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Private schools & distance learning in 2022: opportunities & challenges


Lumin staff


Apr 15, 2024



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5 mins

Private schools & distance learning in 2022: opportunities & challenges

Distance learning has been around for years, but it's had a steep rise in popularity over the past few years. How do we make it work?

The breakdown:

  • 1. The embrace of different learning styles

  • 2. No more commutes or long days

  • 3. A wider range of classes

  • 4. Literacy in the information age

  • 5. Greater engagement

  • 6. Chance to use bespoke teaching solutions

  • 7. A chance for familial support

  • 8. The drawbacks

  • 1. The embrace of different learning styles
  • 2. No more commutes or long days
  • 3. A wider range of classes
  • 4. Literacy in the information age
  • 5. Greater engagement
  • 6. Chance to use bespoke teaching solutions
  • 7. A chance for familial support
  • 8. The drawbacks

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It's not strange for an adult to do distance learning. But since 2020 it's become normal for children to do the same.

The capabilities have been around for a while: school curricula are often stored online, and homework submissions were happening online before the pandemic hit. A few children - generally those with physical or behavioural issues who didn't fit in a traditional setting were learning from home before 2020, but for most in-person learning was normal practice.

While children have gone back to school after various lockdowns, distance learning hasn't yet receded to its pre-pandemic levels. For many students and parents, the opportunity to learn from home was beneficial. And for many others, bringing the digital solutions used during the lockdown periods into every day life could be an advantage.

We're looking at this topic from the perspective of private schooling.

Private schools are often able to test new ideas and react to new information more quickly, so they're best placed to offer more cutting-edge solutions over government schools, which tend to stick to well tried-and-tested techniques. Here are 7 ways distance learning has been tested and improved over the pandemic:

The embrace of different learning styles

It seems ludicrous now, but not so long ago teachers were still encouraging left handed students to write with their right hand. There was no thought to different styles of learning.

We've come a long way since the days of forcible right-handed rule, but until distance learning took off many children were still being molded to fit standard practices.

  • Now teachers are able to easily use and share multimodal materials, catering to audio or visual learners.
  • For students that take longer to complete work or need more time to think, teachers are no longer constrained by needing a piece of work by the end of a lesson.
  • And if a child is disruptive or needs more one-on-one attention, the online classroom environment can be moderated to ensure the best outcome for everyone.

No more commutes or long days

While government schools are comprised of students who live in the local area, private schools take students from far and wide. This means some students may end up travelling for hours each day. Distance learning has been great for these students, as they can spend more time with their family, on their hobbies, and of course, sleeping – young minds need much more rest than us old folk.

Distance learning can also bring greater flexibility to schoolwork. While most schools run somewhere within the 8.30am–4.30pm bracket, it’s well known that for senior students with changing sleep patterns, later classes are more beneficial. With online learning, students can be given a task to complete when they are mentally ready.

A wider range of classes

Distance learning opens up potential for classes that may not be feasible in regular circumstances. There is often disappointment for students who want to take a language or other special interest class only to find that there aren’t enough students to support the class, or there isn’t a teacher who can provide the specialized instruction.

In the past a lucky student could work out an arrangement with a neighboring school, but with distance learning opportunities they can join a remote class with others interested in the same subject, all from different schools.

And if a specialized teacher is needed, private schools can cast a much wider net when looking for candidates.

Literacy in the information age

Schools on the cutting edge of learning are, by now, well aware of the need for both media and technological literacy. Digital learning presents a fantastic opportunity to teach students how to determine if a source is credible, how to use Google Scholar, and how to adapt to new systems.

Distance learning students have a world of knowledge at their fingertips, and private schools can be the gloves they wear while learning to sift through it safely.

Greater engagement

Some research has shown that students are more receptive to new information and can better retain it when working online. Whether this is just because of the novelty of it all remains to be seen; however, teachers are able to use more resources to keep children engaged and motivated.

As well as multimedia, simple things like online polls can be used to gauge whether students have understood the information or not. It also allows for anonymous questions and feedback, which might make class interaction easier for shy kids.

Chance to use bespoke teaching solutions

As stated above, private schools are often both better resourced and more responsive. This is the perfect opportunity for schools to explore new learning solutions.

For students, this could be a fantastic opportunity to learn how to use the digital tools they'll need in the working world, like Google Workspace, SketchUp, or Lumin.

For teachers, digital tools could automate a lot of behind-the-scenes admin. There's software out there to track student progress and attendance, mark and file assignments, and bulk-send permission slips.

A chance for familial support

Often, parental engagement can lift a student's results. If families are going over homework together or parents are developing an interest in classes, this could mean a student has the support needed to boost their grades.

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The drawbacks

It's not all rainbows and sunshine. While distance learning is a huge technological leap forward, and there are absolutely advantages for children with special needs, there are drawbacks to moving classrooms online.

No face-to-face: while distance learning can help people to develop in a lot of ways, the lack of face to face interaction with teachers and fellow students can cause problems in the development of social skills. Learning to control certain behaviours is a large part of education from a young age, and is still best done in a physical setting. 

No hands-on substitute: art, handwriting, physical education; all these subjects have a hands on element that can’t yet be replicated in an online environment. And it shouldn't be! There are some things that are best done without a screen.

Boredom: while some children are able to learn independently, others simply aren't. They may suffer from a lack of discipline, ambition or focus; or they just need more teacher assistance. Teachers aren't just lecturers, they're also motivators. While it's possible to share screens and have one-on-one tutorials virtually, for many learners it won't be the same.

Connection difficulties: in all honesty, children at private schools are unlikely to have this problem. But technical difficulties can affect all of us, and an ongoing internet connection could disrupt a child's learning.

Mental and physical health: while some children may thrive under their own steam, others could feel the effects of social isolation and may not get the exercise they once did on campus. These can have profound effects on the wellbeing of children and teenagers and steps should be taken to ensure your children are talking to people in real life and getting all the vitamin D they need.

It's been a chaotic few years, both inside and outside the classroom. We've seen the opportunities distance learning can give children, as well as some negatives that need to be explored in greater depth. Private schools have the resources and flexibility to explore these challenges and forge a better way forward, and we can't wait to see what comes out of the next few years.

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