My experience with online education comes exclusively from a crash course over the past four weeks—moving an entire school into the virtual world for the start of our second semester. So I profess not broad expertise, but rather since many others around the world now face similar challenges, I wish to share some lessons learned, from the perspective of a novice, and from having undertaken this endeavor in a period of profound uncertainty. A few simple Google searches can reveal a wealth of further insights on platforms and strategies developed by veteran practitioners; all of this relates to synchronous learning in an international secondary school.
My broadest concerns have involved student well-being and faculty morale, since in China most everyone had already endured a few weeks of self-isolation during the New Year holiday before a return to classes. Everyone will need to adapt to the unique circumstances in their own locale.
I understand the urgency of practical tips and specifics, though I must also stress the bigger picture:
I’ve constantly questioned what does or doesn’t translate well from in-person to online. Some areas require much more adaptation (like physical education) than others. I would encourage as much as possible that you sidestep frustration: when able, look to innovation or alternatives and, if that’s not viable, move on to what you can do rather than becoming overly discouraged by what you can’t. It’s not going to be anything like a perfect one-for-one match with what you’re used to (nor should it).
Flexibility will be the byword of your own experiment, though I must also extol the importance of structure—creating something durable that gives shape to days and weeks.
What’s lost, what’s gained—final thoughts
Overall, as overwhelming as the first few weeks of this have been, I’ve been amazed by how well our experiment has gone. Take missteps in stride and try to keep the big picture in mind.
I wish everyone the best of luck, and indeed moments of good humor along the way, while hoping that good health, physical and mental, will endure in your communities. I also happily acknowledge that everything I’ve mentioned has been possible because of our amazing leadership team, our adaptable students, and our supportive parents—far more so than any individual role I may have played. I’ve never been prouder of our school.
As you may have heard in tributes to Wuhan, 加油, jiayou—literally, “add oil,” or more colloquially, keep going, stay strong, you can do it!
—Christopher Moses, 8 March 2020