27th March 20
As schools were preparing for shutdown during this strange and uncertain time that we are currently in, lots of planning and preparation was going on behind the scenes to ensure that even if it’s not a case of “lessons as normal” we can certainly ensure “learning as normal”.
Using Microsoft Teams, all of the students here at Abbey College Manchester are following their normal timetables from wherever they may find themselves around the globe. The school shutdown has not stopped our staff from engaging with their students nor the students with their learning. Teams allows teachers to upload materials, message their classes, video call groups and ensure that, so far as is possible, students are on task and focussed on their studies.
With a large percentage of international students, many of whom were able to find flights at the last minute, teachers know where in the world their students are, which time zone they are in and whether or not they should be online at the time of the lesson. If any students are “absent”, then the international and student services teams are on hand to chase up and call students to find out why they have missed a lesson.
So far the engagement and attendance have been very good and the ease with which Teams can be used has helped even the least confident users to become experts at distance learning.
Some international students were unable to get home as their countries had already closed their borders. These students are still in their boarding or accommodation, being expertly looked after and cared for by the boarding team.
But it’s not just about the academic subjects. All of the form tutors have created “form teams” and are checking in with their students on a daily basis. We are also currently providing wellbeing support for all students to help them through this rather strange, new experience and to help them to process their emotions and be as calm, focussed and happy as possible.
We may be witnessing a short-term solution to a global pandemic and we may also be having a little glimpse into how these new technologies can further support learning in the future.