Brite Academy International much believe in the power of online schools as well as physical schools, as places of teaching, learning, and connections. We at BAI are confident that via well-designed teaching and learning experiences, the same values such as inquiry, collaboration, connection, etc. can transcend the physical space to connect people even when we are not together physically. If for any reason whatsoever, physical schools are closed, BAI have strategies for continuing teaching and learning that are aligned to a school’s pedagogical philosophies and mission. This is called the BAI Online School Strategy
If we expect success in online school opportunities then, BAI and its teachers must be aware of the pedagogy and tools necessary to enhance students learning experience. There are some questions; we should ask ourselves on the current situation:
- Do we need to stop teaching and learning because students and teachers are not together physically?
- What does it look like to have a great online teaching and learning experiences?
- How can BAI and its teachers use the power of the internet to create great online learning experiences?
However, the BAI Online School Strategy is shaped to cover both teaching and learning online, summarized into 15 strategies to guide our thinking in creating online learning environments for students.
Knowledge of students’ technological capabilities and available support to them.
The inability for students coming to school makes it difficult for them to use the school resources such as reliable internet connection; use of school-owned technology; or other tools that ensure since for a country like Cameroon, there are issues with digital equity. BAI understands the importance of knowing the type of online learning work possible for students to do while away from school. BAI will develop fair and reasonable accommodations for students who may not be able to complete all work online.
Designate an online learning hub.
BAI has made provisions for students to be able to know where to find the BAI Team, the teachers and BAI Online Coursework. BAI has its own space in its school’s Learning Management System (LMS) called LearnDash, its own website (https://briteacademy.net), its own social media dedicated profiles. There are links to essential contents, best way(s) to reach the team and teachers, and a pacing guide for coursework. BAI has and will continue to make it in a way that students do not have to struggle to find what they need to know and be able to do. BAI can tell students where to go online by sending them a single link.
Communicate often, clearly, and consistently.
BAI has considered how to typically communicate with students and parents with a dedicated communication team well trained to keep the communications focused, clear, and simple with actionable tasks and items students need to know. This is what students will be expecting. In addition, students will be receiving regular emails from BAI, including announcements sent via BAI LMS, social media, and during the process of teaching and learning on a daily basis.
Assemble students for synchronous lectures.
In order to enhance student engagement and learning, there is a need to create the online relationships. BAI has planned to gather students for synchronous online teaching and learning through the Zoom video chat tool. In addition, BAI offers Office Hours for students to connect with members of the team and teachers via Zoom individually. All schedules and availabilities should be prominently posted on the BAI learning hub. It is very important that the BAI team and teachers master the use of Zoom for meetings. Please, click on this link How to Set Up Zoom
Create opportunities for asynchronous connection.
When students are spread across multiple time zones, BAI has made it possible to connect students to one another asynchronously. BAI will often have courses with students spread across multiple time zones. Teachers should use the LMS (LearnDash) discussion forums or tools like Flipgrid and Padlet to allow for student responses and dialogue during a set time period, knowing that students might not all be online at the same exact time. Course materials, recordings, and assignments will be posted on the system, and students will be given a set timeframe to post their work and/or respond to the teacher or each other. For group projects, BAI will accommodate a dedicated Google Suite Space to allow students to leverage tools like Google Drive to collaborate asynchronously. For extended closures of weeks or months, BAI has considered more robust chat tools like Slack (for students 16 or over) and/or Twist.
Content delivery (be a curator, not a dumper).
BAI teachers should consider the amount of content they deliver by organizing and presenting the content appropriately. BAI provides guidelines, strategies, and tools to assist teachers with curation of content. The human brain has a limitation of the amount of information to process. This means we should not congest the students’ brains with too much information at once. BAI leverages screen-casting tools such Loom to help create simple, short tutorials that show students how to navigate online spaces, how to use a certain tool, or how to digest online content.
Click this link to see How to Use Loom Video Tutorial
Support student connection.
In the world of today, young people use social media a lot for personal connection, for self-expression, and for exploration. This means that most students are used to switching freely from online to physical spaces, and vise versal. BAI has its dedicated social media and forums platforms students should use to communicate while learning online. BAI social media policies should be followed and respected.
Creative and strategical thinking about assessment.
