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A Letter from Our Deputy Director Regarding Online Learning

Dear Students,

I hope you are keeping well during this uncertain time.

As explained last week, the school will not open because of the current coronavirus. In the meantime, you will be provided with online learning opportunities through either Microsoft Teams and OneNote or Moodle.

This email is long, but I ask you to read it carefully so you are clear about what is happening in school to support your learning.

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Why are we learning online?

It is important that you are learning well online for a number of reasons.  For students who have CAIE / Edexcel exams, these exams will not be changed or cancelled as a result of the school closure - you need to be prepared and your teachers are here to support you.  It is also important that you make good use of your time at home and keep your mind and body active.

How will online learning work?

The types of lessons offered will vary based on the subject, the topic, and the type of learning that needs to happen. These will begin at 12:00pm on 3rd February for your main subjects. There will be no online learning for Drama.

Online Learning will be arranged by year group/course level and not at an individual teaching group level.  There will be an assigned lead for each course, with the Head of Department having close involvement with all courses in the department. Teacher time will be balanced between creating resources, supporting student engagement, responding to student questions and comments, assessing skills and understanding, and providing quality feedback to guide next steps.

The online systems to be used will be Moodle and Teams. (From a safeguarding perspective, non-school systems such as WeChat are not to be used for student communication.) Where possible, resources such as videos or other online materials will be downloaded and added as a resource inside Moodle/Teams rather than being sent as links.  Any links will be checked to ensure they work without the use of a VPN.

For subjects that usually meet multiple times per week, there will be new tasks released to students each day, with a system to check for engagement/completion.  Staging and pacing of tasks will be considered such that they take students the ‘normal’ amount of lesson time & homework time to complete.  Based on five days per week, some examples are:

• English: just under 2 hours per day for Y10/11; a little less for Y12/13;

• Maths: just under 2 hours per day for Y10/11; Y12/13 will depend on the course

• Sciences and other options: 1½ hours per day for Y10/11; 2½ hours per day for Y12/13

We understand that moving to an online environment might cause some frustration for you and will be a new experience. You certainly need to become more independent learners, ensuring you have a quiet space to do work and have good internet connectivity.

Whilst learning will not take place in ‘real-time’, we would strongly recommend you create a regular timetable for each day. Students should be engaging with their learning as they would during the course of a normal school day, so for about 10 hours per day Monday-Friday.  It is important that you work on each of your main subjects EVERY DAY from Monday to Friday and submit work on time so that teachers can provide useful feedback and adjust their teaching based on your progress.  Teachers will be monitoring your engagement online each day and where it is not happening, our Parent Liaisons will be calling your parents.

Almost all teachers will be available for online office hours from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm (1:00 pm-2:30 pm on Fridays). Some teachers, in agreement with their classes, may choose to change the timing of these hours.  Please contact your teachers through Teams (or Moodle if that is being used for a particular course) and NOT via email.

We will be collecting regular feedback via surveys on your learning experience and making adjustments as needed.

How about working with other students?

As informed by the Centre for Disease Control, it is important that you are not making unnecessary trips outside the home at this time.  You should therefore NOT be going out to meet up with your classmates even for study.  There is the function in Teams to meet with groups of classmates to have a virtual discussion room, share files etc. and so you should make full use of this.  Please also make full use of the forums/conversations that will be provided for each subject and help each other where you can.

Who should I contact with questions?

  • For questions about the Coronavirus and school, contact Mr Douglas

  • For technical questions, please email helpdesk@dchigh-suzhou.cn

  • For questions about your learning in each of your subjects, contact your teacher via Teams.  Please read all the information your teacher has sent very carefully before you contact them.  You can expect a response within 24 hours.

  • For anything related to College Counselling, Y12 and Y13 students can contact their college counsellor directly.  Any other student can reach out any counsellor if they need support or advice, for example relating to summer programmes or the cancellations of IELTS/TOEFL/ACT

  • For any general questions about your learning, please contact your Head of Year.  You can expect a response with 24 hours.

I look forward to hearing reports from your teachers about the excellent work that you are doing online during this time and look forward to welcoming you back to school once the current situation has passed.  In the meantime, please follow the advice from the Suzhou government and in the emails from Mr Douglas, take sensible precautions, and avoid listening to and spreading rumours.

Wishing you good health and successful learning,

Deputy Director
Richard Nunns

After the first day of online learning, we have collected some examples of students’ online learning:

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A computer Science teacher has set up an interactive ‘Flipgrid’ task for Y10 today.  Students produce work, including videoing themselves presenting it, then interactively view the work of other students and the teacher provides feedback.

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Physics teaching: a wide variety of learning resources for students, including videos, students submitting work and getting personalized feedback, teacher office hours held by video call, interactive simulations.

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Very happy students in a group presentation with an English teacher with the teacher feedback underneath.

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The first two are posts of student discussion, both group and individual, and the last one is a screenshot of an Economics assignment showing they have all been graded and returned with feedback given to each student.

Students' Feedback

A follow-up survey was also completed regarding students’ feedback about online learning, and the feedback was used to resolve any issues or problems the students experienced. The results showed that around 90% of students responded that the platform was operating well, and 92% of students responded that they were able to find assignments online. Below are some comments from students:

“I can do my work very quickly and efficiently.”

“I can learn at my own pace.”

“It’s really convenient to check information.”

“I can focus on all the information I need. Moreover, I can read the information I can’t understand many times until I understand it.”

Teachers' Summary

Based on both student and colleague feedback, along with discussions with the academic CLT and teacher leaders, there are four key points that we think, as a school, we should be focusing on to make the online experience for our students even better:

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Last but not the least, we want to tell all parents and students:

  • You are not alone!
  • Let's fight the situation together!
  • You should take advantage of the extra time at home
  • and get well prepared for school.
  • We believe that behind every black cloud
  • There is a silver lining. 
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