Remote learning generally comes in two different forms: synchronous (live remote) and asynchronous (non-live remote) learning. There are many benefits to both systems which I will highlight below along with the reasons why we have decided to take a blended approach at Crookhorn.
- Synchronous learning basically means that everyone is learning at the same time, but not in the same place. This is largely achieved through a live webinar or video call.
- Asynchronous learning means that the learning is completed using the same resources but not at the same time or place.
The benefits of synchronous learning are that it helps maintain the teacher/student connections. This can be achieved through the individual messaging system on ‘itslearning’ if the students are accessing the lesson at the correct timetabled slot when the teacher is live for support for that class (see below). The drawback to all synchronous learning is that there can be technical limitations (such as a lack of devices in a household which enable multiple children to access live lessons all at once), screen fatigue and decreasing attention if the mode of delivery is focussed around teacher talk.
‘itslearning’ messaging system so students can message teachers throughout the day.
The benefits to asynchronous learning are that it enables a more polished product by way of learning resources and explanations as it is pre-recorded and therefore not subject to interruption or distraction. Both the teacher and the students can control their own pace of learning and there is the possibility of more sustained and complex assignments, and hence learning, that can be undertaken by students. The drawback is not getting the immediate interaction with the teacher or having the quality of discussions that students love to engage in when they are in a classroom. These discussions are very stilted under synchronous learning and the lack of discussion is a real drawback with all forms of remote learning. Students often just love that face-to-face interaction with each other, which is why being a class community in a school is so important and something hopefully we can return to as quickly as possible!
Our blended approach involves a mixture of online resources, narrated PowerPoints and explanatory videos, live online lessons taught through Microsoft TEAMS and third-party websites (such as MathsWatch and GCSEPod). The ‘Planner’ within ‘itslearning’ allows all these elements to be combined into one place for every class, for easy access by the students.
Some of the areas of good practice we are promoting to our teachers are the following:
Quality of the structure and accessibility to individual lesson plans and resources available on the ‘itslearning planner’:
Over the last 6 months, we have worked extensively to combine the content planning for each topic within the different subjects, with a clear task-by-task structure so the students can access the learning whether in College or at home. This is called a blended approach to learning and requires significant input from teachers to ensure that the key learning for each topic is clearly outlined with step-by-step learning tasks. These are laid out for students to complete to ensure they master the required knowledge and skills. During lockdown and a full remote learning situation, teachers are required to make sure that the key learning for every lesson, with the step-by-step tasks, are clearly laid out in a consistent format across all subjects. Each task or section of learning is supported by different learning resources such as an explanatory teacher video, a link to a resource/worksheet or an embedded video from a third-party platform.
Teachers can also provide links to specific worksheets or resources depending on an individual student’s needs. This enables active differentiation. For example, 5 students in a class might well benefit from a structured writing frame that will enable them to write a detailed explanation to a question posed from a piece of learning. 10 other students in the class might only need a couple of sentence starters to enable them to write their answer in-depth, whilst another 10 might require an extension activity that takes their thinking on further and links to a more challenging learning concept. Each student only sees the learning resource that has been allocated to them by their teacher. This level of differentiation enables a very bespoke and individualised remote education experience and enables us to support all levels of learners in the most comprehensive way possible.
Students are set assignments or tasks to complete from the resources they have been given which they must submit to the teacher, so the teacher can do a check for understanding and feedback individually to students where they feel there is a misconception, or where they feel the learning is particularly strong. This constant opportunity for interaction between the teacher and individual students enables us to have a good understanding of what has been learnt and what is still a concern. This is vital for ongoing teacher planning so that the learning is as targeted as possible to student needs. During the last lockdown, parents were very impressed with the feedback students were getting to work and how this then encouraged their child to work harder and enjoy their learning. There are examples of the formats for learning on course pages in the parent remote learning guide that has been sent out via parent mail and is being uploaded to the website.
Pre-recorded narrated PowerPoints and videos:
Some teachers at Crookhorn have started to use a video recording of themselves talking through the instructions to the lesson. This is a good way for teachers to explain any new material and tasks that students might find difficult. Teachers can also recap clearly on prior learning and students can be greatly reassured by hearing their teacher or seeing their teacher’s face. These are also great for students who might wish to pause the video, rewind it, and listen to the explanation again and take their time to make sure they have understood the task. If they struggle to understand the task, then they can then message their teacher directly who will respond individually to that student to help unpick the misconceptions. This is why we have made it clear in our guides to remote learning that it is important, where possible, that the student follows their timetable for each day, as the teachers are there for live individual support when the lesson is underway.
For some of our families, we are aware that there is one laptop within a family and with siblings and parents working from home that can create pressure on that resource. If a child cannot access the family laptop when their lesson is actually going on, then they can still access the learning and all the resources at a later time in the day. They can also still message the teacher, but the response might not be quite as immediate as it would be during the lesson itself.
Through the asynchronous model, teachers are able to model some examples of how a completed task might look, so as to guide student expectations of standards that the teacher is expecting the student to submit.
These narrated PowerPoints or explanatory videos can be stored in the subject plans for the rest of the student's time at Crookhorn, which will support their ongoing independent study as they head towards future assessments.