New to online learning? Experts from the UCT Online High School share top tips

"In any school setting, support is vital to help students fulfil their full potential. With online schooling, however, that need is even higher". (Getty Images)
"In any school setting, support is vital to help students fulfil their full potential. With online schooling, however, that need is even higher". (Getty Images)

Online learning has become a regular feature of education locally and abroad. According to one international study, educators believe online learning is to become "embedded in education in the future".

Thanks to the pandemic, the shift to online learning has seen more schools catering to pupils locally, like the UCT Online High School, which was created on the premise that online platforms for learning could broaden access to education. 

The online school was launched earlier this year in partnership with education technology company Valenture Institute. Recently, Sanlam came on board, sponsoring 90 pupils' tuition fees for the duration of their high school careers. 

"We see these scholarships as a practical way of having an impact in the lives of these children, and ultimately by unleashing their potential, we can have a massive knock-on impact in their communities and beyond," says Sanlam chief executive Sydney Mbhele.

Also read: Academic journey of a lifetime: The school, pupil and parent relationship 

'Support is vital'

Making the shift to digital learning can be dramatic for many children, requiring a period of adjustment, says Yandiswa Xhakaza, director and principal of UCT Online High School. 

She says that from the academic to the emotional and social, support will be vital to their educational success. 

"In any school setting, support is vital to help students fulfil their full potential. With online schooling, however, that need is even higher. That is why we have made sure to build a robust and adaptable support network that will be able to respond to an array of student issues. Parents and guardians would also do well to lend a hand to students anywhere they can," she highlights. 

To assist pupils and guardians in making the leap from in-person to online schooling, teachers and support coaches from UCT Online High School have put together a few of their top tips.

Here's a look at their advice for kids who are new to online learning. 

Plan your week 

Set aside time at the beginning of the week to set goals for the week. Ensure that your weekly timetable is ready for action. Prioritise the subjects and due dates that need to be finished first and highlight the ones that'll take the most time. Be as specific as possible (e.g., 09:00 - 09:50 Complete English Module 4).

Make visual reminders of your goals and priorities

Use a small whiteboard, chalkboard, or pinboard to add creative visual reminders of your goals and priorities. Use post-it notes, cut-outs or brightly coloured pens/markers; have fun with them. Not only will this help you stay focused, but you'll also love cleaning your board or ticking off your to-do list at the end of the day or week when you've achieved what you set out to do.

Be an active participant

Distractedly nodding at your screen while on WhatsApp is not going to cut it. Be present in class. Listen to what other students and your teacher are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification. Answer questions and get involved in whatever activities may arise. This will help you better understand and retain the course material. 

Stick to your plan and don't multitask

It is easy to think that multitasking equals getting more things done faster in the digital era, but that is not true. Studies have shown that it can actually decrease your productivity and make you finish tasks slower. Focus on one thing. Once you are done, move on to the next one.

Set up a designated workspace 

Doing your assignment in front of the TV while Netflix plays in the background may seem like a fun idea, but you will only distract yourself.

Find yourself a straight-backed chair, a desk and a quiet space where you can concentrate. Setting up a regular workspace will also help you stay organised and reduce the amount of time you spend looking around for notebooks.

Take meaningful breaks

As you would in a traditional school, it is important to schedule breaks. Ensure you take some time away (2 x 20-to-30-minute breaks) from your screen and schoolwork to rest and reset. This will help with feelings of frustration or stress. You'll come back with fresh eyes and a clear mind to help you tackle the rest of your day.

Take a moment to move 

Set an alarm and get up every hour. Take 5 minutes to stand up and gently stretch your neck, back and legs. Studies have shown that getting up and moving around regularly helps stimulate blood flow, and that, in turn, will help you concentrate and stay alert.

Hold yourself accountable

There are no detentions in an online school. Without a teacher sitting a few metres away from you reminding you to do your coursework, it can be very easy to start cutting corners. Don't. 

Set weekly and daily reminders about what needs to be done and give yourself enough time to do it without flying into a last-minute panic. If you feel like you need help holding yourself accountable, try working together with a classmate.

Practice time management

Online schooling allows a degree of flexibility that traditional education doesn't, which can be very alluring. If, however, you are not diligent with how you spend your time, that flexibility can cause problems. Follow a schedule, note the due dates for major assignments, and set reminders for yourself. The better you get at this, the more manageable your coursework. 

Know when to reach out for help

If you need help, reach out to your support coach for guidance; that is what they're there for. Alternatively, contact a teacher or even a classmate and establish some kind of support structure. There is nothing wrong with struggling, but you do not have to do so alone.

Reward yourself

Rewarding yourself with something you enjoy doing can be an excellent way to keep yourself motivated. Reward yourself with something positive when you've reached a milestone or accomplished what you've planned for a particular study session/day/week. 

What are the biggest lessons your child has learned since switching to online schooling? 


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