Student Perspectives: Online learning and pandemic homeschool courses in Ontario
The world has undergone a massive shift on how we work and learn. Families have been thrust into a new normal of isolation and challenged by how we interact. This is the first in a two part series on pandemic homeschooling and learning online for Ontario students.
Learning from home has become part of our new normal. Whether you started September going to your usual secondary school, or opted to learn online and homeschool, what’s become increasingly clear is that online learning and earning Ontario high school credits from home is part of the new normal. This new shift is the reason that Ontario eSecondary School even exists as one of the more established and accredited schools in Ontario. Humble brag, but we were ahead of the online learning curve and have some amazing teachers that have helped our students become successful in their homeschool experience. So, we thought who else would be better to ask about their online learning experience than some of OES’ own past and current students.
We asked two students, one who has graduated high school and moved on to post-secondary school and another who has done a mix of online credits from home and is currently attending a physical school, what their online learning experience has been like before and after the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. Keep reading for tips on earning online credits from home!
What courses have you taken online and what did you like most about online learning?
Lucy is a graduate and alumni of Ontario eSecondary School. She is currently studying Psychology and Ryerson University. As part of her online learning journey with OES, she studied Grade 11 Chemistry, Grade 12 Chemistry, Grade 12 Biology and Grade 12 Physics.
With so many science courses under her belt at OES, it’s clear she enjoyed the online experience with the science courses at OES and she highlighted that when we asked her about her experience. Mostly, Lucy enjoyed the ability to go at her own pace. “I like that I can go at my own pace,” said Lucy. “Sometimes it takes hearing or reading something a few times for me to fully understand it, and with online learning, I can pause and rewatch videos, and look back on any resources at any time.I can also speed through concepts that come easily, and for the more tricky ones, I can take more time than I would be able to in a classroom.”
Being able to work at your own pace is one of the benefits you’ll often hear when speaking about online learning. This is something our teachers highlighted in our blog post in September, Ask a Teacher: Taking a High School Course Online. When asked about the benefits of online learning it was unanimous that the student’s ability to learn at the pace they needed and on a schedule that makes the most sense for them was a huge benefit.
Isabella is another student who has been learning with OES currently and has taken a wide range of courses with us including; Grade 11 Chemistry and Grade 11 Physics. She echoes the sentiment of flexibility and self-paced learning as being one of the benefits to online learning.
What are some of the key differences or challenges you’ve faced when taking an online course?
Although there are many benefits, we know that there are also some challenges with online learning. As Isabella put it best, some of those challenges are related to isolation. “Not having enough teacher guidance is a challenge. Sometimes the course materials are hard to comprehend and not having any friends or anyone else to study with makes it more difficult.”
This sentiment is echoed by Lucy as well. “It’s a bit of an adjustment to go through lessons without a teacher there to walk you through the way you would in a typical high school classroom,” said lucy. “But the online [tutoring] service is available if you need clarification, and the teachers usually respond to questions over emails very quickly.”
We know that the experience for learning online can be more challenging from a social perspective as well as other challenges of learning from home. Many of our teachers such as Mr. Haque, who teaches math courses such as MPM1D – Principles of Mathematics describes the action he takes to help support our students. “It is really important to be able to respond to a student’s concern as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Haque. “Responding to emails quickly is important to assure students that you are with them through the entire process.”
What are some key challenges you have faced while learning during the Covid-19 pandemic?
What cannot be ignored is how the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world of online learning. According to the World Economic Forum in an article from April 2020, “COVID-19 has resulted in schools shut all across the world. Globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom.” This has led countries around the world to shift how they’re teaching students and have left many scholars and administrators wondering whether this new adoption of online learning will continue when the pandemic and restrictions related to it lift.
When asked about learning online, Lucy had an interesting perspective. “The university courses I’m taking are taught over Zoom, and I’m finding it much more difficult to participate than I had anticipated,” said Lucy. “In a classroom setting, I usually have my hand up at every opportunity, but I am finding myself feeling much more timid when I’m asked to participate virtually. That being said, I’m sure once I get used to the format I will become more comfortable with participating.”
