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Effective online learning: best practices for high schools

MS

Mihika Shankar

Aug 03, 2020

The concept of online learning has been around for longer than one can imagine. While the technology itself is relatively new, people have been familiar with distant learning for close to 170 years now . As our technologies advanced, it made way for greater collaboration between teachers and students, creating an (almost) ideal environment for learning. The question that arises at this junction is: why are we grappling with online now – after all these years, at the pinnacle of technological progress?

Until now, online education was largely viewed as an extension or supplement to classroom learning. It offered learners a more convenient and flexible option to educate themselves. That perception has suddenly been turned on its head, more so in the times that we live in today. From being the good-to-have supplement, online education has become the norm.

Obstacles to online learning in the pandemic

In the early days of making the paradigm shift towards virtual classrooms, even the best schools were faced with roadblocks. Be it a lack of consensus on how much screen time is too much, adapting teaching styles and lesson plans for online platforms and most importantly alleviating the heightened isolation and lack of interaction that truly define the high school experience for most. And this is just the small percentage of learners who are privileged to have internet access and a computer !

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. From the learnings gathered along the way, the education industry is working together to find that secret sauce to making online learning work for its students. It is now evident that the success of any program will largely depend on how we re-imagine online learning and teaching to be more sustainable , engaging and enjoyable for everyone involved.

A framework towards efficient online learning in high schools

The vision is simple, to provide the world’s learners with a wide variety of opportunities and experiences to get a glimpse into the many directions in which their lives can go and be excited by the diversity of choices they have. This online-learning framework has been designed for our learners to learn with freedom and fun, and t explore multiple interests, in ways that enable them to live fulfilling lives.

Three principles of the HLC - Beyond 8 online learning framework

Principle 1: Online learning requires a meaningful relationship between the facilitator, student and the parent.

Online learning, especially during times of pandemics like these requires deep and meaningful relationships between the facilitator, student and the parent. It requires a high degree of focus on the physical, social, and emotional well being of learners, and not just a monochromatic - focus on academics & cognitive development alone.

Principle 2: Learning will happen only when the mind is ready.

Over the last 25 years of research at HLC and Beyond 8, we have realised that to settle into a rhythm and make learning effective, any online learning program requires two fundamental building blocks.

  • Engaging & Insightful Activities
  • Thought-Provoking Conversations

Principle 3: Children of different age groups have very different requirements.

It is vital to keep in mind that children of different age groups have very different requirements. You must also keep in mind the negative effects of screen-time while designing your program.

Recommendations for different age groups according to the HLC - Beyond 8 online learning framework

The HLC Beyond 8 online learning framework has split learners into 4 groups.

  • KG Years
  • Primary Years
  • Middle Years
  • Senior Years

According to the experiences at HLC and Beyond 8, and lessons from Child Development Philosophy, the framework offers a set of recommendations for the year age group.

Age Group 1: Welcomed to "DISCOVER" in their KG years

In these Discovering years, children are showered with love, care, affection and allowed to experience and engage in a variety of ways

Online learning in kintergarden years

Age Group 2: Encouraged to be "Observant" in their primary years

In the observant primary years, activity-based methodologies and hands-on experiments are used to increase children's curiosity and engagement. The activities help them see the world as a whole and not merely a set of parts

Online learning in grade 1- 5 years

Age Group 3: Invited to "Explore" in their middle school years

In the observant primary years, activity-based methodologies and hands-on experiments are used to increase children's curiosity and engagement. The activities help them see the world as a whole and not merely a set of parts.

Online learning in grade 6-9

Age Group 4: Motivated to "Engage" in their senior years

In the exploratory and dynamic middle school years, children are engaged in a wide range of activities where creativity, empathy, leadership and teamwork form the core of everything they are involved in.

beyond 8 online learning framework ebook 7

Four priorities across all age groups

Irrespective of one's age group, they must be encouraged to follow these 4 priorities.

  • Focus on physical well being
  • Focus on reflections
  • Invite new leaners
  • Ensure regular parent communication

beyond 8 online learning framework ebook 8

Note: While these guidelines are not "all-encompassing", they are a result of the collective voice and opinions of learners, parents, teachers and all other stakeholders in the learning ecosystem. An ongoing 360-degree feedback mechanism has resulted in the design being robust and successful in our context.

As Chan Kim points to in his book, “The Blue Ocean Strategy”, constantly looking to create enriching experiences for everyone in the organisation’s ecosystem and actively changing without waiting for events to unfold are both needed to be able to adopt new ideas.

If you are interested in downloading an infographic of the framework you can do so by clicking the link below.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1F9t6zLHao4iuUw-KQttF74x7KRfBesSa/view?usp=sharing

About Beyond 8:

Beyond 8 is the alternative to schooling for learners who wish to pursue their passions; be it sports, music, art, coding or research. Beyond 8 offers a highly efficient high school program that enables passions, a bridge program before entering college, dream mapping for high school learners and science around - a network of science experiment centres.

About HLC:

Headstart Learning Centre is an Ashoka ChangeMaker school and is rated as one of India’s most innovative schools. HLC is a social incubation centre, where all our initiatives are united in a common purpose: to provide the world’s learners with a wide variety of opportunities and experiences to get a glimpse into the many directions in which their lives can go and be excited by the diversity of choices they have. Our learners learn with freedom and fun and explore multiple interests, in ways that enable them to live fulfilling lives.

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