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Taking learning online

 

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One week, St Andrew’s College was operating as usual, with the campus and classrooms abuzz with students and staff. The next, it had transitioned to a fully operational online learning environment due to the nationwide lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transition appeared seamless; however the implementation of this sophisticated online learning programme and fully integrated timetable was the result of a huge collaborative effort, which Rector Christine Leighton describes as ‘one of the highlights of my career’.

“What we’ve been able to achieve collectively, from having the vision, to everybody using their strengths to contribute to achieving that vision so effectively in such a short timeframe has been remarkable. Our ICT Department and teachers worked overtime for many weeks, delivering in their usual physical environment, and preparing for this ‘new normal’.”

Critical to the delivery of the online learning programme was the ICT team, led by Director of ICT, Dave Hart, and Head of Innovation and Information Services, Wilj Dekkers, who Christine has high praise for. “As well as getting all the technology in place, they did an incredible job of encouraging, supporting, and enabling the teaching staff to engage effectively with this new online environment. For some of our teaching staff it was quite a leap, but they have been well supported, and have all shown huge commitment. Behind the teaching programmes for all classes are 25 different teams of people who are also working online and ‘meeting’ regularly to support St Andrew’s College business continuity. The students’ buy-in to continue their learning has also been critical. Everybody has played a part in this.”

Director of ICT, Dave Hart, says the rollout has been the ultimate team effort. “Working closely with Wilj Dekkers, we, along with the rest of the ICT team, have strived to establish a means of remote learning using tools already in our portfolio. Our aim was to provide a standardised platform for all, while still providing opportunities for teaching staff to personalise content delivery for students, just as they would in the classroom. There is no doubt the learning curve has been steep for many, and of course we still have room for improvement. However, the results of such positive engagement from both teaching and support staff in this process has been immensely gratifying to see. We are now in a fantastic position to benefit from all this hard work and positivity.”

A week and a half of online lessons took place before the Term 1 holidays, which gave teachers and students time to adjust to the new way of working. “Over the holiday period we have taken time to reflect, learn and improve, leveraging feedback from our community, so that if we were to need to carry on in Term 2, we'll be in an even stronger position than we are now.”

Christine says from the start, she, other senior managers and staff were heartened by the many positive comments, emails and messages through the St Andrew’s College Facebook page from parents about how impressed they were with the online learning their children were receiving. “I’m delighted our students have been using online capacity for a real purpose, and not just entertainment and socialising. To think technology is being harnessed in such a productive way is really satisfying.”

Christine says the ‘truly collaborative culture’ which was already in place at St Andrew’s before the pandemic was a key factor in the delivery of the programme. “Our staff felt engaged and valued beforehand, and already understood their strengths. With this kind of culture and a shared vision, it is incredible what can be achieved.”

 

Secondary students adapt well

Secondary School students have adapted well to the new remote learning environment, says Head of Secondary School, Evert van Florenstein. “I’ve been delighted with how well students have coped, adapted, and got on with it. Huge credit must also go to our teaching staff for so quickly changing the way in which they deliver their lessons, and for having an incredibly positive and willing attitude. They have rolled up their sleeves and are delivering a quality learning experience to our students.”

During each week, all students have two compulsory contact lessons with their subject teachers via Microsoft Teams, a platform on which they have been guided to use positively and productively. These sessions provide an opportunity for the students to connect with their teachers, ask questions about tasks set, and clarify any expectations. In the other two lessons each week per subject, students are expected
to engage with the tasks they have been set.

Every Thursday at 10.00am students are expected to join their tutor for a 30-minute online contact session, which provides the opportunity to ask questions, and also catch up with fellow students in the tutor group.

Year 9–10 students are studying their core subjects only during this period, while the Year 11–13 students continue with their NCEA studies on the online platform.

Student engagement and attendance has continued to be monitored for all classes in the remote learning environment, with teachers taking rolls, and recording engagement data.

With so many students missing their regular co-curricular activities, a number of online resources have been shared as part of the Enrichment Programme, with a focus on sporting or cultural activities they could engage with at home.

“While the delivery of remote learning has provided us with an enormous challenge, and many people have been put under pressure, there has also been an opportunity for us to undertake professional development we wouldn’t normally have done. This situation is showing us what we are capable of, and also that we are a strong community, which has really pulled together when it counts,” says Evert.

 

Home Learning in the Preparatory School and Pre-school 

Preparatory School Principal, Jonathan Bierwirth, says a range of different online approaches have been implemented in the Preparatory School and Pre-school to meet the needs of the children of various ages. “All of the teachers are working extremely hard. They are diligent and creative, and delivering their programmes with supportive and encouraging communication.”

Jonathan says the Home Learning programme has been working well across the Year 8 team, with a high level of attendance and work completion. There has been also almost full attendance every day in each Year 7 class, which started with a class Microsoft Teams video call at 8.45am, followed by a 9.00am Mathematics class call. “At both Years 7 and 8, the learning has been engaging and varied. The programme for the day is posted each morning and there are many opportunities for the children to share and connect with their classmates and teachers,” says Jonathan.

Students in the Middle Syndicate have been utilising a variety of platforms for their learning, including email, interactive online links, Seesaw, workbooks, OneDrive links, and Microsoft Team video chats. Daily routines and expectations, specialist lessons, and fun challenges are sent by morning emails or announcements from classroom teachers.

In the Junior Syndicate, Seesaw is being used extensively by teachers to share activities and provide feedback, with email another form of communication. Families are sending in photos and their children’s completed work.

Families of Pre-school children have also responded well to the communications from the Pre-school staff, who are utilising Educa to share experiences and ideas. Lots of ‘parent stories’ have been shared to the Pre-school, highlighting the children’s many at home learning activities.

 

 

 

One week, St Andrew’s College was operating as usual. The next, it had transitioned to a fully operational online learning environment.

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