Tailored and targeted distance-learning support tools have boosted outcomes throughout St. John’s virtual campus
Pivoting to a full-time remote-learning environment is a major gear-shift. But since St. John’s physical campus decamped and the Prep’s virtual campus came to life, a multitude of support tools and distance-learning instruction has been made available to students by departments throughout the School.
It hasn’t hurt to have started with a strong foundation.
The Prep has been a one-to-one iPad learning environment since 2014 and has long been supported by a stand-alone digital learning team, a Center for Teaching and Learning, and a deeply resourced Information Services Department. Thanks to a learning management system (Canvas) already in place and faculty familiarity with G Suite for Education, teachers have been able to focus on sustaining good pedagogical practice while managing the realities of a virtual learning environment rather than the reverse.
Now, many targeted support systems that have rolled out since March 23 are helping students navigate the final weeks of the 2019-20 academic year.
The Center for Learning and Academic Success, for example, has created a variety of time-management templates for students, provided one-on-one virtual meeting support for students following Student Success Plans and Referrals, and hosted a webinar entitled “Ending the Year Strong,” which emphasized ways to close out a unique quarter while gaining insight and attaining success.
CLAS has also collaborated with teachers and counselors to assist in supporting students experiencing suboptimal results in a virtual learning environment. Lastly, CLAS has contributed to the learning tips section of the daily Eagles Update with strategies for organization, time management, writing skills, and self-advocacy.
Meanwhile, the Writing Center has developed a number of avenues for students to access staff counselling and expertise. The Center has provided video-conferencing writing consultations to students by appointment, adapting the previously existing online scheduling platform known as WCOnline.
The Center has also carved out virtual “drop-in” availability for students to consult with writing coaches without scheduling a formal appointment in addition to offering “in-class” Zoom-based instruction on proper citation for research papers at teachers’ request. Writing Center staff also hosted a webinar for juniors on tips for getting started on their college essay, taking into account the unique and changing landscape of college admissions.
The School’s Center for Teaching and Learning team ran a webinar for parents and students covering "Best Practices with Canvas and Zoom.” The Center’s digital learning team also developed a robust set of student tutorials for remote learning that are housed on the School’s Remote Learning Portal Page; teachers are sharing these customized instructional videos with students, as applicable.
“Our students and their parents have been asking great questions to help us ensure the needed coaching and information is shared out,” says Kerry Gallagher, the Prep’s assistant principal for teaching and learning. “Our goal is for every student to have the ability to navigate his assignments and class meetings so he continues to feel academically inspired and connected to his classmates and teachers, both synchronously and asynchronously.”
The School Counseling office has played a central role in multiple webinars offered by the School, including presentations entitled “After the Acceptance" (dealing with choice of college or university), “Family Wellness While Staying at Home,” “Navigating Anxiety and Grief During the COVID-19 pandemic,” and a forthcoming webinar that deals with how the pandemic is affecting the college search and application process for the Class of 2021. Additionally, individual school counselors have been creating videos to instruct juniors about considerations they should assess in relation to the college search and application process.