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【The Standard】How Covid-19 has helped online learning

Boarding 101


In the UK, the lockdown has now been eased and shops, hairdressers, pubs and restaurants are now once again open for business.

This coincides with the end of term for most UK independent schools, with students enjoying the summer holiday and teachers and staff looking ahead to September, when measures will be in place for education to return to normal (or as close to normal as the safety measures allow).

Reflecting on the Covid-19 pandemic so far, it’s clear that amongst the numerous awful consequences there have been some elements that we can, thankfully, see as positives.

One of these is the development of technology for better and more wide-reaching education.

Before the virus emerged, a range of online learning tools were in use by schools and universities.

However, once the situation caused institutions to close their doors, interest in these tools dramatically increased.

As with firms offering video call services, online learning companies found that virtually overnight, there was a pressing demand for their products.

It wasn’t just the suppliers of online learning technology that had to respond, though – it was also the educators themselves. After all, a virtual classroom experience is nothing without a teacher who knows how to make it succeed.

Teachers both young and old, those in their first year of education and those with an entire career already behind them had to get to grips with something new.

Whole departments had to rapidly understand how to make the best use of these tools and adapt their teaching style.

Remember that standing in front of a class and interacting with students is very different to addressing individual faces on a computer screen.

And think about the fact that presenting a set of lessons digitally is not something most teachers had ever done before.

One online tool that has been particularly successful in homes and schools in the UK and is now making its way into Hong Kong is called Atom Learning. The courses, available for primary school children, cover English, maths, verbal reasoning, nonverbal reasoning, creative writing, exam skills and interview skills.

The thing that sets Atom apart, though, is that it specializes adaptive learning – meaning the course is responsive to each individual student. Feedback from parents often indicate that they are impressed by how the setup really gets the measure of their child and work out what their academic level is and how to hold their attention.

The key point is that this isn’t like just sitting and watching a video – it’s live and interactive.

This means that it’s the closest thing you can get to being in school without going into the school building itself.

It also brings many of the features of a typical classroom into the home. For example, in the same way that children are rewarded with merits or stars for good results in school, Atom Learning lets them unlock badges as they progress.

Apart from the immediate benefits of tools like this, there are going to be long-term benefits to the way that we have all been forced to embrace online learning in the last few months.

These courses can stand alone, but they can also sit alongside traditional learning to supplement what children receive in the classroom.

The analytics that they provide, breaking down every little aspect of a student’s learning in detail, will surely now begin to inform traditional education too.

Parents who have seen what something like Atom can tell them and how it can quantify student performance will no longer be satisfied with the general impression from an end-of-term report or the occasional update at a parents’ evening.