Although this is her experience in a live-online setting in university, the courses offered at OES often include materials that are self-guided and not in a live-lecture setting, which can have it’s benefits during pandemic learning. This has proven to be a benefit as current student Isabella gave this response when asked what the key challenges she has faced while learning during the Covid-19 pandemic: “Nothing really unique to the pandemic. The same challenges as online.”
What steps have you taken to ensure you are learning effectively at home (either taking an online course or otherwise)?
Some of the challenges to learning online are simply being in an environment with lots of distractions. The pandemic has not made it easy with parents working from home, and our students needing to work on their coursework. We’ve highlighted tips for effectively studying and learning from home in the past and Isabella seems to be on the same page. She gave us a list of things she has done to learn effectively at home.
- Having a designated work area.
- Having a second monitor.
- Drinking water & eating healthy.
- Using note-taking apps like Notion.so and Roam Research.
- Staying organized with a filing system.
- Investing in a whiteboard.
This follows many of the tips we provided in our article Tips For Online Learning During The Covid-19 Pandemic in May. In it, we suggested some basic ideas for keeping a good study area such as controlling your noise levels, having a controllable light that allows you to dim or brighten based on the activity you’re working on, ensuring you are comfortable, and reducing clutter. This infographic highlights some key ideas for how to set up your workspace for maximum productivity so you can establish effective study habits and set controls for you to check while you learn at home.
For Lucy, it has all been about scheduling and keeping a routine. “Setting a schedule for myself has definitely helped me stay motivated. I try to wake up around the same time every day and schedule time to do lessons, work on assignments, and study,” said Lucy. “Figuring out when I work best is also very helpful. I’m definitely better at learning in the morning and early afternoon than in the evening. Knowing that, and creating a schedule around it helps me do my courses as efficiently as possible.”
What recommendations would you give to fellow students about learning online?
When we asked our former students to give advice to their current students, they both had some great and different ideas on how you can succeed doing a homeschool or online course. Some of this advice has echoed other tips we’ve given to our students in past blog posts as well. “Make a schedule for yourself and do your best to stick to it,” said Lucy. “Also be patient with yourself and take your time when you’re learning new concepts.”
We couldn’t agree more. Sticking to a schedule and getting organized is something we’ve been writing about throughout 2020. Our blog on Tips For Online Learning During The Covid-19 Pandemic, we highlight how important it is to stick to a routine. Many people who work from home for a living find that keeping to a routine in the morning helps them create a mindset that they are going to work. This same technique can easily apply to going to school. This handy article highlights why it’s important to set a routine if you’re working, or learning from home.
We also gave valuable advice for organizing and planning can be found in our blog from January on tips for getting organized in 2020. Using a day planner or calendar app on your phone is a great place to start.
Isabella had some different advice on how to use the tool you’ll be learning online with, the internet! “Learn to use the internet well. There are so many resources to help you,” said Isabella. “Use the online course as guidance, and search for help when you need it.” Of course use the resources you have available to you, and as Lucy so valuably exclaimed, this also includes your teachers “Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher lots of questions!”
While Isabella recommended one of OES’ top tips for pandemic homeschooling, having a workspace that is conducive to learning is extremely valuable. “Have a work space (if possible) away from your bedroom. Create a different environment.”
We couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of creating a learning space at home and this article; 4 Ways to Prepare for a Strange New School Year. For parent’s they recommend, if it is possible to “supply your kid with a room that’s free of distractions in which to study. And provide yourself with a room to focus on your work. If you don’t have access to surplus rooms, ensure that your kid has a dedicated study space set up in their room.”
Why did you choose OES for your online homeschool course?
The final question we wanted to ask our alumni is why they chose OES for their online learning needs and it seems that our reputation is one of the primary drivers. “I researched a few online high schools with the Ontario school board and read reviews. OES had very positive reviews, and looked user friendly, so I went with it!” said Lucy. Isabella concurred; “OES seemed highly credible, modern and well put together.”
One of the things we pride ourselves on at Ontario eSecondary School is how much our teachers care about our student experience. Taking an online or homeschool course online should be a positive experience. Our instructors are trained 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
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