Sharing our learnings from Covid-19

Andy Hancock, Cognita’s Director of Education, Asia, discusses how our schools there have successfully implemented remote teaching and online teaching. 

The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb is a book I return to often. Taleb’s ‘black swan’ concept refers to the impact that rare and unpredictable events have on society and our tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. Our colleagues in Asia have been challenged this academic year by a few ‘black swans’, like civil unrest in Hong Kong and mandatory school closures due to Covid-19. I have been impressed by our colleagues’ collective response, adapting to the unfolding situation on an ongoing basis. Drawing on the experience of our Asia colleagues, I would like to share some of the lessons we’ve learned on how to deliver an exceptional virtual learning experience amid these challenging circumstances.

  1. Online learning has its limits. Remember the cognitive load of online tasks is very different from classroom tasks. Balance online and offline work – clearly the age of students will directly affect their experience and there is no ‘one way’ to do online learning.
  2. Instil a routine. Parents, students and teachers operate better under regular schedules. Schools that have employed a schedule (or cadence to the day) for their virtual programmes report that the students and parents experience less stress and anxiety.
  3. Wellbeing has never been more important. Morale will inevitably wax and wane during the changed programme – for students, parents and staff alike. Finding appropriate ways to check in will help minimise uncertainty. This can be as simple as daily check-in conversations to see how people are coping or organising wellness or fun events like yoga, dance-offs or potluck.
  4. Communication matters. Communicating regularly with everyone in the school community about what you’re doing and why makes a big difference to how people feel. Clearly communicating the expectations of students in virtual learning scenarios is also quite critical.
  5. Look out for your parents. In the ‘black swan’ of a prolonged school closure, parents can feel they’ve become their child’s ‘de facto teacher’. Find ways to support them, linking to resources or simply involving them in a group call to clearly explain lessons and expectations.
  6. Create a feedback loop. This is new territory for everyone involved. Short, concise surveys asking parents and students about their experience – and then acting on the data – have helped our schools keep improving.
  7. Keep it human. Perhaps the most important lesson of all: technology is key to this ‘black swan’ response, but it is not everything. From tasks with an interactive element to informal selfie videos by teachers – injecting a sense of humanity reaps benefits.

Collaboration and sharing are at the heart of what we’re building in Cognita. I have been inspired by the resilience, flexibility, creativity and kindness of my colleagues here in Asia over recent weeks. It is an honour to pass these learnings on.

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MAR 20   /  
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