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One year on – South Korean students reflect on online learning

Cambridge Learners   Online learningOnline teaching

Students at North London Collegiate School Jeju in South Korea (NLCS Jeju) moved to online learning in early 2020 and shared a blog about their initial experiences. One year on, they are reflecting on learning remotely, going back into school and the future of blended learning.

Year 11 Cambridge IGCSE student Leo Pei is 17 years old. He thinks blended learning would give him the best of both systems.

Virtual classes come hand in hand with physical isolation. I longed for the vibrant energy of student participations and occasional jokes from the teacher that will crack up the entire class in school. When Covid-19 regulations loosened and we were allowed back in school, it was thrilling to be able to mess around with my friends again.

Having experienced both in-school and online learning, I came to appreciate the advantages of both systems. I found online learning beneficial in terms of academics because I was able to concentrate more from the absence of peer distractions.

I might prefer blended learning where students attend school for three days and do virtual learning for two days, for example. Not only will it maintain the psychological health of both students and teachers, it will also boost the efficiency and quality of virtual learning as students acknowledge that they will meet physically with their teachers sooner or later.

I believe blended learning will also lower students’ stress levels since they will have the relief of being able to sleep a bit more for certain days of the week, as well as being allowed some time to focus on themselves. Waking up late and being able to spend more time with my fluffy dog are some privileges of remote learning that I do not want to give up.

Julia Back is a Year 11 Cambridge IGCSE boarding school student. She prefers being back in the lively environment of school.

The worst thing about online learning was that I couldn’t do enough exercise. After looking at the screen for a long time, my eyes and back hurt a lot. However, there were some huge advantages as well. I got used to searching resources on the internet and I’ve learned how to create documents and Excel files that are very useful. And above all, as a boarding student, it was a great opportunity for me to spend a lot of time with my family.

I was worried to leave home due to the Covid-19 situation, but still, I couldn’t wait to go back into school. It was lovely to meet my friends and teachers face to face. As a student who loves to exercise and dance, it was also a great advantage to be able to use the gym. Not being able to do any after-school activities was a big disadvantage to me when school closed.

I strongly prefer being in the classroom full-time because it is much livelier and more energetic. In my experience, during remote learning it is essential to stay motivated. Since we were not allowed to go out and have a valuable experience, due to Covid-19, we were always lacking the motivation of being enthusiastic. I spent my free time doing yoga and Pilates which made me withstand the emotional stress and tedious life.

Dongwook Warrick Kwon, aged 15, is a Year 10 Cambridge IGCSE student. Online learning made him realise how much support he had around him.

As someone who frequently uses emails to discuss different ideas with others, online learning could not have been better for me. Also, as many turned to communicating online, I had a myriad of opportunities to listen to different people’s opinions in webinars or lectures on the other side of the globe. However, that precisely may have been the disadvantage of online learning – it was a little difficult for me to detach myself from the internet.

Although we now go to school on a daily basis, I still cannot forget the support that my form tutor, Ms. Sandra Coll, gave me throughout online learning. She assured me that there is someone to talk to and someone who supports me in case I face any hardships. Of course, there were other friends and family members who I kept in close contact with: they were all supporters who prevented me from easily falling into a ‘pandemic blue’ situation.

When school opened, it was a complete marvel to ‘reunite’ with my friends. I was also able to resume various beyond-the-curriculum activities which I believe is what makes school life here in NLCS Jeju even more colourful than it already is. I finally felt alive being able to pursue my academic endeavours with others and being able to attend training sessions with our swimming squad.

If I had to decide between online and in-class lessons, I would choose in-class. I would always miss the ‘personal touch’ in lessons – the laughter and chatter of students in the corridor, the feeling that I am in the hands of teachers and can reach out if any small things happen. These are all things that I cannot afford to miss.

However, the 26 letters in the English alphabet cannot fully express my gratitude towards the fact that for the past year we were able to continue our academic endeavours, even if this meant going online. Luckily, I had access to one of the most approachable, helpful members of staff within my school, someone who was more than willing to help me sort out any technological challenges. In essence, online learning shed light on the surrounding people who were constantly there to support me, no matter how small the issues were.

Shona Park, aged 16, is a Cambridge IGCSE student in Year 10. Online learning freed up time that she could put to good use.

At first, I was able to spot some advantages in online learning such as being able to have extra time for myself and learn how to use digital technologies. I started to devote myself to what I was truly passionate about. It gave me an opportunity to plan and create our school’s official podcast named Spatium which you can listen to here. It is an international podcast with interviews from other NLCS schools in Dubai and London, as well as other high school students from Germany, Japan, and America. We were able to compare our school lives after the pandemic.

When I was finally able to attend school in person I was overjoyed with just being able to talk to people around me without the need of a computer screen. I spent a lot of time with my friends and teachers and catching up on activities that I wasn’t able to pursue at home.

I think blended learning has its own advantages in having a more “relaxed” schedule. However, I believe that returning to the classroom full-time is my preferred option. It allows me to have a more dynamic and purposeful day, also allowing me to interact with society more instead of being left alone in a confined space which wasn’t really ideal for me.

Remote and blended learning was definitely a period that will be remembered throughout my life. However, what was the most memorable was that I was able to create my school’s official podcast and put it into action.

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