Taking a high school course online is becoming more and more common and while online learning continues to grow in popularity, students are asking questions on how they can be more successful when taking a high school course online. In the various posts on our blog throughout this year, we’ve been providing tips for students on how to be successful in a course. While we have been covering some of the challenges that have come with the Covid-19 pandemic, we haven’t shared some of our teacher’s perspectives on this topic.
In our blog post this week, the Ontario eSecondary School wants our students to know how our teachers are coping through the pandemic and some of the expectations they have for students taking a high school course online with us. We’ve asked two of our teachers and our Principal, Mr. Ibrahim Baig, some of their advice for successfully learning online, but also how the pandemic has impacted their teaching strategies.
What are some benefits of online learning?
When we asked our teachers what the benefits of taking a high school course online are, they all agreed on some of the basics. If you’ve been following our blog throughout this year, you’ll already know a few of them such as flexibility to learn where you want and when it is convenient to your schedule as well as the ability to learn at your own pace. These topics ranked at the top with our teachers.
Ms. Avgeropoulos teaches a variety of courses with OES such as CGW4U – World Issues and CLN4U – Canadian & International Law. She highlights that in addition to a flexible timetable, “Students can enjoy the convenience of studying online in real-time from anywhere and at any time of the day.” This is beneficial as online learning only requires the student to be present in a virtual classroom, unlike a traditional education institution, where there are physical class sessions. “You can simply take classes and/or exams from the comfort of your own home, or when the weather is nice, in the comfort of your own backyard!”
Although the common themes of flexibility and convenience are great for online learning, ownership and responsibility are a big part of soft skills that are developed. As our Principal Mr. Ibrahim Baig highlights; “What’s most important is the concept of ownership and responsibility of student’s work which is a part of the hidden curriculum of learning online,” says Baig. “With no teacher or deadline looming over your head the notion that students have to find a way of disciplining themselves to keep the needle moving is a challenge but an opportunity for them to understand who they are as students and what they need to do to push themselves.”
The idea of motivating yourself is a soft skill that translates well to the post-secondary school and the working world. Many jobs require employees to be self-starters and have the ability to drive towards deadlines without direct supervision. However, many students find these requirements challenging when they get to college or university as they haven’t had an opportunity to hone their skills during their high school years.
Finally, (and this one may be for the parent’s reading) the ability to focus on your learning is another key benefit to taking a high school course online. Mr. Baig also highlights that “Learning online in an environment like Ontario eSecondary School allows various external factors to be a non-factor such as socializing with other students and allows students to solely focus on the content.” We agree it is very important for students to develop social skills and as this article describes that during your teen years, “notions of friendship increasingly focus on intimate exchanges of thoughts and feelings and social lives.” But we also know it is important to focus on your learning when it is the right time. With an online course there is no need to socialize or look cool for others, no risk of asking a question you may be afraid to ask. You can focus on what you need to focus on and get the support you need without any social risks and that is how the learning experience is just a little bit different.
What are some of the differences in teaching online versus in a classroom?
If the learning experience is different for students, what about the teaching experience? We know that a benefit of online learning is the ability to learn at your own pace, but for our teachers that can actually be one of the challenges. Mr. Haque who teaches math courses such as MPM1D – Principles of Mathematics describes one of these challenges. “As a teacher, you have to go at different paces based on where individual students are at. This can be a challenge to balance and you’re always on.”
One of the other challenges relates to the human aspect of things. We strive to make our classes as interactive and interesting as possible by creating videos and having interactive lessons as part of our lessons. But, as Mr. Baig describes, one of the challenges is body language. “I would say, is body language and instinct are a challenge of online teaching. As a teacher in the classroom you can sense when something isn’t going well for a student. When teaching a high school course online, this can be a challenge which is why communication is so important.”
Ms. Avgeropoulos echoes this pont. “Students may sometimes get frustrated due to less human interaction and an inability to discuss course content with classmates.”
Some top advice from our teachers if you’re struggling on a topic in your online high school course is to simply be clear and honest when they are not grasping a concept. Teachers are ready and able to assist students to grasp concepts and as Ms. Avgeropoulos put it “educators within OES are just a click away!”
How has Covid-19 impacted how you teach?
Like everything happening in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has been on the minds of our instructors. The teachers at Ontario eSecondary School are experienced classroom teachers as well as online teachers and although teaching online has some of its own challenges for instructing students and maintaining relationships, we know that the pandemic has created some new challenges for our students. As some parents have been pushed to work from home, so have students.
