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Online Learning: The Real Global Classroom

By Anne Keeling & Dennis Stanworth

11/05/2014

Online Learning: The Real Global Classroom
An increasing number of international schools are offering online learning as a way of expanding subject options for senior students, as well as providing them with digital learning experiences that are preparing them well for the study approaches of university.

At one of the very oldest international schools in the world - Yokohama International School (YIS) in Japan - students are looking to one of the very newest ways of learning. They are being given the chance to study a subject online as part of their studies with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).

Dennis Stanworth is the Head of Academics at the school. He talks about the impact of online learning on the students at YIS:

In 2008, we started looking at ways to extend choice for our students within the IBDP. Selecting an online provider that really valued the student learning experience and was able to deliver IBDP courses utilising trained IBDP experienced teachers, was very important to us. This gave us the opportunity to broaden the choice of IBDP subjects that we could not otherwise have been able to offer to our students due to the fact we didn’t have the teachers to teach them at the time; Film, Business Management and Psychology in particular all became of great interest to some of our students.
Spanish at both Higher Level and Standard Level has been a face to face language option for our IBDP students for many years, but to extend options in Mandarin and Spanish both at the Ab Initio level has become a real benefit for some of our students in terms of choice and flexibility.

The online learning experience

In 2010 our first cohort of ‘online’ students took Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) as part of their Diploma Programme. For those students, it meant they were studying the entire ITGS course with an online teacher, in a virtual classroom, alongside a group of online classmates who were based in schools around the world.

There is no typical day for online learners as the nature of studying online means that the students have the opportunity to do their work wherever and whenever it best suits them. The school schedules three study sessions every week for its online students, one of which is supervised in the classroom. This is the time when the site-based coordinator (SBC) checks in with students to make sure they are on track and supports them should challenges arise involving the communication with their online teacher or the adaptation to the technology. During the other non-supervised times, students are entrusted to meet the requirements of their online courses in the way that best suits them.

Some students use their in-school study halls to complete their homework from their face-to-face courses so they can work on their online course at home. Other use their study hall time to actually complete their online coursework so they don’t have to do it at home. During the school day on campus, these students may choose a quiet spot in the library, a work room or decide to work at a picnic table in the sunshine rather than in a classroom. It’s what best develops their self-efficacy.

Each student can be working on his or her course in a variety of ways; for some, interacting virtually with other students in other parts of the world at the same time has been seen as a contributor to the expansion and further development of their collaborative and communication skills, for others, the asynchronous learning, together with the student-centred approach have been considered effective.

The feedback to the online learning experience, from both our students and parents, has, by and large, been favorably positive. It gives our students an opportunity to study outside the classroom, where the classroom walls are non-existent and the context is truly global. This chance to learn together with other students across the world gives them global awareness and connectivity that are perhaps less common in the traditional classroom.

The process of learning online

IBDP online courses are not simply a case of providing access to subject course content digitally. They involve the students being supported throughout the learning process. Pamoja Education, which provides all the IBDP online subject courses, has developed a structure for students to be supported, offering a range of online learning approaches that the students can use.

The online approach to learning doesn’t compromise or sacrifice human contact. Indeed, there are still people at either end of the technology and the human element is very much present throughout each course. For IBDP students, online learning is more about using a different set of tools to learn and communicate, supported through the process by their online course teacher and site-based coordinator, both working closely with the students to make sure the learning takes place.

A big part of this support involves helping students to develop their skills as independent learners; to become better time managers with improved organisational skills, because if they don’t have these skills the whole online course becomes extremely challenging for them. To begin with, most students struggle with these skills, but they improve significantly with practice and the appropriate support. Having these skills will undoubtedly assist in the student’s learning process both at university and in the workplace.

Preparing for learning beyond school

As a preparatory school for higher education, it is very important that our students leave us with the preparedness to embark on a path which leads to success. It isn’t hard to imagine a future in which online learning were either a prerequisite to, or a regular part of, a university education.

Providing the option of taking courses online is one way we encourage the development of the digital communication and collaboration skills that we expect tertiary institutions to demand of our graduates. It's a kind of technological fluency we believe will serve our students well in the future.


Dennis Stanworth is Head of Academics at Yokohama International School in Japan. YIS is the second oldest international school in the world (to have international in the school’s title). It opened its doors on October 27th 1924, almost a year after the Great Kanto Earthquake, with an intake of 6 students. YIS now has some 630 students K-12 representing over 50 different nationalities with a faculty spread across 15 nationalities.

For more information about IBDP online learning contact Pamoja Education at www.pamojaeducation.com




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