In response to the disruption caused by the pandemic over the past, almost, two years, St Michael’s has provided a rich and varied online learning program designed to keep students engaged and ensure learning continuity.
Confident that we had the necessary technology infrastructure, we began planning for the possibility of online learning early in 2020 so that we were well prepared when it became a necessity in March that year. Since then, we have continued to review and revise our approach to meet the challenges of continued lockdowns.
After an initial short trial, and informed by feedback from students, parents and staff, we introduced a special SchoL-AR (SchoL-Assisted Remote) Learning Program for all K-12 students with a timetable specifically designed for online learning. The program focussed on engaged and relational learning and the utilisation of new features in the School intranet and online platforms.
Later in 2020, recognising that online learning might again be a reality in the future, we developed a new timetable that allowed for a more seamless transition between onsite and online learning, and this has proved invaluable throughout 2021. The School’s approach has been to deliver predominantly synchronous learning (teacher-led classes) with asynchronous learning, where the student is able to work individually at their own pace, as an important element. This not only aids engagement but allows for flexibility and the more effective management of screen time, an issue of increasing concern given the duration of online learning.
It has also been a priority to ensure that the School’s rich wellbeing and co-curricular programs continue. St Michael’s vast array of clubs and commons have been adapted to online delivery, with a focus on connection and belonging. We continue to hold competitions, House and School assemblies, broadcasts of student performances, and messages of encouragement from School Leaders.
One of the strengths of the St Michael’s community is our focus on developing strong, respectful relationships based on shared values. When designing our remote learning program, we established multiple opportunities for students to connect with their peers, across classes and across year levels. In the Junior School, morning meetings and social check-ins allowed students to connect on a formal and informal basis.
In 2020 time was set aside each day for students and parents to schedule appointments with teachers, and the Navigator mentor role was introduced. Every student was allocated a Navigator, who became central in helping review the student’s progress and providing pastoral care. The Navigator program has continued as an ongoing feature in 2021, regardless of whether students are learning onsite or online.
We have also introduced the Engagement and Wellbeing dashboard. Reviewed by Psychologists and additional learning needs staff, the dashboard included visual representations of each student’s engagement for each subject, ‘R U OK?’ flags, academic and attendance data, communication records and any additional needs strategies.
The online learning experience has reinforced the School’s view that learning is a partnership between teachers and families. Thanks to feedback from parents, students and staff, the best of the innovations, new practices and creative ways to remain connected are being carefully incorporated into the ongoing St Michael’s learning program.
As a new family joining the School community this year, we have been nothing but impressed by the way in which the School, and particularly its leadership, have responded to the COVID-19 crisisAngela Hill, St Michael’s parent