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The Important Part of Online Learning is Teacher Engagement

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Diane Claver, the Head of School at iCademy Middle East, speaks about the challenges faced by the education sector and how educational institutes are overcoming those

How has the pandemic affected the education sector in the region?
The situation over the past year, including school closures or reduction in onsite learning time for students, has forced parents to evaluate their choice in how their children learn. Many parents have opted for fully online learning through trusted full-time, online schools such as iCademy Middle East. School groups have also had to pivot toward full online and blended models to keep students engaged in learning. The results have been very mixed, as some schools have been more prepared than others.

What sort of opportunities do you see in the regional education sector?
There are many “traditional” schools that have had difficulties meeting the expectations of parents, which has caused them to look elsewhere for schooling. In some cases, families have even chosen to leave the country in search of better education options for their children. There is room for additional blended education models within the region to flourish in the current (and possibly future) environment. Parents may be hesitant to send their children back to full-time, face-to-face learning due to health concerns. Parents have also now experienced the flexibility that online or blended-model learning can bring.

Is there a digital disconnect despite tech tools being available for distance education?
There is a disconnect between teachers being trained to teach virtually, regardless of the plethora of tech tools available. When you have a curriculum that is not specifically formatted for online delivery, it becomes a huge challenge for teachers and administrators to modify the curriculum for “digitized” learning. It’s not enough to just connect via Zoom, Google Meets, or Microsoft Teams. The important part is teacher engagement, proficiency in virtual teaching, and using an engaging, relevant curriculum that is already targeted to online schooling.

How can this digital disconnect be bridged?
Based on the last question, the assumption is that there has been a digital disconnect. The way you bridge this disconnect is to utilized a fully digitized curriculum that teachers are trained to implement, modify and expand upon. Teachers are the key to making learning meaningful in the digital space.

STEM has risen as the go-to stream of education during the pandemic. What importance does STEM have in developing the skillsets of a student?
STEM has been an important part of all academic institutions for several years now. The pandemic did not necessarily highlight that. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics all have discrete skills that students must learn and master. The teachers are the ones that help students bridge the skills across the various disciplines to create relevant and authentic learning opportunities.

Do you use solutions today to make STEM learning a seamless experience?
Yes, at iCademy Middle East, students engage in STEM activities in their science, technology courses as well as mathematics. Our high school Science courses utilize virtual labs, to bring the lab experience to students at home or in a blended-model learning environment.

What about the security aspects of online learning. How can that be addressed?
Security can be addressed by utilizing a proprietary curriculum platform that only students, teachers, and parents can access. We also utilize lockdown browsers for assessments, as well as anti-plagiarism tools built into the learning management system. We also teach students about online safety and set high standards for them to follow.

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