New teachers to online teaching and learning always face challenges with assessments. BAI should use asynchronous formative assessments that seems tob an effective way for online skills check. BAI will use tools like EdPuzzle, Quizizz, Quizlet, etc. where teachers can create short interactive quizzes for students based on online content. Proctoring a test can be impractical in online learning, which is an opportunity to imagine more project-based summative assessments where students individually or collaboratively complete writing assignments, design infographics, make presentations via video, or complete oral assessments via video chat. Here are 75 digital tools teachers use to support formative assessment.
Let us be intentional and explicit about timing and pacing.
BAI should make sure teachers design concise, organized weekly plans for students with clear deadlines and explanations of coursework. Simple tables designed in a document or the BAI LMS can do. BAI teachers should be mindful of volume and pacing. Students should be given more time to do fewer, richer assignments rather than try to assign and collect work at every opportunity.
Request for regular feedback and be mindful of misinterpretation.
Check in with your students to see how things are going. You can do formal or informal surveys to assess attitudes, workload and challenges. Make course correction as necessary because we are all learning. Use ad hoc quizzes to assess learner comprehension of material.
Two simple questions to start: What is working for you in this mode of learning? What is not working? Leverage a Google Form or other survey tool, or simply send an email and invite responses. Listen to what students say and make tweaks to your planning as needed. Integrate feedback as part of your own learning process.
Create opportunities for personalization.
Just as we differentiate for learners in the classroom, so should we create multiple learning pathways in an online school. Online learning is also an opportunity to give students voice and choice. BAI should create an environment that allows students to move more flexibly and more freely through material.
Recognize the importance of student support.
Student support in online spaces looks different than in a physical school building. BAI should create a student support team that intervenes based on analytics from BAI LMS as well as teacher assessment of student work and comments. BAI should make sure students are “showing up” and engaging in the learning process. Reach out to students individually, check in with the students’ other teachers, collaborate with administrators on students of concern, and keep parents in the communications loop.
Inform the parents regularly.
BAI should consider the communication process with parents such as sending regular emails, weekly or monthly newsletters, and/or organizing parents conferences each term. We actually know that, if students are new to doing online learning, parents may feel they need their own tools to support students. BAI should keep the communication simple, with clear actionable ways parents can support their students. To help parents, this Edutopia piece offers strategies for parents to keep learning happening at home.
Reflect on your role as a BAI Teacher in the online school (Instructional Strategies).
In BAI, the teacher is a coach and guide for learning. It is important that BAI teachers help students connect to a sense of purpose, express autonomy, and work towards mastery even in both the online school. BAI teachers have the following responsibilities for an effective online teaching:
Know the technology:
This is new to everyone, so be prepared to troubleshoot and let your students know you are working on it. Take an hour to familiarize yourself with the technology and be very clear to students about where they should go for technical support.
Expect the unexpected and remain flexible:
At some point technology will fail, whether it is a video chat not connecting or assignment and/or resource links not working properly. Have a second plan for all assignments and assessments that rely on technology. Be transparent in your communication to students about technology failure. For example, put a policy in place that outlines the actions students should take if they are unable to submit assignments due to technical issues. Do not be afraid to solve technical challenges in real time, such as during synchronous discussions or collaborative real-time activities, to save time.
- Create and maintain a strong presence:Make the student feel your availability at all times.
- Set clear expectations for the course: Students should be known of what the objectives are.
- Establish a sense of comfort and develop a community of learners: Demonstrate enthusiasm and excitement about teaching the course to alleviate fear, anxiety, and isolation.
- Promote reflection and communication: Monitor participation and contact students individually.
- Have a good balance of active leader and active observer: You begin, you do, then they do, you conclude.
- Regularly check content resources and applications: Regularly check all links, resources, modules, and activities. Online content can move or change, which can lead to disengagement.
Connection with other colleagues and share working strategies.
All BAI staffs, including teachers should be intentional about staying connected to other colleagues, not just to communicate information, but to support each other. Share with each other specific strategies that are working. Use the same tools that work with students to teach colleagues about structuring or designing from learning experiences. We should leverage our professional network beyond BAI and find out from other colleagues in other areas how they handled and handling online school.
As stated in the introduction, BAI is creating an engaging and conducive environment for students to learn at BAI in both the online school and physical classrooms. This is to ensure that teaching and learning are taking place and that everybody is connected to each other irrespective of the situation at hand. We at BAI assure our prospective students and parents that the above strategies some of which are already in place and other to be completed will contribute significantly to the success of all the students no matter which course and grade level. Together, we succeed.