Cursor Curated
12th July 2023

How technology is changing education

Online education in the spotlight

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Cursor Curated Issue 18
Bethan Vincent

When the nation was plunged into lockdown, one of the first observations was the growing gulf in the digital divide. This ‘divide’ refers to the difference between people who can access computers and those who can’t. The online school system throughout COVID highlighted the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Why online education is in the spotlight

Between May and June 2020, 87% of parents said their child had been home-schooled due to COVID. This was a huge challenge for parents, but it also presented new opportunities. For example, we can now tailor learning to individual students’ needs. This promotes accessibility and goes beyond the realms of the traditional school system.

Catering for diverse audiences

Online education offers well-rounded learning experiences for those with additional needs. These may include:

  • Students with physical disabilities
  • Student with chronic illnesses
  • Students who live in remote areas

The digital school is also ideal for neurodiverse pupils. It fosters an inclusive learning environment where everybody is treated well. It also offers a flexible pace – something 81% of students said they enjoyed about e-learning. The team at Gaia Learning are a prime example of catering to these additional needs.

Elimination of social hierarchies

In an online school, every child is treated the same, regardless of their geographical location, culture or background. This eliminates social pressures and students feel less susceptible to bullying or meeting unrealistic standards.

Rather than conforming to one teacher’s idea of success, these students can focus on individual learning and growth.

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Environmental benefits

During the pandemic period, greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 10%. Fewer commuting miles doubtless contributed to this, but there are also the benefits of online learning itself. When compared to classroom learning, digital schools consume 90% less energy.

This is thanks to the energy saving of lights and temperature control in large buildings, as well as travel.

How can technology add to the digital school learning experience?

Online learning communities are not without their challenges. The key to a successful digital school is to build a sense of community and belonging. In tandem, we should focus on enhancing the learning experience.

We can all do our bit to achieve the former – but the latter comes from technology.

Tailoring online education to individual needs

There’s a key difference between personalisation and customisation. Rather than shoehorning students into the same segments based on a broad assumption about behaviours, we can create bespoke learning pathways. This encourages students to progress at their own speed and in their own style.

Of course, we can use the data at our disposal to make key decisions. For example, students may struggle with particular topics. Parents can provide feedback and feel more involved in their child’s learning, as well as the community itself.

In turn, this allows us to make adjustments in real time, using multimedia content to enrich the experience. Our platforms become adaptive to students’ needs, be they learning style, location or time-based.

My Online Schooling is leading the charge with this, offering tailored pricing for all budgets and needs.

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Combining online and physical schooling

Technology is great for blended learning models. For example, we have flipped classrooms, wherein pupils learn online first and then apply their skills in person. This enhances learning and plays to all social needs.

Children can review their learning resources at home and in class, which equally benefits teachers by allowing them to plan their teaching time more efficiently. This promotes continuous learning, regardless of exterior factors like health or weather events.

We can also bring digital tools into the physical classroom, thereby closing the divide. Academy 21 specialises in this hybrid environment and prepares children for a future of remote work.

Looking at the role of pastoral care in digital communities

Pastoral care helps students feel supported and connected. It’s even more important in a remote atmosphere, where children may feel isolated. Digital schools should offer online counselling and psychological care.

These schools could offer mentoring and peer support through groups and forums. It’s also essential to teach online etiquette and to promote digital safety, particularly for those with neurodiverse needs.

Wolsey Hall Oxford runs regular webinars on pastoral care and mental health. They even have a bank of online resources to help parents with home-schooling.

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Building a global classroom

Now that we’re no longer bound by physical distance, we can open up the online classroom to people around the world. This promotes diversity by connecting cultures.

Students will gain language skills, cultural knowledge and valuable social interactions. To get the best from this, we can use virtual classrooms with breakout rooms. We can even try virtual ‘trips’ to visit locations through augmented reality.

Schools should keep parents and guardians informed, letting them know how they can be part of these larger communities. Kings Interhigh excels at this - offering student exchanges, summer camps and virtual events across five continents.

Over to you: where do you stand on online education?

Having worked with a range of online education providers, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits to students, parents and teachers. We’d also like to hear from you. Get in touch with us on Facebook or LinkedIn to share your thoughts on digital learning.