Student Thoughts on Online Learning
Melissa 6.2 – I never would have thought that I would have to juggle completing my UCAS application, applying for Thai universities, working on my EPQ and preparing for admissions tests whilst being stuck at home, many miles away from Concord doing online learning in the middle of a global pandemic. It was quite difficult to get used to as the six-hour time difference meant that I would go to sleep very early in the morning (past midnight) and would wake up around midday. Wifi issues, OneNote syncing problems and lack of social interaction certainly didn’t help and have definitely driven me mad more than once. However, the staff are doing an incredible job of delivering online lessons through hybrid teaching and are always willing to help. Despite the pandemic, Concord has amazingly found a way to keep their systems in place like the weekly Saturday tests, admissions test mock exams and the discussion groups. Overall, I would prefer to physically be at Concord and be able to see all of my friends, but I’ve found that this is a great alternative. Hopefully, I will get to go back soon…
Below are some thoughts from other students undertaking online learning at Concord:
Tangtang 6.2 – “For me, online learning feels like I’m physically in Concord because the resources that our teachers give out are extremely useful and effective for Saturday tests.”
Bean 6.2 – “Overall, I would say that my online education has gone well so far. The teachers have been extremely caring and understanding for both the students’ education and well-being. Despite the lack of physical interaction, I am still able to receive helpful feedback and answers from my teachers. However, the major downside of online studying is being isolated from my friends and classmates, who are extremely important to me. I just miss everyone at Concord a lot and hope that I will be able to return soon.”
George 6.2 – “Even though I’m remote studying, more than 9000 km away from the college, the electronic systems and the hybrid lessons still make me feel that I am able to provide contributions to the group and enjoy the real classroom environment. I am also able to run the discussion group which is a real bonus for me! But despite being physically remote, I am sure that all those who have had attended online lessons will have got the most out of this carefully planned hybrid teaching exercise, during the first term.”
Klao F4 – “Online learning is a really good way of studying and could be the way forward for any future problems. Concord’s online learning works really well for me as it is like studying in class. I can participate and answer whenever I want without being embarrassed; if I get my answer incorrect only the teacher and the online students can hear. However, this way of learning isn’t the best for everyone, because some students can be easily distracted by their phones (I have to admit that I am guilty of doing so sometimes). Also, nobody can see whether you are trying to answer the question or not and the only thing you can do is to shout out your answer without knowing whether someone in class is already answering the question which could come across as being annoying and disrespectful to both the other students and the teacher. Ultimately, I still think that learning in the class is more effective, but online learning is a good and safe option.”
Online Learning in the New Term
While school has reopened and many of our classmates have gone back to campus, there are still some of us who chose to stay behind in our home country. Teachers need to cater for this by conducting hybrid teaching. Those of us still at home would have to attend lessons online using Teams whilst the others attend in person with social distancing measures in place. Being one of those who are not at school, I would like to share my experience of hybrid learning…
Interestingly, I found that when teachers have students attending classes in person, lessons go more smoothly, and they convey concepts more effectively as compared to last term when it was fully remote, understandably. What this means is that for this term, studying online may not be as disadvantageous as what many would first imagine. However, equally, when the lesson is better delivered, it is tough for me to stay focused throughout the whole school day. This is especially so in the evenings after a few hours of lessons, I would find my eyes extremely tired from staring at the screen which would lead to a struggle to concentrate. This is mitigated on the days when I have more free periods to take breaks in between lessons. Online classes from afternoon into the night also means no evening preparation for classes the next day. The adjustment of having to finish up my homework in the morning is challenging as I sometimes fail to allocate enough time to do so. This is now even more important since Saturday tests have resumed.
From school events like cross-country to silly insider jokes made by classmates, we are definitely missing out on some of the fun. As a Prefect, I am also unable to fulfil some of my duties since I am away. The pandemic has shortened our high school experience, making teenagers from all over the world lose out on many opportunities to grow and socialise in the ‘normal’ environment we know. However, our safety is most important, and we should make use of whatever tools we have to minimise any disruption to our studies until the pandemic threat subsides. This pandemic has brought many negative impacts to our world but also good learnings and innovations to the way we conduct our lives and adaptations to this new normal.
Amber – 6.2
My Remote Learning Experience
I feel that the college has done a fantastic job with the implementation and execution of remote learning, swiftly moving lessons from our normal classroom learning to the online lessons in such a short time.
