How do you build an online school?

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Posted on: 21 Sep 2020

Designing an environment that not only places students in the virtual classroom but also creates meaningful connections.

Pre-COVID, education was pretty much dull in terms of innovation. Digital models of learning at a level that allowed for, not just the transfer of information, but the ability to learn together with others were few and far between, says Rof. Rob Lue, a Harvard University Professor and Chancellor of the Valenture Institute.

Sure, there were those outliers like Coursera that took learning off course, rerouting the basic approach to online learning or remote learning. Then came 2020, with lockdown forcing an acceleration of change in the pretty unchartered waters that was the for-profit high school edu-space.

Valenture Institute was at the forefront of this as a fully-fledged online high school. And in January 2021, we'll be opening several Boutique Campuses dotted around South Africa, where students attend school during the day but continue to learn online. 

A school with our head in the Cloud? Not exactly. 

Lizzy Steenkamp, Head of Learning Technology at Valenture says that before designing the ‘virtual school building’, the most important question to consider is “What are the needs of our users?” The basics are incredibly important. To access the learning outcomes and the needs of students must come first, “Design has to be catered to a specific audience base. If not that, you are designing for no one.”

(Watch the above video for more from Lizzy)

“One would think that a brick and mortar school would give you better opportunities to socialise. But that’s such a small circle of influence,” says Lizzy. “With technology we have the opportunity to create meaningful connections all around the world - different time zones, places, and you're exposed to people you wouldn't normally be exposed to. That kind of connection is incredibly valuable in a society where learning to think in systems, impact and influence is something only this kind of school can give you.”

The technology that we use to connect our students to each other and their teachers also allows us amazing visibility of their progress, we can also see exactly what kinds of outcomes students are struggling with, where we need to target our interventions to help them do the best that they can and we can very quickly see where we need to help learners.

All individuals learn differently. At traditional schools, a child is forced to fit into a box. At Valenture, students are individually accommodated. Our British Pearson Edexcel curriculum also allows for real-world application and develops critical thinking skills, which sees students develop as individuals.

Finding that fluid sweet spot where pedagogy, tech, and innovation meet is key at Valenture. Our Learning Design and Learning Technology teams work effortlessly alongside faculty to create an environment that is dynamic, interactive, collaborative, and above all designed to support meaningful connections and student’s learning outcomes. 

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