Courtney Miels is an educator at Open Access College where she works through distance education with primary age students in remote locations. Open Access College was established in 1991 as an amalgamation of the SA Correspondence School and the School of the Air. The mode of delivery has developed from 1920, with lessons posted to students, to today, with advanced technology connecting teachers and students in real time. Students can see classmates and teachers, talk, collaborate and receive immediate feedback from them. Students are also supported by email and subject/year level websites.
Primary Matters met with Courtney, via video conferencing, to gain her thoughts around the key points for successful remote learning. She outlined four key points that are important to consider in the current climate.
Communication is the key between all parties. It needs to be open, two-way and honest. It is important to understand that this can be in a variety of forms (phone, video, learning management system and email) and that daily communication is not necessarily the best practice. It needs to be suitable to the student’s context. As a minimum, once per week and the level of communication is not going to be at the same level as with students in the classroom.
Structure of the school day
There needs to be some consideration about how a school day will look at home. Schools are not set up so that students are in classrooms non-stop for 6–7 hours straight. There are administrative times, recess and lunch breaks, times to be mindful and to be focused upon work. A general school day is so much more than academic work, it is a chance to develop social skills, to be active, to create, to solve problems and to learn about the world. A school day at home should not just replicate the timings of how schools operate but reflect the needs of the learner. It may mean that students work solidly for a period in the morning, and the afternoon provides time for active play, construction, contribution to the household through chores or exercise.
Set reasonable expectations. Understand that students will take some time to adjust to new learning surroundings and these will change over time. Reassure parents that they don’t need to know all the answers and that students often struggle at school while learning and it is the support that it important. It is also important that parents don’t step in too early if they know the answers; students benefit greatly by sourcing solutions themselves. Communicate with the teacher if the student finds the learning so difficult that it is causing anxiety.
Relationships between parent and child, teacher and student, and parent and teacher are vital and remain strong. This is a challenging time and there is opportunity to further strengthen the relationship between home and school. Parents will witness their children learn, interact with classmates and teachers, and will see them in ways they may never have before.