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Framework for Online Teaching & Learning - At a Glance

The following framework has been developed to guide online learning in the 2020-2021 school year. This is intended to serve as a framework to increase articulation across PK-12 and reduce variability students could encounter. Our work continues to evolve based on a review of the current research, examples from other international schools, feedback we have received, as well as the lessons we learned during the closing months of the 2019-2020 school year.

Our online learning framework is built around a set of key components:

  • We embrace both asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences

  • These learning experiences are balanced and flexible.

  • An important factor to the success of these learning experiences is the use of Learning Platforms (LPs).

  • An effective LP helps teachers organize learning experiences, collaborate, and maximize instructional delivery through online modules.

Asynchronous learning experiences are recommended for new learning. This typically involves teachers recording videos or other online presentations to introduce new learning targets, share why this learning experience is important, share how this learning experience is aligned with previous and future learning, and to review what is expected of the learner. An advantage of using recorded sessions is that students (and parents) would be able to access these videos whenever and as often as they needed for reminders, review, and clarifications. Teachers would also use asynchronous experiences to review what has been included in the LPs, recommend how students might best approach their learning, and provide whole-group feedback to preaddress common misconceptions.

Synchronous learning opportunities, which occur in real-time, are recommended for building relationships, expanding on previous learning, reviewing material, providing feedback, differentiation, and personalization. Teachers organize synchronous opportunities for collaborative learning experiences such as ongoing strategy work, partner work, small group discussion teams, teacher-led groups, conferring, feedback, advisory, community building, etc. Teachers would also use these opportunities for celebrations of learning and student recognition.

In the past, AISJ has employed a wide range of digital tools to support teaching and learning. The choice of digital tools is varied and continually evolves, informed by our understanding of teaching and learning, the developmental level of the students, and the features offered by the platforms and tools. None of these tools were specifically chosen for online learning experiences.

In 2020-2021 we will use unifying Learning Platforms to serve as a “one-stop shop” where students and parents have access to most course materials, school messages, calendars, as well as embedded mechanisms to contact teachers, counselors, and administrators. 

Our community will use existing LPs, i.e. SeeSaw and Google Classroom, which we will continue to adapt, as well as Schoology which will be implemented in grades 6-12. These platforms will be used to share materials and resources students would likely need to learn, interact, engage, and create new content. This could include background information, additional readings, resources, webinars, and teacher-recorded videos. Teachers would also include step-by-step instructions to complete activities, explorations, writings, events, labs, investigations, etc.

A well-rounded online learning program should include both asynchronous and synchronous experiences. There may be assumptions that synchronous learning is more advantageous than asynchronous learning. However, both are very effective approaches to online instruction, serve different purposes, and are used for different reasons. In combination, both contribute to a strong online learning program. While we are certain of this, we recognize that no one has a perfect formula for how much of each works best for every student in every situation. Teachers would use both asynchronous and synchronous approaches to help students address gaps in their prior knowledge, reach mastery, and provide extension opportunities. 

We recognize that at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, we would need to take advantage of the opportunities synchronous learning experiences provide to build new relationships, establish new routines, and help students launch into their new courses. Our increased use of synchronous learning experiences would also assist students, whose families have not been able to travel to South Africa, assimilate into their new classes. 

We have to remain flexible and make adjustments based on our learning goals, the needs of our students, the complexity of the material, as well as time zone considerations. Students should also have options to select from to allow for greater autonomy and self-direction.

Modules are multi-day experiences our students undertake to advance their learning. The modules will be introduced by teachers, supplemented in the LPs, and supported by asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences.

Each module would open with teachers introducing new content, highlighting the importance of this particular module, explaining why this module is important to explore, and what students should “take-away” from the experience. Teachers, in an age-appropriate manner, could also provide a synopsis of the resources that have been included in the LPs, recommendations for how students could start to tackle the new learning experiences, where to find step-by-step directions, and how students will be grouped during follow-up conversations.

Additional days in the module would be used for synchronous and collaborative learning opportunities. Collaborative learning experiences will be organized in multiple ways to differentiate and personalize student opportunities, for the teacher to work with purpose-built groups of students, as well as allow teachers to assess learning and provide verbal feedback to advance student learning. 

Our framework is not intended to remain stagnant; we will continue to evolve as we learn.