Some 82 international schools from around the world responded to the survey in June which sought to assess how technology was used when campuses closed during the pandemic.
“Like the rest of the world, we went from being classroom practitioners to online lecturers and deliverers overnight”
For the international schools that were surveyed, 41.5% said they experienced significant challenges delivering distance learning through technology during their campus closures.
“Like the rest of the world, we went from being classroom practitioners to online lecturers and deliverers overnight,” said Graeme Lazell, head of tech at Nexus International School Malaysia.
“We had no idea if we were doing this correctly or not and needed feedback from our community to drive us in the direction [they] thought we should be going. Mistakes were made along the way, but we will learn from this,” he added.
The cause of these challenges, according to 40% of respondents, was a lack of teacher skills to adapt teaching to distance learning. Over 30% said that teachers lacked skills with technology.
Other challenges included new expectations for teachers with no time to prepare, a lot of change which occurred very quickly, longevity of campus closures putting extended pressure on technology and use of different devices by students with different connectivity plans causing connectivity issues.
“Younger students struggle to access it [distance learning] independently and it is difficult for parents to provide the required support, particularly when they have multiple children or also have to work from home themselves,” said Peter Astbury, IT director at Transylvania College in Romania.
At Green Shoots International School in Vietnam where challenges with distance learning included a lack of student access to a learning device, and lack of teachers skills in the use of technology, posting learning instructions was considered extremely valuable along with synchronous communication platforms.
“We delivered, or had available for collection, resources for families which changed twice per week,” said head of school, Dave Porter.
“The combination of Zoom, Seesaw, Google Slides and Clever SSO has been core to delivering teaching and learning”
The research found that the use of edtech was crucial for the vast majority of schools that responded – almost all (99%) had a learning platform in place and were able to support children with their continued learning.
While there were issues around teachers’ tech skills, edtech platforms helped them deliver learning to students.
Some 90% of the schools surveyed said their teachers considered synchronous communication platforms, such as Skype, Zoom and Google Meet, extremely valuable for delivering distance learning to children.
“For our [elementary school] students and teachers, the combination of Zoom, Seesaw, Google Slides and Clever SSO has been core to delivering teaching and learning. For [middle school] and [high school], Zoom, Google Classroom and Clever SSO were our core systems,” said a spokesperson for The International School Manila in the Philippines.
Parental involvement also played a key part in making a child’s distance learning program a success.
“Our parents are our biggest supporters and through their constructive criticism, [we] were able to guide the school with how the online tuition was going for them at home,” said Nexus International School Malaysia’s Lazell.
“Along with the teachers, they are the driving force for our improvement.”