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Rising to the challenge of offsite learning

The current offsite learning, that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrates how important the learning and teaching relationship between the students and their teachers is, and how the role of the teacher has recently had a stronger focus on helping students to access knowledge and skills through their electronic device.

This pandemic has provided challenges but also has provided opportunities. Over many years I have been talking to parents about the importance of students progressively developing their life-ready skills and this current situation has provided an excellent opportunity for our students to do exactly that. There is no occasion in my lifetime that I have seen teachers pivot their teaching strategies so quickly and students pivot their learning strategies so successfully. According to a recent eBrief from the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, life skills that all of us are using to navigate this crisis are the same attributes that future employers will be looking for, including “creativity, communication, collaboration, empathy and emotional intelligence”. 

At Ivanhoe Girls’ we have seen our students rise to the challenge of offsite learning, showing that they are capable, resilient, empathetic, flexible and self-motivated. Furthermore, I have been delighted to see enhanced student attendance rates.

Offsite learning has also enabled students to have greater autonomy about how and when they like to learn. For example, students with individual learning needs have, to some extent, been able to adapt the timing of their learning blocks and can spend continuous or extended time on projects or learning activities that are of greater interest to them at times of the day that suit them. The saved commuting time also has provided students with either additional rest time or relaxation time, thus enabling them to be more refreshed and disposing them more positively to their learning. 

While we are now looking forward to and planning for our return to onsite learning, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agrees that digital learning is here to stay. "Learning in the Digital World" will be the focus of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing in 2024, at which time students will be tested on their ability to engage in self-regulated learning while using digital tools, including their capacity to monitor their progress, use feedback, and stay engaged while they build models and develop solutions with digital tools. “These skill sets,” states the OECD, “are essential in preparing students to learn autonomously in an increasingly complex and digital world.” It seems to me that our students are indeed getting some early practice in the development of these very important future skill sets.

None of us could have anticipated our current opportunity to explore such a wholesale and different method of educational delivery as we now see in our offsite learning mode, but our responsibility is to ensure that the lessons learned from this experience are not lost and that we carry the lessons forward to inform how we facilitate learning in the future.

Dr Deborah Priest
Principal

References

‘Helping our girls navigate 2020 | Expert panel webinar’. Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia. Retrieved from: https://www.agsa.org.au/news/helping-our-girls-navigate-2020-expert- panel-webinar/

OECD. (2018). PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment: Next steps. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/