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At NAISHK we were delighted to win an award for our approach to online learning. We called this our Virtual School Experience (VSE) and it has irrevocably changed a multitude of aspects of our school. One of these is the end to ‘Snow Days’.
In fact, being in Hong Kong, it’s not so much snow as Typhoons that have previously resulted in days out of school due to bad weather. Now, with our VSE we can seamlessly swing into virtual learning with minimal notice, ensuring the day is filled with all the elements so important to engaging teaching and successful learning. No matter what is happening in our city all our learners from 3-18 can continue to attend a vibrant, exciting school day.
Our journey towards being in this position started back in the Autumn of 2019 when due to some social unrest in Hong Kong, we were one of the first schools to face virtual schooling. In these pre-covid months we experienced situations where we had to close the school early and so were already looking at digital solutions to support teaching and learning if the students could not be in the physical building. The advent of school closure due to Covid was early in 2020 and we rapidly iterated through complex changes as the ‘new normal’ unfolded and we all sought ways to mitigate not being able to fully open the school.
Being one of the first schools to go through closure meant that we were required to work out what processes and systems would be effective. We likened this to ‘fixing the wings of the plane while in flight, without a map or a clear destination’. It was a highly stressful yet creative experience. Colleagues at all levels approached this with a strong culture of collaboration, innovation and support, working iteratively, with our community stakeholders, and across our sites and phases to quickly share ideas and outcomes to make the VSE work. Over 20 separate surveys were used to gain data for our VSE so that we could constantly adjust what was working and make it right for all ages, stages and subjects. The result was a highly personalised and adaptive VSE.
We started our journey by creating a framework to give us a better understanding and common language to explain what we meant by ‘blended’ learning. Explaining and identifying the elements that would comprise a virtual school, alongside timetable and guidance for pupils, staff and parents were all important ingredients in our VSE. Defining balanced, blended learning enabled flexibility and innovation in our approaches to teaching and learning.