulating them back to emotional stability (as the teacher would do in the classroom). Parents are providing ongoing praise and motivation for learning to continue (as teachers would in the classroom).
Parents may feel overwhelmed with these additional responsibilities with supervising online learning, especially when also working from home. It is therefore well-accepted that being at school is the ideal setting for teachers to facilitate learning, and e-learning can never be a long-term substitute.
The Role of Technology in the Learning Process
Whilst e-learning does not provide the full advantages of in-person learning, the importance of technology in promoting learning should not be dismissed. At OWIS, we integrate technology into most aspects of the curriculum. Students regularly use electronic devices for research, presentations and other projects. Our goal is to instil in children an understanding of how to use technology responsibly. Students need to feel comfortable using technology and be able to make the right choices around technology ready to pursue further study and career opportunities in later life.
E-Learning at OWIS
Whilst OWIS recognises that in-school learning is the most optimal setting, we have been particularly mindful when designing our e-learning programme to include key elements of our on-campus programmes.
When students are on campus, they have access to well-rounded learning opportunities, with a balance of academics, extracurricular activities and time to interact with their peers. With e-learning, we have intentionally maintained that balance with recreational lessons such as PE, as well as daily opportunities for pastoral care through our Secondary Tutor time and Early Childhood and Primary social check-in time via live Zoom sessions. These sessions allow students to maintain their friendships, to converse at a social level with their peers and to maintain their pastoral relationship with their teachers.
At the end of each school day, as teachers check in with students for a wrap-up and feedback Zoom session, they may also conduct mindfulness or wellness activities to boost students' morale. At OWIS, we understand that with the many changes associated with this pandemic, our students will be processing questions and concerns which may impact on their concentration and learning. They may also be missing the security and comfort of their classroom and the nurturing environment they are accustomed to at school.
Building relationships and fostering kindness
Remote learning can sometimes feel remote – isolating and lonely. Therefore, we have deliberately allocated time throughout the school day for students to catch up with their peers to maintain their friendships. These interactions allow our students to demonstrate kindness to each other, to listen, to advise and to empathise.
Communication with parents
OWIS also recognises that e-learning is an entirely new arena for many parents, and we aim to provide guidance to support them in taking advantage of the e-learning provision for their child. We provide a day by day schedule complete with resources needed for their child to engage with all the activities, and we make excellent use of our learning platforms, Seesaw and Managebac to allow our students to be as independent as possible while keeping parents well informed of their child’s e-learning day.
At OWIS, we are committed to making e-learning successful - to providing fun and engaging learning opportunities, to providing the right level of challenge for learning to take place and for ensuring that those wonderful, "aha moments" continue - that moment when a child suddenly understands, when a new concept or skill clicks into place is when learning happens. And learning happens all the time - whether at home or in school - whether in the classroom, participating in virtual lessons or helping out around the home.
Most importantly, the crucial and fundamental ingredient of being a self-confident and successful learner is the depth and strength of the relationships the child has with their teachers and significant adults in their lives.
In the e-learning domain, we make sure our students maintain their relationships with their teachers every day through live Zoom lessons, by individual opportunities to interact for feedback, by times for socialising and, of course, they have the privilege in these unusual times, to be with their parents too. Even though the roles of parents and teachers have shifted, we all still have the same goal - to promote every child's success.
For more information on how we foster student’s learning both in school and at home, please get in touch with us.