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UCT Online High School – Creating a Social and Educational Experience Online

UCT Online High School ΓÇô Creating a Social and Educational Experience Online_NOPROCESS_Blog

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The COVID-19 pandemic made it mandatory for many schools to use online systems to adapt to a new way of teaching. To adjust, academic institutions have implemented technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for educators and learners to continue education whilst maintaining safety protocols.  

Many of these practices were limited to learning and did not consider the lack of social interaction amongst students. This often resulted in online fatigue amongst students and teachers. To counteract this and to increase engagement and excitement in the online learning space, institutions need to think of ways in which to integrate their educational and social experiences.  

Challenges that brought about the need for a Dual Experience 

The move from the traditional, socially interactive school environments to ‘self-isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ often created a sense of loneliness amongst students. Children have a need to develop their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills through social interaction. The Valenture Institute’s vision when planning out the Learning Management System for the UCT Online High School was to address this gap and have a greater social impact. There were two elements that were established and implemented with the idea of making students feel more in control of their educational experience and allowing them to have a social element in their school lives. These elements are the Homeroom and the Social Club. 

Homeroom

A Homeroom at the UCT Online High School is a predefined group of learners who are in the same grade and are assigned to a Support Coach. Homerooms play a big role in the model as it is one of the methods implemented to ensure that learners experience peer-to-peer learning, build relationships, and have a safe space to raise issues. Learners have a compulsory Homeroom Pod session which happens once a week between a Homeroom Pod and their dedicated Support Coach. Support Coaches use this time to build a sense of community by doing fun check-ins, having a laugh, and, importantly, ensuring there is a space for learners to ask questions and to feel heard. Although these sessions are there to build a sense of community, it is also a time for Support Coaches to give important updates for the week. 

 
Homeroom Pod sessions are a great way for learners to discuss issues that they might be having and realize that they are not alone. It is also a safe space where solutions to issues can be found together. The UCT Online High school believes that these sessions will encourage all learners to become confident and feel a greater sense of belonging at school.  

Learners also have the opportunity to book one-on-one sessions with their coach should they have any questions that they would like to address. These sessions are a wonderful opportunity for learners to discuss topics such as timetabling, goal setting, and motivation techniques with their dedicated Support Coach.  

Social Clubs   

Traditional high schools allowed interaction in a social environment during school as well as during extracurricular activities. The move to online schooling removed this interaction from students’ lives. In this online environment, students would be limited to a purely educational experience.  
 
The Valenture Institute has created a division of the UCT Online High School called ‘Social Clubs’. This social experience allows students to sign up for clubs of their choice and attend sessions hosted by extracurricular tutors and subject matter experts. These social clubs are synchronized, live online sessions with cameras on. There are four seasons of social clubs a year, stretching over 8 weeks in total. There are four different categories of social clubs to choose from: Wellbeing, Creativity, Skills Development, and Special Interest. Social clubs have been tremendously successful, with ¾ of the learners signing up for at least one course. The top five most popular social clubs thus far are PC Gaming, Financial Literacy, Baking, Coding, and Model UN. 
 
These social clubs not only provide a platform for online high school students to meet new friends with similar interests but also enrich and expand learners’ interests. They can also help to form friendships beyond the borders of the online classroom. 

Why is creating an Educational and Social Experience important? 

The Homeroom and the Social Clubs are there to foster a balance between the educational and social experiences, while also helping students to cope with the challenges of learning online. Online students want to join activities that provide opportunities for an engaging connection with their peers. In virtual social clubs, online interactions are not limited. Members can interact with each other and form friend groups with their peers who have similar interests. They provide a platform for members to develop certain skills that may lead to long-term relationships. Most importantly, these elements exist to support online students in their journey to finishing high school. 

Learn more with Hubble Studios  

If you are an institution that wants to further expand on the educational and social experience of learners and teachers, please get in touch or visit us at www.hubblestudios.com so that we can help you implement your vision.  

This article was written as a collaborative effort by the following Hubblites:

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