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Online Learning Is Good College Prep

By Anne Keeling

Online learning is an increasingly fundamental part of higher education and the workplace. As a result, schools are beginning to recognize its importance as part of the curriculum. International schools in particular are helping to lead the way, with a growing number embracing this new approach to learning and teaching.
The benefits of online learning
Online learning benefits both students and schools. It offers opportunities for students to develop valuable technology and self-management skills in preparation for independent learning at university and in the world of work. It offers schools the chance to provide an expanded range of subject options, which, for many smaller or newer international schools can be one of their most challenging issues. And it moves the school towards providing a more blended approach to learning; combining traditional face-to-face classroom teaching with virtual learning, and in so doing, responding to the learning needs and preferences of today’s digital-age students.
Online learning with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program
The International Baccalaureate has been responding to this move for the past five years; offering an increasingly extensive range of online subject courses for its Diploma Program (IBDP) students (those aged 16-18). These are all delivered by online course provider Pamoja Education, which has created courses to ensure students are able to communicate effectively and fully engage in their IBDP subject learning through a range of innovative online tools.
Students in participating schools can choose to take one or more of their IBDP subjects in a virtual classroom for the entire two-year period of study. They learn in small cohorts, working alongside online classmates, who are based in other schools around the world.
Their teachers are qualified, experienced IB subject teachers fully trained in online pedagogy, who guide the students throughout their course using a range of e-learning approaches. These include live online lessons, which allow students synchronous time with their teacher and classmates; weekly assignments, including online class discussions and blog entries; and learning activities that students work on either alone, with their classmates, or with their teachers.
The students have structured yet flexible learning weeks, meaning that they have a weekly learning schedule to complete but which can be undertaken at a time and place that best suits each individual.
Growth and success of IB online learning
Interest in the IBDP online course options is growing significantly based on student and school success. In the May 2013 IBDP examinations, 83.5 percent of online students achieved a grade 4 or above, comparing very favorably with 78.5 percent for all IBDP students.
This academic year, 1,400 students from over 300 schools have been participating in IBDP subject courses. Tana Monk is one of them. Tana is a first-year IBDP student studying two courses online; Business and Management and Economics, through Yokohama International School in Japan.
“I was expecting the IB [Diploma] to be really difficult, and that doing it online would make it even harder,” she says. “But once I dove into the course and got familiar with the site, I found that it was really easy and organized. Pamoja Education’s program has a lot of tools that help you to communicate with your classmates and with your teacher. So whenever you need help or advice, you can contact them and they’ll get back with you right away and help you as much as they can. I also like how the lessons are set up, because you can go at your own pace as long as you get everything done by the end of the week.”
Tana says being in a genuinely global classroom has helped to give her a more international view of the subjects she is studying. “I get to see the world from many different cultural perspectives, meet different people and even make friends,” she says.
Online learning - preparation for university
So how is the online learning experience helping IBDP students prepare for university? Former student, María Fernández-Martos Balson, who studied IB Mathematics Higher Level online and is currently an Engineering student at the University of Cambridge in England, says: “I do think that the online course benefited my application; it shows that I can adapt to a new learning environment quickly, and that I am a proactive learner. The online Mathematics HL course has prepared me for university in ways that a traditional course cannot, both in terms of the quality of the teaching, and of the time management skills that I developed during the course."
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