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Offline to Online: This school aced learning during global pandemic

Nita Arora, Principal, Sri Venkateshwar International School, New Delhi shares the experience of school’s swift transition from offline to online learning

While Wuhan in China struggled with Corona Virus, Europe awoke to the danger, India went about its business normally.  There were guesses that consumption of Indian spices or BCG vaccine or higher incidence of Malaria has given the South Asians some sort of immunity against Corona.

Schools functioned normally till early March. Exams for IX and XI got over on March 2, Answer sheets shown on March 7 and we started feeling the possibility of pandemic knocking at the city doors.

The start of pandemic

Everyone felt that with the rise in day temperature, the threat will disappear. First time the Holi was subdued in the city.

Other classes almost completed all exams accept one by March 13.  We held the last exam online.  A first in which we trusted the children and requested the parents to supervise.

School was a centre for CBSE evaluation. We were suddenly asked to close the evaluation on March 19. We sensed that it could be our last working day and worked longer that day on generating the online result and posted it online on March 21.

School had started the classes for new X and XII w.e.f. March 16. CBSE Theory Exams for the outgoing X and XII were halted and we realised our new XI would have to be formed to give our students a sense of purpose, a sense of direction.

Transition to Virtual School

We started the online classes for the new XI from March 23 with a bridge course to familiarise them with the rigours and scope of the new elective subjects as well as provide the missing links for higher studies.

Instead of giving the teachers ‘Term end’ off days, we held a PTM with the outgoing Class teacher and parents on March 28 to discuss the result and new classes began from March 29 itself.  Orientation PTM for our youngest students of Preschool was held on March 31, 2020. No waiting for the traditional April 1 date for new session.

Orientation Session for those parents of kids who were to embark on their formal school journey:  a beautiful ceremony planned for March 21 had to be replaced with a not so exciting online session. We felt that it was not enough and we have to learn to add joys to online learning or sessions.

We started searching for a better online teaching- learning platform. We settled on one and staff training continued for a week, almost everyday, two hours after online classes.

Stakeholders adapted to the online mode

Students too gradually adjusted. We never asked the parents to be not around and left it on them to decide for themselves. Many schools did otherwise. Thus, we had grandparents, maternal or paternal, learning with their grandkids, asking doubts sometimes, laughing at the jokes, singing rhymes and songs, exercising with the little ones. Senior students were more independent and were left alone with their devices.

Hats off to the parents for allowing the use of their laptops to the children but the demands of their own offices to work from home led to some conflicts. We started sending podcasts and PPTs to support the pedagogy, we shared softwares, e-text book lessons too as most students did not have the text books. Teachers were becoming tech savvier and were working more than ever.

This did not deter the teachers, they continued to let the enthusiasm going. We experimented with ideal time per age group and drew the conclusion that 1-2 hours are good till class II, 2-3 hours till class VIII and 3- 4 hours for the seniors. Later this was reduced a little and gaps given for students to unwind and rest their eyes.

Theatre, Music, Dance, Art & Craft, Physical Fitness, Life Skills, Debates, Recitations, Yoga broke the monotony of classes.

Feedback from parents

We got the feedback from the parents that lockdown did not break the schedule and students would happily get ready to join the class for one reason or another. For some, the desire to hangout with friends in an online mode, for some to see their theatre teacher making faces and sounds and dance teachers steps were reason enough to be not late. For most, the newness of learning was fun. Students continued to share their videos with us and we sent them to the External Division.

Nita Arora, Principal, Sri Venkateshwar International School, New Delhi

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