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30 Apr Transylvania College: how online learning works

Learning has continued at Transylvania College (Cluj-Napoca, Romania) since the beginning of the pandemic, with school activity moved online.

“We had to get mobilized in a very short period, but it was not difficult to adapt, because we have already been using technology in the learning process (Apple TV, iPad-learning, Google classroom) for years. Thus, our teachers and our students have been working with technology every day anyway. My colleagues rallied and we had a plan even before the schools closed. I am grateful for everyone’s proactivity and hard work”, explained Ruxandra Mercea, Transylvania College’s Director.

The online platforms we use are free, available to anyone. For example, the school has been using the free Class Dojo application for many years to send messages to the parents of primary school and kindergarten students. Students (in primary, middle school and high school) and teachers also use Google Meet, Google Classroom and other resources available online. All the classes in middle school and high school have continued to follow the regular timetable, online. The teachers in primary school created a mini website for each class, where they add instructions for tasks daily. Also, the teachers have 1:1 or small group video conferences with pupils, to better explain the material being taught online. 

Even the kindergarten has continued: the teachers make various materials for children every day and have weekly online meetings with the whole group and 1:1 with each family.

At the beginning of the crisis, when we made the transition to online learning, Peter Astbury, Director of Digital Strategy at Transylvania College, explained in a testimonial for the school Blog what steps have been taken within the school to move to online teaching. We published the text at that time with the hope that it could be helpful to other schools that need support and we believe that the information is still relevant. With the help of Peter, we continue to regularly publish teaching tips and instruction for our teachers, which we then share on our Social Media channels to be of help for teachers in other schools.

The members of the school’s Wellbeing department have used existing communication channels and developed new ways to communicate information and guidance to students, teachers and parents while the school building is closed. Members of the school’s Wellbeing team are also available for video-calls with teachers, students and parents.

Most of the information mentioned above, whether we are talking about wellbeing, or tips on how to make a transition to online teaching, is explained on the Transylvania College social media channels, in order to help teachers, students and parents outside of the school. We feel this is a time to share best-practice ideas and tried and tested tools that work, so we are happy to share from our experience. We are also grateful for other such resources shared by specialists in other schools. And we welcome and value the students and the parents’ feedback. 

Specifically, this is how online learning happens at each level:

KINDERGARTEN

Teachers post daily activities, on Class Dojo, by 9:00, that include:

– short videos with teachers guiding kids and parents through daily learning;

– links with specific activities;

– resource list.

Weekly, teachers host a 15-minute conference call with all pupils. The aim for this is to maintain the children’s connection with their teacher and with each other.

Also weekly, teachers host a meeting for each family in their group with students and their parents (and sometimes their pets too!). 

LOWER PRIMARY

Teachers post daily activities on the class website every morning. Parents also receive a notification on the Class Dojo regarding new activities. About the class website:

– Parents and pupils can see here the tasks that have been set for that day. The website is updated daily.

– Parents will find instructions and instructional videos on the website.

– Additional, ‘can do’ work is also uploaded. 

– Teachers (including specialist teachers) offer time slots when they are available for questions on Google Meet with each family. 

Pupils are required to read independently in English and in Romanian. 

Each class participates in class meetings on Google Meet, on Monday and Friday (a 15-minute conference call with all the children in a particular class). This is intended to allow children to maintain a connection with their teachers and with each other. These meetings are initiated by the class teacher and are organised with the support of the parents.

If a child is not completing the work, his or her parents will be e-mailed by the class teacher to make sure that the child is well and to offer support.

UPPER PRIMARY

Daily work is uploaded every morning on the class website.

Whole class or smaller group conference calls are arranged by the teacher to go over any difficulties the students might be having. Tasks should take around 45 minutes per subject. Additional, ‘can do’ work is also uploaded. 

Google Classroom is offered only with and for students; it is optional for parents to login. The only way the students receive and send homework / work is through Google Classroom, for clarity. Tasks are set for students on Google Classroom. Students submit their work there when completed. Feedback is also given directly to students through this platform.

Work:

– If students do not hand assignments, then parents will be contacted. 

– If parents do not hear from teachers, they are safe to assume that their child is completing the work according to the teacher’s expectation.

– Students are required to read daily in English and in Romanian. 

MIDDLE SCHOOL & HIGH SCHOOL

Students are expected to be on Google Meets with their teachers during their scheduled lesson time. Tasks are set and collected on Google Classroom, or by email. Students who are not present are e-mailed, or their parents contacted, to check on their wellbeing. Students have a Google Meet with their tutor, for check-in, every weekday (Monday to Friday) at 1pm.

In addition to lessons, the students in Year 13 continue to have regular meetings with our University Admissions counsellor, to adjust or prepare the application process according to the newly issued guidelines regarding exams and admissions process, as affected by this global crisis. These uncertain times bring additional stress for our future graduates, in addition to the pressure of getting the required grades, so these meetings are also helpful in supporting them to find balance and to keep a healthy, positive perspective on what the future may bring.

***

All of the above represents just a summary of what we do to continue online classes. There is a lot of work behind a school day, even more now than before this crisis. Our teachers strive to adapt the curriculum to the online environment, just as students and parents strive to adapt and support each other. We are grateful to all of them.

If interested, we invite you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to be up to date with everything we do. You will find recommendations for good practices and suggestions for maintaining a better online connection with students and parents and tips for teaching and learning online.

Lavinia Balulescu
Lavinia Balulescu
lavinia.balulescu@transylvania-college.ro

Journalist, Communications Specialist

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