Before the UK government even announced the closure of schools, the college has already anticipated it, and allowed us to return home to our families so that we would not be stuck away from our loved ones, in the UK. Currently, all of us are attending lessons from all over the world via Microsoft Teams in the comfort of our own homes, with emotional support from our family members. Online learning may be more draining and we have less time in class with our classmates and teachers, but I feel that the community spirit is still very much alive. There is still opportunity at the start of the lesson to talk to our classmates and teachers to find out how they are doing, even though we do not see each other’s faces. Lesson time may be shorter now than it used to be, such that there is not enough time to ask questions in class, but the teachers are available outside of lessons to respond to any queries we may have and explain it to us.
The school has also tried their best to cater to our needs. If our internet is giving any problems and we cannot attend class, lessons are recorded. Time differences? Lessons are shortened to cater to the students in different time-zones so that we will not need to stay up too late for school. I think that while remote learning may not be as effective as classroom learning personally, it is the best we can do for now given the global situation and I think all of us are very fortunate to be in this school, with all our teachers and friends having access to the technology needed for lessons to carry on as per normal, especially when not everyone else can.
Amber – 6.1
Concord’s Sixth Form students have been reflecting on the start of a new term, returning home and undergoing a remote learning programme – a first experience for many students and staff.
“I believe that our school is very successful in providing us with online learning and teaching. We have the opportunity to continue with our studies as usual. As all of our teachers were given highly technological equipment, thereby allowing the lessons to take place; we continue to participate in class discussions and receive homework. When teachers mark our work, we can see all the detailed feedback written beside our answers. If students have struggles with some topics and there is no time to go through them in class, fortunately, a separate meeting can be arranged. One of the most important features is that the lessons are recorded, so any student who has troubles with internet connection may watch the lessons later. Nonetheless, it is often helpful to watch the explanations again. Even though, using the screen for the whole day might be ‘tiring’, there is no other possibility to keep the same high standards of receiving education at the current world situation, so we are highly privileged.”
“First of all, I would like to say thank you to all of the staff who have been working hard and looking after me and other students since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. Overall, I would say that online learning has been going well so far. The teachers have been extremely caring and understanding during the current situation, about both the students’ academic aspect and the well-being. Hence, even though there exists the lack of physical classes and direct interactions, I am still able to receive helpful feedback and answers from my teachers, which have been playing a main role in my revision for the upcoming exams. However, the major downside of online studying has been the isolation from my classmates whom I miss greatly. As each class only lasts 30 minutes, there is nearly no time for communication nor simple greetings between each other. I just miss everyone at Concord a lot.”
“Even though many Concord students are privileged enough to be familiar with the technology used in online learning, the transition from traditional classroom learning to online learning has still been tough for many of us. While things like time differences and IT errors are certainly barriers to learning, I personally feel the biggest barrier has been the lack of ‘physical’ engagement between peers and teachers. Meeting my friends and teachers virtually is more than satisfactory to fulfil my academic requirements but nothing can parallel the levels of engagement found in a Concord classroom. Nevertheless, the Concord spirit of always putting you’re 100% into everything still can be felt through the screen, whether it be our teachers marking our essays at lightning speed or classmates enthusiastically asking questions. The Concord Community might be physically separate but is still virtually supporting each other and growing!”
“For me, the main benefit of being able to return home is to be close once again with family. College life is fun, but it reminds you that you do leave a part of you – family – behind, along the way.
“I also get more time to pursue other non-academic interests. I can practice music much more now – the instruments are just a few metres away, and I don’t get noise complaints!
“However, I find it difficult academically. There are so many distractions at home that diverts my attention, so it is not straightforward to do work both with the school and independently. I, with regret but without hesitation, admit that my academic standards have certainly dropped, but am trying to get it back on track.”
“For all 6.1 and 6.2, the spring is tagged with “AS” and “A-level”. While everyone was busy being nervous and excited, no one saw this coming. This situation happening worldwide does change a lot of things. Three more months of busy school life is replaced by a special “vacation”, a vacation that we have our people all around the world as usual, surprisingly, this time, it is not wanted. Despite us saying how “exhausting” school can be, the truth is that everyone, every single one of us, misses it, the most. We cry, we smile, we watch the coach driving the people away, people who we even are wishing to spend every second with, or “were”.
