The impact of the Coronavirus worldwide is the first time a crisis of this nature has been felt in the digital age. But for International Schools, increased uncertainty around social, political and environmental change has been a very real concern for some time, with schools recognising that online provision must form a crucial part of business continuity plans.
Over recent weeks, as schools have moved to online teaching and learning, technology has provided a crucial safety net. Platforms like Google & O365 have offered quick ways to deliver a transactional model of assigning and taking in work. With such platforms, schools have been able to maintain a basic workflow. For older students, with exams looming, these platforms have enabled a practical dialogue between them and their teachers at this important time.
The experience however has raised questions, around how online provision can support a school’s wider purpose and remit.
As we all know – and as we have been starkly reminded in recent weeks – school is much more than a transactional learning environment. In “normal times” school is a rich experience. School provides teachers and students with social interaction, structure to their day, personal support from their peers, cultural richness and a living, breathing school community that brings together staff, students, parents and many other stakeholders. It also draws a safeguarding net around students that we often take for granted.
What we have seen, from the experience of recent weeks, is that remote schooling can mean the loss of these fundamental aspects of school life. Already schools have noticed a drop in student engagement (evidenced in increasingly desperate calls for students to engage) and the sense of isolation felt by many teachers has been a concern. Ok, so school communities may not quite have crumbled into Lord of the Flies territory – but some have become slightly untidy meadows, rather than the welltended gardens they were just a few weeks ago.
At such times, there are clear business implications for International Schools. Moreover, teacher and student wellbeing can fall victim to this loss of routine, interpersonal contact and peer support. To keep the school community happy and engaged, it is vital that online provision moves beyond transactional workflows and looks to a “virtual school” model that genuinely brings the whole school online in exceptional times.
After all we have been through, it is inevitable that schols will start to look beyond simple transactional work setting tools as a way to prepare for school closure. Platforms like Frog have proved their value throughout this crisis. As well as bringing teaching and learning fully online – which will always be an important part of online school provision – such platforms put the whole school in the cloud. Pastoral support, rich conversations across the school community, opportunities to socialise and wider cultural experiences all mean that a school will live, breathe and thrive, even when the school is closed.
Learn more about Frog's Virtual School platform.