Boarding schools moving to online learning  – What could the future hold?

Planning ahead is a challenging task at the best of times and almost impossible to do well right now, but for forward-looking schools some of the learning from moving learning online in the past six weeks may offer future opportunities…

What we do know is that there has been a mad dash to get teaching resources online using Zoom and Microsoft teams to facilitate much of the delivery.

The feedback received has been of huge efforts by teaching staff to make this possible:

“It has been remarkable – that is the only way to describe it. The teachers have really embraced online learning and are being so creative – the teachers have created really incredible work, so detailed and instructional in such a short space of time,” says Gareth Collier, Principle of Cardiff Sixth Form College .

Some schools have also been able to extend delivery beyond the classroom, offering online clubs, such as exercise and yoga classes, and pastoral care provision.

However, the pressure of offering classes in ‘real time’ has proven challenging and means that some students are taking classes really early in the morning or late at night, and this has an impact on teaching staff too. As Mark Jeynes , Director of Padworth College and Bishopstrow College, says; “I am hugely impressed that we have 20 teaching staff ‘suited and booted’ at home on Monday mornings at 6.00am, ready to start teaching Bishopstrow Online, but I’m sure if I asked teachers now if they would want to continue offering classes online, most would say ‘No’ as we are offering classes in real time and obviously with pupils all over the world this means that we are starting classes at unsociable hours in the UK.”

Pat Moores, Director of UK Education Guide.

As Mike Oliver, Principal of Brooke House College , also adds, “I suspect that there will be fewer of the smaller schools, which may well simply go out of business due to a lack of fee income from March until September. I suspect this will be particularly true of international boarding schools, where the current online delivery in multiple time zones around the world may well convince parents that the online route is not working.”

Therefore, ongoing working in an asynchronous learning style will be important to ensure that online learning is sustainable. This will almost certainly require schools to invest in more sophisticated technology to allow learning to take place outside the constraints of time and place. As Felicity Parsisson, Learning Designer at FutureLearn, the leading social learning platform, says:

“Online learning can be dynamic, inspiring, communicative and collaborative – and it can be all of these things without simply shifting everything to a synchronous (live) teaching and learning environment. Planning for primarily asynchronous learning gives learners flexibility when they engage and study, control and autonomy in working at a pace that suits their needs with support such as transcripts available. Crucially, asynchronous lessons also demand less bandwidth and data.”

Some schools have already indicated that keeping track of pupil’s progress online is much harder as most schools, due to the quick move online, are doing so without a full learning management system in place that would provide an IT structure to underpin the online delivery, assessment & record keeping of pupils’ progress.

A fully online platform would also provide schools with the opportunity to integrate a more diverse array of learning tools, beyond online classes and tutorials, as well as allow asynchronous learning to flourish.

Also, what about the teachers? Many have moved to online learning delivery with no training or experience in delivering a class online. MIT, a college hugely experienced in delivering high-quality online courses, has honestly held its hands up to acknowledge that moving some of its traditional campus courses online has proved challenging: “It’s very different. I’m worried about those for whom it’s a first experience with online education and that they’re going to think, ‘Oh, this is online education’. But no, this is a reaction to a global pandemic. Even at MIT, not every faculty is doing professional online courses (to prepare them for delivering online courses). People understand this isn’t consciously designed online education, but it’s important to keep reminding them that these courses are just fulfilling a need that we have right now,” says Clara Piloto, Director of Global Programs in Professional Education, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Finally, some pupils have simply found it hard to access online learning provision due to poor internet connectivity, restriction of use of certain tools in certain countries (notably China, although the situation has improved) or an inability to access certain online resources.

So, there are significant challenges facing any school or college that wants to build on their online delivery, rather than jettison it at the earliest opportunity, but there are opportunities to build upon this model…

And the first place to start is that there may be a compelling financial need to continue to develop an online offering if it takes some time for international pupil numbers to get back to current levels.

Full Article here-

Other articles by Pat Moores about online learning-