The Virtual Classroom

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The Virtual Classroom - BLU Networks Consultancy Limited

Teaching, using technology, now cannot be kept apart.

For many centuries, we have been imparting knowledge to generations of children in the same manner – they head to school, assemble into their classrooms, are taught, they leave, only to return the next day and to go through the same process.

While this process has worked for children living in the Industrial Age, it is no longer the best way to equip our children, who would be the decision-makers of the future.   In the eyes of the decision makers, why should the process change? Or For those who have the power to make the change, why should the learning process be any different. It has worked for years. It appeared that the course of thinking would not have changed or would have taken some time for technology to be fully incorporated into various teaching methods.

Enter the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  Now we are being forced to change!!

Schools have been closed, with teachers and their students being confined to their homes. There are numerous examinations looming – Secondary Entrance Assessment (S.E.A), CXC’s CSEC and CAPE. While they have been postponed, they will not be going away, and preparation for these examinations must continue. How is this to happen during the pandemic? Teaching, like all other operations, had to move online.

The Virtual Classroom 02 - BLU Networks Consultancy Limited
Remote learning has now become the “new normal”.

There are various challenges that need to be overcome with the move to remote learning since it affects different categories of users. For School administrators, they must be able to respond quickly to the changing environment whilst maintaining correspondence with parents/Guardians and performing many of their normal duties.

There are various challenges that need to be overcome with the move to remote learning since it affects different categories of users. For School administrators, they must be able to respond quickly to the changing environment whilst maintaining correspondence with parents/Guardians and performing many of their normal duties.

The Virtual Classroom 03 - BLU Networks Consultancy LimitedAt BLU Networks Consultancy, we have seen the advantages of working remotely for many years and as a result, we were able to continue work as normal the very next day after the Government took the decision for non-essential workers to stay at home.

Sadly, we have witnessed situations where other businesses were not as fortunate. Having the right tools and techniques in place are key for any business in difficult times like these. Our experience has shown us that the benefits that we have witnessed as a team can be experienced in remote/online learning.

Not too long-ago, online learning was stereotyped and seen as an option for persons not smart enough to go to a real school or lazy. We have all seen today, that is not the case. Globally, our teachers, children, and parents, must see things differently if learning must continue.

We at BLU Networks Consultancy have been working very hard for these past couple months to bring the skills necessary for transforming the traditional school to a virtual one.

Having (10) ten years’ experience interacting and teaching children, young adults and adults, I have collected 6 elements  believed to be essential for any teacher doing virtual teaching.

 I would want…..

  1. A classroom that is easy to set up.
  2. A platform that does not require much technical skill
  3. To view my students whilst I am teaching.
  4. To explain my topic without having to leave the classroom.
  5. A way for students to ask as many questions and be interactive until learning is achieved.
  6. To receive student’s assignments easily whilst simultaneously giving feedback.

There are many unforeseen challenges faced by educators, namely the lack of computer devices owned by children, no internet connection at homes, the lack of parental support and or supervision and the list can go on. What do we then do, do we sit back and do nothing?

Let’s reach out to those who have the means to access learning. At present there is a lot being done by organizations through partnerships to facilitate those students who are without. It would soon be the norm, where all students and teachers would need to have access to virtual classrooms, especially as we are currently living in a technological era.

Even though Covid -19 has brought despair to many across the world, many countries were better prepared to continue using virtual learning, whilst others struggled. I am certain this has opened all our eyes to where we have fallen short and we would want to do better by being better prepared.

Further, on a normal basis, through ministry directive, students are not allowed to attend school when sick, especially during flu season; with this platform students and teachers can still be connected.

Extensive research has been conducted just for you and it has been discovered, there are many other learning platforms that provide high-quality learning experiences. Many educational institutions have tried multiple platforms, whereas, with Microsoft 365 for Education, there is no need to cross platforms.  For example, it allows students to have their own individual workplace which is not provided by other platforms.

The use of multiple platforms can have adverse effects on users such as

  • Confusion of students having to learn and use more than one platform.
  • Users confused as to which platform to use for a specific subject.
  • Compatibility issues with devices.
  • File formats are different across learning technology and would need to be converted before uploaded elsewhere.

It is in these areas, Microsoft office 365 Education shines.

Microsoft 365 for Education, a free collaboration platform, is a tool that supports remote learning fully. It facilitates the sharing of content during live sessions; allows for chatting and messaging; interactions between teachers and students; as well as sessions can be recorded and made available for playback later.

  • With Microsoft 365 for Education, school administrators can easily join live sessions and assess how well the online classes are progressing.

  • This platform is a Microsoft product and therefore, users can have access to many of the Microsoft Office Suite applications. Microsoft Office is already the preferred productivity platform used by students and teachers.

  • For teachers and students, all the resources of the Internet are available to them. Teachers can draw from multiple sources and present to their students in real-time, as well as present content that they would have previously prepared. Content can be posted to the learning portal which can be accessed by the students.
The Virtual Classroom 05 - BLU Networks Consultancy Limited
  • Content can include examinations, which can be set up to be graded automatically, with answers being displayed to students immediately after grading. These answers can then be used for discussions during the next sessions.

  • Students grades can be analyzed, and trends determined with Microsoft Excel Online. The analysis can then be accessed and distributed to school Administrators for reporting purposes.

  • Other content can include PowerPoint presentations used in classes, additional reading materials, websites, and digital media. Students, as in the classroom, can interact with their teachers during the live session – posting questions that either would be seen by the teacher alone, or by everyone in the classroom.

  • Parents / caregivers, who would most probably be at home, can participate in online sessions with their children / charges, therefore being able to assist in areas of difficulty.

Yes – there are various platforms that can deliver remote learning solutions, Microsoft 365 for Education is the most complete option for remote learning.

To continue this journey together a series of blogs would be posted weekly, so look out for our next blog on some simple steps in working with Microsoft 365 for Education.

In the meantime, you can learn more of remote learning by clicking the link on developing students’ social and emotional skills during remote learning. https://educationblog.microsoft.com/en-us/2020/05/developing-students-social-and-emotional-skills-during-remote-learning/

Give us a call at 1(868)2231576 or email us at sales@blunetworks-tt.com if you need to understand more about using Microsoft 365 for Education.  We are here to help you and your organization make this transition to virtual learning.

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