#23 FlexEd 2.0: Blended learning and beyond
Last term (TES 3 October 2020) I shared how our innovative approach to blended learning “FlexEd” had been launched with our partner school, British School Salalah (BSS), to provide a new form of educational opportunity to students to significantly extend the existing teaching already on offer.
FlexEd was specifically designed for BSS students aged 13-16 preparing for IGCSE and GCSEs and includes:
- Five days a week attendance in school at British School Salalah. Face-to-face teaching for English and Mathematics iGCSE, Arabic, Music and PE, is delivered predominantly by two dedicated full time teachers
- GCSE biology, chemistry, physics and computing, supported by a personalised learning platform from Century, is provided via regular timetabled online tutoring from BSM’s world-class team of UK-qualified science teachers 1300km away in Muscat
- A Google Chromebook laptop, software and unlimited storage for school and home use is included free of charge for every FlexEd student
- From next year we expect students will participate in BSM’s enrichment programme, including the World Scholar’s Cup, Model United Nations and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award
So how is it going after the first term? As promised, we undertook an evaluation survey in December to gauge parental feedback. Whilst the sample size is fairly small just now, there are some meaningful take-aways to share here. We also have some soundings from the teachers involved to add their initial thoughts and ideas for improvements for the future.
FlexEd is helping students make good progress
100% of parents either strongly agreed or agreed that their child was making good progress with FlexEd. All parents also confirmed that they could understand and see the progress being made. And all respondents would recommend the programme to other parents and friends. This, of course, is heartening news.
The importance of face-to-face learning was clear from the results, with 100% in either the strongly agree (71%) and agree (29%) categories. Traditional teaching is clearly still so important – the personal touch means a lot.
86% of parents agreed that online FlexEd lessons were enjoyed by their child with 100% confirming that the Chromebook helped and that the Google Classroom platform was effective. Comments identified the organisation and punctuality of the online lessons as being important, providing both pace and progress. Parents suggested other subjects, such as Arabic, French, History, Geography and Islamic studies, as areas where the programme could be extended.
Both students and teachers enjoy FlexEd
This term we will need to make sure that all students progress within similar timescales and we plan to offer more guidance to maximise the effectiveness of independent self-study. If possible we will enable the Muscat based teaching team to travel to Salalah to meet up and enjoy some quality time getting to know the BSS students and staff personally.
Jenny Maslen, Head of BSS, adds “Once the programme content and timing had been devised, and a few early glitches resolved, we have seen both students and teachers enjoy FlexEd with all realising the significant potential it has. We know it has a future for us here in Salalah, and also elsewhere. We plan therefore to extend the programme to year 11 from next September and also to add French.”
Parents were clear that FlexEd makes a real contribution to their child’s education, as an addition to face-to-face teaching and the whole experience of school life. As educators, we know that FlexEd cannot replace campus life, but it can add to it, and for some, it is the route to higher achievement. We also now know that the FlexEd model is sustainable, for all involved, and can spread the benefit of British education far and wide.
FlexEd 2.0 and beyond
FlexEd is firing the imagination of our school community to consider how we might design other applications for blended and online learning post COVID. For example, on the first day back at school after the Winter Break one of my governors welcomed me back with the following message:
Kai, Happy New Year! What’s FlexEd 2.0 going to look like?
Of course forced school closure due to adverse weather conditions such as snow in the UK, or rain here in Oman, will no longer mean a loss of learning. Once the students and teachers are at home, education will continue online.
Furthermore, now that all our classrooms are set up for blended learning, those students who are not well enough to come to school but can learn from home will be able to do so. The teacher will switch on the camera and the home-based student will be able to access the class, as many of them continue to do so now, for at least some of the time.
You can check out of our school but don’t have to leave
There’s another possibility too. What about those students who have spent some years at our school making friends and building learning experiences with our teachers but who find themselves moving away due to their parents leaving Oman? There’s no doubt some of these would like the option to continue with us.
I have three students in Year 11 who in the next few weeks are moving to a different country and their parents are asking if they can continue learning with us; they want to check out but not leave. Could our teachers continue to support their studies as online tutors?” asks Nadia Megnin, our Head of Senior School.
The answer is clear – why ever not. Let’s do it.