How to move your class online in 1 to 2 weeks.

Uvo Bocelli

I am father of 4, IT professional for over 25 years, specializes in educational technology, with a post graduate diploma in family education (The European Institute of Education Sciences).

In recent times, governments around the world have been forced to shut schools to avoid the furious spread of the Covid-19 virus. With endless news of the global pandemic aggravating each day, most governments are tentatively expecting end of March or April to restart schools. In Canada, parents, students and teachers are expecting the class to be out for the year. The stark reality though is unless a vaccine to save the world from the global pandemic, is discovered and brought to market for the consumption of the masses, we do not have a definite date in many countries to claim that it is safe for the students and teachers to return to schools.

Visit Unesco site for updates on school closure: https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-emergencies/coronavirus-school-closures

Meanwhile, as for now and till it is deemed safe for the students and teachers to return to schools, how will the students continue to study?

Schools in China have remained closed since the Lunar New Year. Nonetheless, with the start of the new semester, both private and public schools had replaced schools with online learning from March 2nd.

As coronavirus shuts schools around the world, teachers and families will have to embrace the massive experiment of online learning. From our experiences of working with educators to create online learning, we share the following learnings from our past attempts and mistakes:

Involve the families, administrators and teachers. In most cases, to minimize disruption of classes, administrators, teachers and parents will have to collaborate within a short span of time to replace the physical classroom learning with online learning. Going virtual with a suppressed timeline can be a massive feat. The attitude must be to “learn on the fly”, learn from mistakes, to be creative in resolving issues and finding effective ways to teach and learn virtually.

Parent support is essential for online classes. Some parents vented anonymously on social media. “With online classes officially kick off today, parents will become teachers’ assistants and nannies,” one mother wrote. But online learning is an inevitable option to parents compared to classes stopping completely and indefinitely.

Machine driven learning process. Most teachers and parents who are unfamiliar with online learning system will reckon that seriously especially the younger kids are not suitable for online learning as they lack self-discipline. This perspective is inaccurate. The power of an online learning system is to drive the learners through a well thought out process aided by both the system (increasingly AI is playing a more important role) and teachers to gain systematically the mastery of the content. The learners’ progress through each stage in the process can be tracked analytically with the necessary intervention by both the parents and teachers which is never possible in traditional classroom.

From sending triggers to students to start their study at specific time, participating in a teacher-led online class, partaking in a peer learning session, to scoring assessments automatically, online learning system is capable to forming self-regulated learners from a young age. And not mentioning, young kids almost without exception, display great finesse embracing the digital world.

Connected community of learners. Students are at home alone and may feel lost without the physical interaction of the classroom. Teachers should as much as possible facilitate interaction in the virtual classroom through the use of tools such polling, chat, breakout room, groups projects, contribution to wiki, student presentations, videoconferencing and peer learning sessions.

Digital content. Most teachers who will face anxiety of how to adopt and adapt to online teaching. The first question of how to port their teaching content onto the digital platform.  The rule of thumb here is to begin with modifying the current curriculum and lessons and port the content onto the digital platform. Just start with the tools that are familiar – video conferencing tool, share PDFs or slides or a photo shot. And very possibly in a longer term, teachers may attempt the use of screencast videos (Screenflow or Camtasia), multimedia interactive tools (H5P) and BOTS to deliver content and connect with students in new, fun and meaningful ways.  

Support synchronous & asynchronous learning. To replicate a traditional classroom, system should be able to handle both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning involves online studies with web conferencing. This can be a teacher led class or group project discussion. Asynchronous learning involves coursework delivered by web and message boards. A benefit of asynchronous learning is that you are able to be self-paced.

Assessment. Most online learning system has a question bank which store questions for reuse and marked questions automatically without teacher intervention. Besides, multiple choice questions, most online learning system is also increasingly capable of marking open ended questions. Students obtain mastery through failures by repeating tests till the targeted score is obtained. And teacher save plenty of time for marking.

Online Learning SaaS (Software As A Service) Vendor. If your school is in a hurry so that classes will not be disrupted indefinitely, work with an online learning SaaS vendor. The SaaS vendor should come with the following prerequisites: (1) a mature  with relevant references for your schools or universities, (2) IT support for the system, (3) pay per use without hefty upfront capital investment and (4) services to move learning online within a 1 to 4 weeks timeline.

Looking ahead over the next few weeks (or months?), there will be challenges for schools around the world, but this is an excellent opportunity to explore new learning methods for both students and teachers. As we gain familiarity and competence in harnessing digital learning, perhaps a lot of students will break free of their current entrapments of underperforming in the traditional classroom.

At the time of the writing of this article, on the 25th of March, 2020, the Singapore government has imposed additional measures to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. One of measures introduced is to halt all tuition centre from operation. Owners of tuition centre can reach out to U12B for a trial of the U12B online learning system at support@U12B.org.  We will enable you to resume operation online within a 1 week to 2 weeks based on a first come first basis.

Wishing all students, parents and teachers peace and health in this unprecedented time.