Some students at the beginning of the pandemic found it challenging to focus on their learning, and understandably so. “The biggest challenge is that COVID brought a lot of variables to the table for a lot of families.” Mr. Baig describes. “If a student began to experience new issues at home this made it difficult for them to focus on learning in an environment which would normally be a place of quiet and comfort. So, perhaps with more siblings home or perhaps a stress placed upon the family this could be impacting their work.”
Since learning has gone digital, we understand that it could be challenging for students to focus. Despite lockdown restrictions being lifted in much of Canada and other parts of the world during the summer, families are still working and living in one space, the home.
How have you been supporting students through the pandemic?
As we understand the challenges of learning from home, many of our teachers have taken action to help support our students. “It is really important to be able to respond to a student’s concern as quickly as possible,” says Mr. Haque. “Responding to emails quickly is important to assure students that you are with them through the entire process.”
We understand that taking a high school course online can have it’s own challenges. Throw in a global pandemic that isolates families together at home 24/7 and those challenges can certainly become exacerbated. One of the things OES has been doing to assist students is to be as flexible and available as possible for them. “We are helping to support our students by being open and available. We are also being flexible in our deadlines and revision of student work knowing that feedback is limited.” Says Baig. But, our courses in general are built to be online and therefore are able to help support students by simply being structured in a clear and concise manner.
“Ways that I assist students is that within all of my courses, I offer clear directions and provide you with the success criteria in the form of checklists, rating sheets, and rubrics that describe expectations in a way that everyone, regardless of your background or language level, can clearly understand.” Says Avgeropoulos. “I allow students alternatives for the work they will pursue (within reason) and most importantly, I provide descriptive feedback to all learners as they work through the course. I will provide you with comments or suggestions that will assist you in refining your thinking and performance.”
What is some advice you have for students learning online?
Even though we aim to support our students as much as possible, it is still the responsibility of students to take the initiative to get their course work done. Some important tips to do this include:
- Setting a schedule
- Making sure all work is complete
- Proofreading before submitting
- Checking in with your instructors if you are having difficulty
- Organizing your learning environment
We know that taking a high school course online means learning differently than you do in a classroom. One of our blog posts from earlier Get Organized in 2020, provides a number of helpful tips on how to prioritize tasks and plan your schedule to get stuff done.
Ms. Avgeropoulos points out that deadlines come up quickly and it’s important to set goals. “Set goals at the beginning of the course and check in with yourself weekly,” says Avgeropoulos. “In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. But, without an instructor physically present actively reminding you, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due.”
Mr Haque contrasts that advice though, highlighting the importance of mental health. “Pace yourself so that you don’t feel too much pressure. Try to take breaks and go outside and get fresh air.”
Mr. Baig’s advice to students as the new school year begins is to identify your weaknesses and find ways to improve them. “Begin to take note of the type of person and student you are and work on your weaknesses while building on your strengths. Ask your teachers what they see as your areas of weakness and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback — you need it to grow!”
One way to help build on your academic weaknesses is to set academic goals. blog Setting Academic Goals highlights, setting goals should be distinct, achievable and rewarding to you. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is one method for goal setting. This means they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Learning Online With Ontario eSecondary School
One of the things we pride ourselves on at Ontario eSecondary School is how much our teachers care about making your experience taking a high school course online a positive one. Our instructors are experienced in teaching students online and our courses are structured in a clear and concise manner to make it easier for you to guide your learning. As an accredited Ontario online high school, we structure our courses per the Ontario Ministry of Education standards and break up our lessons into very intentional and digestible content that ensures our courses are consistent for all students and creates a positive and streamlined experience so you can earn Ontario high school credits online.
If you’re currently attending high school in Ontario, or if you’re looking for an adult high school in order to upgrade your marks as an international student, OES has a wide range of courses available. From SBI4U to MHF4U, the amazing teachers at OES are ready to support you and help you meet your goals all over the world.
The Ontario eSecondary School has been inspected and accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education. What does this mean? As a virtual school, all of our courses are recognized by and can be used toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and are also recognized as part of your OUAC application. This makes OES a great partner for upgrading Ontario high school credits online and is also perfect for adult students or international students looking to earn credits for post-secondary.
Learn more about our courses at oeshighschool.com