“Life goes on. Online teaching comes along. As do the concerns about it: the effectiveness of itself, considering it needs to connect people from literally the whole world; the effectiveness of students, thinking about how interesting it can be when only one person and one page on a laptop is involved. But while people are getting familiar with this only option, the truth turns out to be quite surprising…
“In terms of teaching itself, we have certain study time guaranteed, and with teachers’ questions that might be popping out of the screen at any time, honestly speaking, it could be technically difficult not to focus. Also, we are all tightened up for the revision at this stage, laptop on, work as a class, laptop off, self-study followed. This few hours can be really effective if we just simply understand our priority. After all, face to face teaching or not, it all comes down to people’s own choices. What this new way provides us with includes class materials and studying but is not limited to it. Every greeting at tutor time, every small talk during classes can bind us closely together. We are saying good morning at both sunrise and sunset. We are giving and given caring to and from all over the world. For 6.1s, it stands for every sense of normality; for the 6.2s, it just seems like every second we spend could be a back count, which makes it even more valuable. We are grateful. Online teaching, it’s not perfect. But we see obstacles taken down one by one, and we have teachers, technicians, and all people behind it to thank for.
“Life goes on. This is what we want the most, what the whole world wants the most. No one wants any of this to happen. It is a challenge for everyone. But guess what, we don’t back off. We, proudly as the future scientists, economists, doctors, artists, lawyers, historians…, don’t back off, we choose to stand up and face it, we choose to be grateful instead of complaining, we choose to make things better even when it may not be.
“We are under the same sky; the whole world is in this together. And we hope everyone in our second home are all safe and well!”
“As a student who actively seeks out libraries or classrooms to work in, it is challenging balancing activities such as studying, sleeping and eating all in the same room. This, I believe, is due to the different environment or mood in which the place gives off. Classrooms and libraries have purpose and are intended to be utilised for studying, which creates an atmosphere that encourages focus and concentration. As a boarding student I finish the work that I have to do in a library or classroom before heading to my room to relax. Personally, bedrooms tend to be used as a means of relaxation after a rigorous day at school.
“In light of recent events, online schooling has been forcing students all around the globe to work in their rooms. Which has been useful in order to continue our education however, it has also introduced an unexpected obstacle in our path. It has been a struggle to get the proper motivation to study and focus when our bed is just inches away…. I am sure this won’t apply to every student especially those who have study rooms or are used to studying in their room, but this is what I am currently facing and have found ways around this. For example, my sister and I occasionally switch rooms in order to study in a different environment. Overall it has been challenging but we must remain rigorous.”
“The way in which online learning has affected me has been very positive. With lessons reduced to 30 minutes long, I am actually able to concentrate more and make the most out of every minute. Whilst some students make hand-written notes, I usually prefer to make notes and do my work electronically anyway so everything becoming digitalized has been beneficial for me. Although distance learning may have increased communication difficulties, I am still able to ask questions both during lesson time and after school, as well as to get feedback on my homework. I also like the fact that all lessons are recorded, which allows me to review certain sections at a later time. Overall, I would say that I feel extremely privileged to be at Concord, where the outbreak of this global pandemic has had little negative impacts on my learning.”
“Online teaching at Concord started as soon as people were allowed to leave for home. This was on March 16th. Some of my classmates were still attending classes back at Concord whilst I was already having to self-isolate for 14 days at home, away from my parents. The classes felt the same but different. Teachers got to grips with the “Microsoft Teams” software quite quickly and the school life continued, even though from home, for me.
“I am currently studying for my final examinations with great help from all my teachers that does not seem any different than it was when I was back at Concord.”
“After hurdling successfully over the first obstacle – sending international students safely back home in the midst of a chaotic outbreak – Concord College faced a new challenge: educating their students scattered across the globe. Fortunately, the Concord community thrives in challenges! Although online lessons proved their own difficulties, we were able to adjust to these differences – teacher-student interactions and time differences, to name a few. The most important thing that I learnt during this time was to be thankful for the technology available to us, and, of course, for the helpful, patient, and supportive staff who are committed to keep us educated! A very big thank you goes to all teachers, to the IT staff, and to the management team for making all the right decisions in this difficult time.”
“In this difficult situation, when everyone is in different parts of the world trying to educate themselves, online education is our only way to keep up with the syllabus. Of course, it is far from perfect. First of all, time difference. Our college as an international institution has students all around the world. Online lessons run in UK time, so for some students school ends at 10pm or even 11pm, which may not be counted as a significant problem regarding the compulsory quarantine regime. Secondly, poor connection and technological issues. In my country that happens mostly because all the pupils, students and employees are using internet at roughly the same time to study/work from home. This especially relates to my house where besides me there are 5 more family members using our Wi-Fi for their studies and work. And the last, the most important disadvantage as for me is that there is no face-to-face communication. It is much harder to follow the teacher without eye contact, without 100 percent confidence that if you ask something, you will be heard and given an answer immediately. Fortunately, we’d almost finished the syllabus when we were told to fly back to our home countries in view of the virus, so we hadn’t had a lot of new topics to cover.”