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A Deeper Understanding of Online Blended Learning at Dulwich

This week is the third week since Dulwich International High School Suzhou launched online learning on 3rd February. The academic leadership team at our school not only supervises online teaching and learning daily but also collects feedback and opinions from teachers, students and parents in a timely manner, in order to make improvements and adjustments to create an efficient and effective online blended learning environment.

After the Dulwich College International conducted an online teaching and learning survey of all teachers, students and parents last week, our school leadership team also held a ‘Friends of Dulwich’ online meeting on Tuesday to follow up on parents' feedback and provide open discussion. Through the ‘Friends of Dulwich’ session, the parents present were able to gain a deeper understanding of the school’s approach and why it is the best fit for our students.  Therefore, in this article we will examine some of the most significant elements of online blended learning to help you gain a deeper understanding of it:

1. What does online blended learning at Dulwich include?

Students can carry out blended learning online in the following ways:

-A weekly and daily structure is given to students, including learning outcomes, resources, live lessons, recorded lessons, collaborative activities and tasks.

-Notes, PowerPoints, videos or reading materials are provided by the teacher

-Students take advantage of teacher's office hours for one-on-one communication every day between 2:00pm to 4:00pm (different times for some teachers)

-Teachers ask questions and facilitate group discussions during online classes, in a discussion forum, and through individual chats

-Teachers give feedback in real-time, correct homework and improve the quality of future outcomes

Just finishing homework isn’t enough for students, they should also ask themselves the following questions each day:

-Did I take the initiative to contact my teachers during office hours today? Have all the questions been clarified?

-Was I active in my learning?

-Did I participate in a group discussion today (chat or video)?

-Have I read and watched the PPT and the attached video carefully?

-Is there anything I still don’t understand - and what will I do about this?

-Have I done the required extended reading?

Some facts:

  • In the most recent 14 days, there have been 108,744 messages sent on MS Teams and 1823 online classes and meetings.

  • Since the start of the online learning, the most active 100 students have, on average, made 360 online posts each and taken part in an average of 15 online meetings and classes.  Some students have taken part in over 30 online meetings and classes.

2. How to understand student timetables

Online learning at Dulwich is structured based on subjects, topics, and types of learning, and is organized by year group or subject. The academic management team uniformly arranges and formulates teacher timetables to avoid time conflicts amongst the various online activities, and then sends each class, each teacher's online timetable and office hours, group discussion time, or other activities to each student. Students can make their own timetables according to their own unique learning needs or situation, so that students can better allocate time in different subjects. This allows students to spend more or less time on each course according to their individual situation.  Online learning isn’t just a live course, it’s also an opportunity for teachers to provide help to students either individually or in groups, who need more support with their work.

How to make your own timetables?

We know that some students find this a challenge, and for all Lifeskills groups this week, students were given a choice to be supported and guided to either:

   Creating a personal timetable for five days, which MUST include time for rest/relaxation, exercise/physical activity, and sleep

 B   Logging all activities for two full days, including how much time was spent on each. For both tasks, they also had to reflect on and respond to a series of questions on balance of time and any changes that they may need to make for the following days. 

We feel there is far more value in students practising their own time management, rather than the school simply giving them a timetable, as this will be an essential Life Skill when they reach university.  It also allows for increased efficiency in their study. Students need to recognize if they are spending too much time/not enough time on a particular subject area, or on relaxing or ‘free time’, and take responsibility for changing their schedules where needed. We have set up a mentoring programme to assist students who are having difficulties in this area.

We are really happy to report that the vast majority of submissions so far this week have shown students who really ‘get’ this mentality (anonymous examples attached). There are obviously some students who struggle with creating a personal timetable, or with following one they’ve produced; these students are able to work with Heads of Year or other staff (in a mentoring relationship) to get help.

From a Y13 student:

 

From a Y13 student:

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From a Y13 student – sample timetable:

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From a Y13 student - sample timetable:

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3. Contact between students and tutors/Head of Years(HOYs)

Every teacher will contact every student in their class every day, providing the outline for the day and also feedback on previous learning.  Head of Years are also actively identifying problems students may encounter and are actively communicating and guiding, such as:

  • If the students are spending too much time on one subject, they are encouraged to speak with their teacher. 
  • If the students are spending less than 4hs/day, HOYs will work with the student, as the student may not manage to complete the work. 
  • If students are spending over 11 hours on their work, HOYs will also work with the student to find out if it is caused by overloading them with materials or if it is caused by poor organization. 

