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Dispelling the myths of online learning

Girl in white jumper on laptop
Elaine Tibbatts

Dispelling the myths of online learning

Much has been said about online learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic almost a year ago - some of it good, some of it less so. Headlines of online learning creating ‘challenges’ and being a ‘nightmare’ provide contradictions to the general perception of its pivotal role in the future of learning.

Critics focus on perceived issues with the level of interaction and emotional support for pupils and lack of personalisation and teacher guidance. But done well, online learning can provide a complete school experience with a vast array of benefits. The flexibility of self-paced learning, coupled with small class sizes, targeted instruction, and the potential to learn alongside peers from across the globe are just the tip of the iceberg.  

In this blog, we look at some of the most common criticisms of online learning and look at how, with the appropriate strategies and support, these concerns can be eradicated.

Myth 1. Online learning limits levels of individualisation and teacher support

Far from lacking individualisation, online learning combines independent study, live lessons and one-to-one teacher support to allow for a truly flexible, personalised education. At Harrow we provide access to self-study materials that help pupils scaffold to greater depth and knowledge, alongside the implementation of live lessons that are carefully tailored to personal needs. In addition, flexible appointments for one-to-one support from their teacher means that pupils are empowered to develop individual learning pathways at a pace that suits them.  

Central to the success of online learning is engagement with expert teachers. Our teachers work in a data-rich environment, analysing pupil progress data and using it to provide individualised support to coach and motivate pupils. 

Myth 2: Online learning results in a lack of pupil participation

When online learning is done well, pupils receive constant feedback on their progress through one-to-one session with their teachers, and the interactive live lessons maximise pupil participation. In this way, everyone is seen and heard, and no one is left behind. Removing the distractions of the physical classroom provides an environment in which a broad range of learners can thrive. 

Myth 3: There is insufficient social, moral and cultural development in online learning

Independent learning does not mean learning alone. At Harrow School Online, pupils can participate in a range of extracurricular activities, such as the school newspaper, investment society and debate club. They can cultivate their own passions outside of academia, develop new and healthy interests, and build relationships. Online learning allows pupils to work alongside peers from across the globe, broadening their understanding of different cultures and building an international network of friends. 

Myth 4: Lack of self-discipline impacts the success of online learning

Online courses allow pupils to build their own unique schedules, allowing them to balance study and work with other commitments. With the correct support in place, pupils develop invaluable skills including time-management and self-discipline ahead of university and future careers.  

Collectively, our success coaches, teachers and pupil mentors work together to produce the careful guidance needed to become effective, independent learners. 

 Myth 5: Online learning limits outcomes and academic potential

Harrow School Online is a full online learning experience that combines the ethos and academic excellence of Harrow School with Pearson's 20-years’ experience in online learning. Just as with in-person learning, we work hard to support the university aspirations and career ambitions of every one of our pupils and ensure they achieve their very highest potential.

At Harrow School Online, Success Coaches, House Tutors and Teachers all play a part in helping to prepare pupils at the school for competitive applications to the world’s top universities. Fortnightly one-to-one coaching sessions and small group workshops specifically tailored to pupils’ needs helps them develop not only their academic ability but also their personal and social skills

Work placements, an elective super curriculum and an array of extra-curricular activities provide pupils with the experience, extension work, lateral thinking and essential problem-solving skills required for success.

Myth 6: Online learning means parents have to teach and ‘babysit’ pupils

Far from having to home-school or monitor children on a daily basis, online learning can provide parents and carers with unprecedented visibility into their children’s education, with real time access to their performance, grades and time spent studying and regular meetings with academic staff when required.  

The formation of Harrow School Online predates the pandemic, and was inspired by a desire to expand access to high quality education and the heightened university and careers prospects that this can provide. Our educational programmes are specifically designed to make the most of the innate benefits of online learning, equipping our teachers to bring out the best in every learner. 

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