What remote-first schooling should look like

*This content is brought to you by Valenture Institute 

Working from home and learning from home became mandatory during lockdown. But what are the projections for sustaining this ‘lifestyle’, especially looking at the high school edu-space?

COVID-induced, makeshift remote learning models were foreign, frustrating, and fundamentally flawed at times in terms of setting students up for success. Learners and teachers alike were forced to play in a remote online learning environment in which they didn’t know the rules.

Remote learning is based on a model whereby students are given or sent learning materials and are expected to digest it all before taking an exam or test of some kind to gain a corresponding qualification. The onus is entirely on them (and more often than not, parents who have to juggle their work as well as homeschooling their kids), to stay on track, motivated, and find all the right answers.

That’s a lot of pressure (on everyone involved).

But there is a light at the end of the self-isolated education tunnel. And if nothing else, it is simply an understanding that what many are experiencing is remote learning, and not the much more evolved online learning.

Even with the advent of the more interactive ‘Zoom classroom’, the type of learning students and teachers had to adapt to was far from perfect. Online learning truly stands apart, that it is fundamentally a learning environment designed and created to exist online.

Classes, curriculum, campuses, and teachers all play their part in an experience that is as close to the real world as one can imagine, and in a lot of ways, even better. Online learning incorporates what is known as synchronous learning, which means the learning process happens at a learner’s own pace while also taking the form of live classes with teachers and most importantly, fellow students.

A one-dimensional learning space leaves students unmotivated. Social-emotional learning has largely been left out of the equation and it’s time that it’s being factored back in. The holistic development of anyone, be that a student or adult is always multifaceted

A handful of schools are getting it right: a learning environment that not only places students in the virtual classroom but that creates meaningful connections. Everyone learns differently and students need to be considered individually. It’s not just about what learners learn, rather it’s more about how they learn and apply that information.

“The technology that we use to connect our students and their teachers also allow us amazing visibility of their progress, we can also see exactly what kinds of outcomes students are struggling with, where we need to target our interventions to help them do the best that they can and we can very quickly see where we need to help learners,” says Lizzy Steenkamp, Head of Learning Technology at Valenture Institute, a global online private high school birthed in South Africa in 2019.

It’s about finding that fluid sweet spot where pedagogy, technology, and innovation meet. The learning environment is dynamic, interactive, and embraces social-emotional learning as learners are encouraged to be themselves, to show their personalities, and to express their opinions.

It’s understanding individual learning in a classroom that’s all about engagement and connection.

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