If a student is found to need extra support in their studies, or feels anxious or stressed, our school's Mentorship Programme will immediately assign a dedicated tutor to the student and maintain daily communication with him/her to help students manage time and use learning materials effectively. At the same time, there are many other plans for protecting the physical and mental health of community members on our school's online learning platform, including fun sports daily challenges, time management and organizational planning ability guidance. The mindfulness activities shared by Ms. Hou, and Personal mentoring programs provided for a small number of students who need daily support.

4. Parent liaisons (PLs) contact with parents

We hope that parents will take the initiative to contact our parent liaisons and raise any concerns or suggestions in a timely manner. At the same time, our PLs will contact each parent one by one. Not only do we look forward to collecting your sincere and valuable opinions, but we also want to work proactively with you to find solutions that support your child so we can work together to ensure your child’s learning progress and physical and mental health during this special period.

5. Internet and platform

Internet bandwidth is a China-wide issue due to increased demand. Based on the student survey, 90% of students say they had no difficulties accessing course materials online.  We are pleased that our internal ‘Moodle’ platform is working very well with fast speeds, whilst we continue to be in close contact with our suppliers for the Microsoft Teams platform - where thousands of schools and businesses are facing similar issues.

The school has already recommended teachers upload the materials early in the morning and that students should download them at the start of the day. If the students have problems accessing the videos, the students can reach out to their teachers who will arrange to have the video saved to Moodle, where the access speed is better

The 10% of families that have internet issues should think about if their family broadband speed can satisfy the data usage for daily online courses and upgrade it if necessary.

Students have also mentioned that while the Teams platform is sometimes slow, it is ideal for group collaboration. 

This does not include the many uploads of videos, assignments, ppts, recordings and documents that have been in use for our online learning.

Here are the survey feedback from three parties:

A. Student Survey:

There are 473 responses from students, nearly 80% said that they are able to access the E-Learning platform, participate in the learning engagements provided, and their teachers helped them to understand how to support their own learning experience.

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Overall, students have lots of positive comments about being able to work at their own speed, review materials, set their own timetables etc. Students quotes about online learning:

“I love the online chatting in Teams” 

“The Chinese teacher had an online lesson with us which is very helpful” 

“Our teachers had online meeting with us and helped us go through important points in the lessons” 

“Teachers are enthusiastic even though they give us lots of work to do” 

“The speed and success rate of communication will greatly increase. Even some students who are not very active at ordinary times have actively participated in the discussion.” 

“My teachers video chatted with me and answered my doubts” 

“Teachers have online classes every week to go through some important points in knowledge” 

“Teachers are willing to communicate with students and teachers are frequently uploading lessons to both Moodle and teams” 

“Teachers are having video calls with students to explain the lessons and sometimes will have some online games such as kahoot.” 

“I appreciate the responsiveness from the teachers “

“I appreciate that I can learn at their own pace”

*Concerns: 

Not many students are engaging their PE or life skills classes; however, focus on this part will be as important as academic studies. 

•What will the school do?

The students are being helped individually if they are unhappy or having difficulties in learning.  

Parents, please encourage your children to participate in non-academic online courses as well as academic ones, such as PE and Lifeskills - as strong physical and mental health is the backbone of academic performance.

B. Parent Survey

According to feedback from 386 parents, nearly 70% of parents said their children were able to participate in the learning engagements provided, and school staff helped them understand how to support their children's learning experience.

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•Overall, the parents are happy in terms of the online learning experience provided. Most parents reported that their children are actively participating. 

•Some parents reported that their children cannot get out of bed early or get organized for the day

•Action Point:

The PL team will call the parents this week to discuss their concerns, and to find any solutions that parents may have.

Teachers are improving their online courses based on the feedback received from students and parents. 

Parents, please help to wake your child up early in the morning so that they can participate in online learning in a timely manner. 

C.Staff Survey

52 staff responded to our survey, and 81% said that most of the students in their class were actively involved in online learning.

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•Significantly, the teachers are doing more than they normally would to ensure the students are provided with excellent learning opportunities.

•Our school is being very sensible and caring in looking after staff around the world and arranging their safe return to Suzhou. 

•Action point:

If the students are not participating, A PL will be in contact with their parents.

Parents to supervise their children in terms of leaning and check on their learning progress. 

Support students to participate in all parts of the course, not just only reading the PowerPoint!

We look forward to seeing the end of the epidemic and everything returning to normal as soon as possible. In the meantime, please work with us and continue to help and support your child in maintain physical and mental health at home, as they actively invest in personalized online blended learning.