E-Learning: A Rapid Learning Curve for Wellington College China
In light of the Chinese government’s call for “stopping school without stopping learning; delaying school without delaying teaching,” schools across the country have had to quickly coordinate online lessons and e-learning activities for pupils. Wellington College China’s schools were no exception, as our management, information technology, teaching, and non-teaching staff have all been working to provide inspiring and engaging e-learning classes to our pupils.
The phrase ‘e-learning’ is sometimes lauded as a gimmicky ‘buzzword’ or passing trend, rather than a legitimate method of learning. Academics have long been advocating for the use of e-learning in everyday teaching, but only recently have numerous schools’ experiences of taking the classroom ‘online’ made us realise that e-learning is no longer a buzzword or trend, but a necessity. This mass move to teaching classes online has posed new challenges to the education sector in China, and now also many other parts of the world too.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of e-learning. One of the major advantages of e-learning is that it allows learners to study at any time, anywhere; a device in hand is all it takes for a pupil to attend a class. With e-learning, classes are no longer subject to time and/or regional restrictions. Since online learning first arrived in the education sector, its technology, philosophy, and pedagogy have undergone very big changes. Online learning has transformed from basic knowledge transmission through static webpages, to inspiring learning through mutual interaction. Change has been swift and significant.
By using these AI-based E-learning technologies as we are able to now, pupils can refine their language skills by chatting with an AI bot, or receive personalised maths guidance from a digital ‘tutor’ – the possibilities are endless.
E-learning is gradually shaping the way the world perceives education and educational opportunities. However, there are also significant downsides to this, especially around the increase in screen time, associated with physical inactivity and eyestrain, among many concerns. E-learning simple doesn’t engage all children either and it lacks human contact, which is essential not just as a human being but in terms of the quality of education and learning. E-learning of course also depends on a good quality internet connection which not all families have. Finally, with AI-driven platforms specifically there is a question over security, as it is gathers audio, visual and even biometric data to make it more accurate. More regulation is needed in this area.
E-learning requires several key elements for it to function efficiently. The first clearly, is strong IT support. Matt Lind, Director of Information Technology, noted that Wellington College China has been using Microsoft’s education solution to aid teaching for some time. This fortunately gave teachers immediate access to a comprehensive toolset to deliver an effective online learning experience, which saw a smooth transition to online learning when it suddenly became necessary in February this year.
One you have the platform, teachers must also be informed about how it works and how to adapt their teaching to use it effectively. Despite the latest e-learning technologies allowing for online classes to resemble their real-life counterparts as much as they can, e-learning and classroom learning environments are ultimately very different. When all teaching is carried out through a screen, teachers must have a good understanding of how they can use e-learning resources to maximise learning for pupils. As online education takes place in separate locations, one of the challenges educators face is monitoring their pupils’ progress. Current circumstances are sure to drive innovation in this area!
Finally, and fundamentally, pupils themselves must adapt, as e-learning requires a greater degree of self-motivation. When working from home, pupils are likely to miss the daily personal interactions they had with their friends at school. Working alone from home requires so much more self-discipline than working together with peers in school. In this regard, parental support for children is crucial to help them focus at home, which is also a challenge when parents are expected to continue their employment at the same time. Self-motivation and the ability to learn independently is developed over time. It may take a while for children to fully master, but current circumstances to present the opportunity to develop these skills which could be of great long term benefit.
At Wellington College China, we are glad that our pupils have shown a willingness and adapt and have shown the ability to overcome the challenges that learning independently from home present. This eagerness to learn and explore new things is representative of the values we hope to cultivate in our pupils.
Wellington College China