How National Extension College’s partnership with a Swiss international school created a new approach to personalized learning – FE News

The Covid pandemic has forced teachers in colleges, universities and schools around the world to rethink the way they deliver instruction. While some are returning to a “new normal” with online learning as an “add-on,” others are moving towards a more permanent system that combines technology with traditional face-to-face learning.

One exciting approach has been developed by a post-16 school in Switzerland which has partnered with National Extension College – a long-established UK e-learning provider – to create a hybrid model that combines teaching in face to face and online. learning.

The International School of Lucerne, established less than a year ago in August 2021, specializes in the education of young athletes and sports professionals, musicians, actors and anyone whose circumstances mean that a normal schedule is impractical. The title “School” is a bit misleading, as it operates much more like a sixth form college, but on a smaller scale. Their hybrid approach has three components. The National Extension College offers students online courses, learning materials, assignment grading, tutor feedback, and support through the [email protected] Platform. Pearson Edexcel awards GCSE and A levels. Finally, the Lucerne school offers face-to-face support from specialist teachers.

The day operates much the same as a college or regular school with students attending from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but what happens during those six hours is quite different. Each student follows a personalized learning program according to their needs. They can access learning whenever they want. This can be a video recording, online resources, a face-to-face tutorial, or a group session with other students from the school. Some crash courses also come with individual live tutorials. Deadlines are flexible so students can truncate their studies into a single academic year and combine all the GCSEs and A-levels they need. This approach suits people like footballer Ralph and competitive go-kart racer Henry, both of whom needed a tailored approach in order to fit their studies into their sporting commitment. It also helps teachers and lecturers who have to multitask.

“They are supposed to do the impossible. They are expected to plan and create the curriculum, produce materials, teach lessons, conduct assessments and more,” says school principal Kamran Baig. “In addition to that, each student had to follow an individual course with a differentiated approach, which is too demanding. The best they can do is pretend to be interested in customization. I realized that so many children are not well served by the traditional education system. They are round pegs inserted into square holes, like sheep in a herd progressing at the same pace. So I thought if we could get the technology to do a lot of the program delivery work, we could free up the teacher to be a coach, a mentor, a facilitator, and a guide.

The school has minimal overhead. It occupies space on the first floor of a building in Lucerne, with teaching rooms, tutorials, offices and a science laboratory. Pupils have their meals at a nearby school and can use a gym across the road. The first cohort of 15 people is multicultural, coming from Germany, South Africa, Russia, Japan and Morocco, as well as Switzerland. The teaching takes place in the middle of English. Students take courses leading to UK qualifications which are accepted as entry to Swiss universities as well as the UK. The alternative route would involve studying for the International Baccalaureate or Swiss Matura which normally takes them four years, whereas at the International School in Lucerne they can achieve the necessary GCSE and A levels in just two years. The first cohort are about to pass their GCSEs and A levels after achieving outstanding results in mock exams.

The Lucerne students found the blended learning approach motivating: “They love the mix of online and face-to-face learning as it gives them clarity. They can see the route ahead, start and end points, and milestones along the way. Being digital savvy, they are used to accessing information online,” says Baig. “But it is important that technology does not take over. Sometimes fancy stuff can be done, but it has to be what’s best for the student.

The Times Education Commission, in its recent report published on May 10, strongly criticized the current school and college education system, saying that we have an analog education system in the digital age. This hybrid approach pioneered by the Lucerne School and the National Extension College shows a possible and feasible future. There are benefits for training providers who can streamline their systems and reduce overhead. And there are benefits for students who can tailor learning to their lifestyle. Is this where the future lies?

Esther Chesterman, chief executive of the National Extension College, thinks so. “We see more and more people who want to study flexibly. This includes school-aged students as well as adults. What the pandemic has done is show how technology can transform the way we learn. What our collaboration with Lucerne International School has shown is how combining quality face-to-face teaching with online learning can help those who need a flexible approach, wherever they are. are found in the world.

Anne Nicholls is a writer and communications consultant specializing in education.

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