Continuously Improving Our eLearning Program – The First Month of Implementing eLearning at PA

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After more than a month of operation, PA’s eLearning program is running smoothly and effectively. Students and parents have provided high praise to PA for the quick set-up and implementation of the program within a short amount of time and the swift turnaround in response to feedback and suggestions.

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Some parents have commented that it has been helpful to have the daily schedule provided in advance so that students and parents can prepare for the lessons ahead of time (for example, printing off required items, setting alarms for Zoom classes etc.). Many parents also commented that the daily lesson plans have been created with great care. Teachers are providing high interest lessons that vary day to day and help keep students engaged and interested in their learning.

Of course, we have also received some helpful constructive feedback, which was immediately considered. For example, some parents suggested increasing the number of live Zoom lessons, making it more clear on daily schedules which lessons were live on Zoom and which were not, adjusting the format and number of daily assignments, monitoring the amount of time spent in front of a screen, providing the option to print out worksheets or activities, setting up one-on-one conference times etc. PA administration paid close attention to parental feedback. Many parent suggestions were acted upon very quickly and have helped improve our eLearning program. We truly value your suggestions and feedback.

As a complement to the online instruction, the school has set up one-on-one conferences two days a week. Each live video session is 10 minutes long and each homeroom teacher is available to meet up to 12 times a week. Parents and students can meet with their classroom teacher or specialist teachers one-on-one. Students can ask questions about assignments or activities, receive feedback from teachers about their work and receive support in completing an assignment or activity. The one-on-one video sessions also provide an opportunity for the teacher and student to stay emotionally connected.

The eLearning program only exists due to our present exceptional circumstances. There is a great deal to consider and to think about as teachers and administration plan the best way to reach students during this difficult time. It is important that there is mutual trust and active communication between teachers, administration and parents. The epidemic has brought education into the home in an unprecedented fashion, which of course has its advantages and challenges. Ultimately we believe this difficult situation is providing students, teachers and parents with an opportunity to develop unique skills (especially technologically!). 

The school is also very focused on the health and wellbeing of our students while ensuring the quality of learning. Students are given movement opportunities every day, through our robust physical education and musical theatre program. The following measures have also been taken to help reduce students screen time:

  • Flexibility about when students complete activities or assignments. They can finish things up in the evening or on the weekend so there is not as much continuous screen time.
  • Teachers often provide parents with the option of printing out assignments and activities so that students can do them by hand, rather than on a screen.
  • When possible, teachers try to include games that students can play with siblings or an adult at home. Playing games often help reinforce skills and develop communication skills, problem solving skills and resiliency. 
  • Students are encouraged to take breaks from their screens during the morning break and lunch break. Many teachers provide suggestions or ideas of things students could do during this time.
  • Teachers try to provide hands-on projects or tasks (such as building 3D objects out of a variety of materials found around the home) that do not require time on a screen.

PA administration understands the different circumstances and needs of each family and that consequently, some students will be able to receive more parental support than others. The school does not require 100% attendance and completion of all assignments for all students. If families are having difficulty with the workload, they are encouraged to reach out to the teachers and communicate their situation. Teachers are focusing on the quality of work completed by students, rather than the quantity of work. Families are encouraged to continue communicating with teachers about how things are going; both challenges and successes.

To ensure a smooth implementation of eLearning, PA provided its teachers with a great deal of training in many online tools. For example, teachers have received training in the use of Google Classroom, the use of Zoom video conferencing in a school setting, the use of new software for setting up parent-teacher conferences and one-on-one conferences, the use of the Screencastify plugin for screen recording, the production of Google Slides, the use of the Seesaw platform for eLearning etc.

We have always believed that education will continue to change and evolve. Teachers, students, parents and administration are all on paths of life-long learning. This is certainly a time during which we are being forced to learn in different ways. We hope that our eLearning program is providing students and teachers with an opportunity to develop their knowledge base, skills and competencies so that they can meet the changes and challenges of the future, no matter what that looks like.