The Covid-19 pandemic has not only severely disrupted education, but has also created exciting opportunities for parents and learners to explore a much greater variety of teaching methodologies and technologies. But it’s not as simple as moving education from the classroom to online platforms. There has been a proliferation of pop-up online learning institutions, making it all the more difficult for parents to make the right decisions for their children, says Lauren Jacquin, business manager at Swales Online Academy.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown students that they can enjoy the freedom to learn online from home. It’s a game changer. Online learning has opened new doors for students who now have many more options for their education. While it is evident that online schooling is particularly suited to children with physical disabilities, injuries that will keep them home for months, rising sports stars who travel frequently or have parents whose jobs require them to move, it is now becoming evident that a much wider variety of young people can benefit from a completely different approach to education, ”she said.
The argument for online education over the more conventional system is clear. Regular schools are often too large to allow individual attention, many have tight budgets and limited access to technology.
Typical textbook / whiteboard instruction led learners to become passive absorbers of the program. The government has created more administration for teachers which is time consuming and hence teachers do not have time to create new educational content that encourages engagement and exploration.
“Today’s learners are also exposed to technology from a young age and they are comfortable with it in almost every aspect of their lives. With the resources we have, we can teach them and show them things that we wouldn’t be able to do in a conventional school, ”she says.
The only problem is that not all online schools are created equal.
Jacquin advises parents to prioritize quality and research and read reviews from parents and students before committing to a particular online institution. She also suggests that parents check whether teachers have been specifically trained to teach effectively online.
“The digital landscape and the technological age we find ourselves in are changing so quickly that it’s hard to keep pace. Being an online specialist educator requires daily learning, criticism, and constant assessment and expansion. Swales Online Academy certainly has an idea of what that entails, ”she says.
All of the educators in Swales have not only graduated, but also received training on how to be effective online educators. They also have considerable experience as regular and online teachers.
Swales online teachers are trained using the ACT approach. It is a framework for pedagogies in the digital age designed to encourage high levels of activity, as well as increased engagement, recall and enjoyment while learning.
The ACT pedagogies are Curation, Conversation, Correction, Creation and Chaos.
“Curation is about encouraging learning by finding, selecting and organizing content. Conversation is about activating engagement through discussion, debate and criticism. Correction is about accepting mistakes positively and encouraging learning by failing forward. Creation is about moving from simply consuming content to learning by creating learning content and artifacts. Chaos is all about disrupting boredom by using pressure and perception to create higher levels of focus and understanding, ”explains Jacquin.
“Introducing children to these different pedagogies is important. We don’t just talk to our students, we engage them and make learning interesting. In some online schools, this may mean browsing the content as quickly as possible. What we focus on is quality. Three words – explore, think and engage – are exactly what sets us apart. We encourage our learners to research and reflect further, to retain their own knowledge in addition to what they have gathered from us. They have the freedom to ask questions and to come up with their own ideas and to engage and discuss with each other and with the teacher both orally and in writing, ”she adds.