With the current uncertainty around what schooling is going to look like come September, more parents are considering an online education for their child, seeking the stability and security that is particularly important during those crucial years of preparation for high stakes exams.
Benefits of online schooling
The online provision offered during the pandemic was by necessity a rapid response to a crisis rather than a carefully planned consideration of how to make the most out of online delivery. It has been challenging for everyone – teachers, parents, pupils – and while some have had positive experiences, others have struggled. However, attending a purpose-built online school is a very different experience compared to learning via emergency online provision. A high quality secondary education that designed from the outset for an online mode of delivery can bring very tangible benefits for pupils:
- Individualisation: Online education affords an incredible powerful ability to personalise learning to every pupil. Children can follow an individual learning pathway, working through self-study materials at a pace that suits them, stretching them where possible and giving more support when required.
- Participation: Online learning can be designed to provide more opportunities for pupils to participate and interact than in a traditional face-to-face environment where the whole class is competing for the teacher’s attention. Allowing some of the material to be delivered via interactive self-study materials gives students the chance to reflect on topics and give deeper thought to responses, while freeing up the teacher’s time to make them available for regular individual and small group support.
- Flexibility: Pupils can build their own schedules, teaching them how to balance study and work with other commitments.
- Global networks: Online schooling is accessible to students wherever they may be in the world. Pupils can work alongside peers from other countries, broadening their understanding of different cultures and building an international network of friends.
- Visibility for parents: A wealth of data is collected on the Virtual Learning Environment to help track learning and inform teaching, and as a parent you will have access to this data, affording you unprecedented visibility into your child’s education, with real time insight into their performance.
- The promotion of self-discipline: By taking control of their learning, pupils develop independence and self-discipline, which are invaluable for university. Well-designed online schools will ensure pupils receive regular individual support from a mentor or tutor to help them develop these skills.
- Accessibility: Online learning removes the distractions of the physical classroom, providing an environment in which a broad range of children can thrive.
Isn’t it all lecture-style lessons on Zoom?
No! Can you think of anything more tiring?
At Harrow School Online, we believe that online education done well can be as effective as classroom-based teaching, but the key is not to try and translate what works in a traditional bricks and mortar school directly into an online environment.
Each environment has its advantages, and virtual schooling should be organised to make the most of its innate strengths.
We use a ‘flipped classroom’ teaching methodology. This involves students working through interactive self-study materials to develop an understanding of subject content, and then having a lesson in a virtual classroom where teachers explore their understanding of that material:
- Self-study materials: Our materials have been authored by subject experts and allow students to access the learning content independently, starting with explanations and examples and building up to guided practice with hints and suggestions when learners get stuck. The idea is that pupils can access these materials without support from parents.
- Live classroom-based lessons: These are small classes of up to ten pupils. Our teachers help students apply and extend their knowledge of the materials. They’re targeted lessons, based on performance in the self-study work. And they’re very interactive, ensuring all pupils contribute enthusiastically to class discussion.
- Individual support sessions: Our Success Coach holds fortnightly one-to-one meetings to help pupils to set ambitious goals for their future universities and careers and track their progress towards achieving these outcomes. Regular meetings with a House Tutor do the same for academic goals.
This month we are running live taster lessons to give prospective A Level pupils a flavour of what online learning is like at Harrow School Online. If you’d like to join us, register here.
What about the social aspect?
Many parents worry about how their child will make friends and develop social skills if they aren’t meeting classmates in person daily.
Aside from their academic work, there are extra-curricular activities that bring Harrow School Online pupils together and foster friendships.
There are clubs and societies, like the student newspaper and chess club. Our House system ensures students have a support and friendship group within their house, and motivation to engage enthusiastically in all manner of inter-house competitions, from quizzes and music competitions to debates.
We have a House Award where pupils get involved in arts, sports, academic endeavours and charity work, which can take place either online or through a student’s local community. Not all social interaction has to happen at school – finding ways to be active in the community is great for making friends and developing social responsibility skills.
We also run a summer school where pupils can experience Harrow School’s historic setting and meet teachers and peers.
About Harrow School Online
We are an online A Level school built on the traditions and academic excellence of Harrow School. We offer girls and boys aged 16-18 A Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, Physics, and Economics.
We are still accepting applications for September 2020. We’d love you to join us.
Bursaries and scholarships are available. Check the website for more information.
Article written by Heather Rhodes, Principal of Harrow School Online, and mother of two.