Steep learning curve with great rewards


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Steep learning curve with great rewards


Teachers are one part of the equation when it comes to self-directed learning (SDL) and the virtual classroom (VC). But, what about students? How did they find this teaching environment? Steve Menzies is a recent Year 12 graduate from the Agnew school in Queensland and he says it was a steep learning curve but well worth it.

“SDL and VC as a whole played an integral part in forming an independent learning style throughout my last year,” says Steve. “The switch from having a majority of subjects delivered face-to-face to being solely delivered via a VC forced us to pick up the new system fast.

“I enjoyed all aspects of SDL because it catered for a variety of learning styles and situations. As we progressed throughout the year, we found collaboration within the class in an SDL environment gave us the chance to pick up new concepts which had not even entered our heads before.”

Creativity was a key skill learned in the environment, especially when it came to finding solutions to a problem. The smaller group learning was most effective for achieving results and gaining ideas without losing it within the hubbub of general chat. Although OneSchool is focused on developing dedicated and innovative learners, the social interaction in this team environment had a second benefit - helping to uplift the vibes of the learning, says Steve.

And VC? How did he find the practicalities of it?

“VC in my mind formed another branch of SDL,” says Steve. “The lack of a teacher on campus forced us to self-direct and take charge of our learning. In general, interaction with other campuses broadened our perspective. That is, it made the learning come to life when we had 40 heads on the game, rather than just the seven of our local campus. This translates to 40 fresh sets of ideas and perspectives, as well as 40 individual personalities.”

Steve is now out in the wide world working, so has SDL and the VC environment been helpful in the real world?

“SDL and VC definitely have helped me in the real world – something that is been proven every day,” he says. “The formation of collaborative and leadership skills at school has been integral to enabling me to flourish in a team environment where differing personalities, ideas and styles are a part of life. Having the ability to deal with conflict, out-of-control brainstorming and distractions at school form a key part of the skills needed to work with a team of people. Of course, in this environment, no one can stay rigid for long. Fluid and creative thinking was a skill collaborative SDL helped to form in us – and this mentality is the only way to work alongside such varying personalities in the workplace.

“That being said, focus work never goes away. When the day job starts to kick into reality, individual work becomes a key part of the experience. Interaction with people all around you goes on, but the ability to shut off from the noisy collaborative environment and concentrate on a task at hand – which we learnt in the focus area of SDL – is key to succeeding in the workplace.”

And there was a real positive side-effect to both of these methods of teaching.

“I found learning via these two methods boosted my marks,” says Steve. “It seems impossible that learning without having a teacher easily accessible on campus could increase your success. However, I believe that VC and SDL forced us to think for ourselves, building an ability to brainstorm and implement ideas without feeding off the ideas of a teacher; and this meant we were not restricted by one person’s opinions – rather we could bounce off other students and develop new concepts.”

And was he apprehensive about SDL and the VC?

“As with any new development – there will always be critics,” he says. “However, those who dove right into the new learning style took their learning to a whole new exciting level.”

Steve’s advice to those starting out with SDL and VC:

  • Don’t be scared to ask questions – if you don’t interact in class, it is easy to mute the mike, switch off and fall asleep. You need to interact with students and teachers to keep on task and in the flow.
  • Keep positive – if you have a negative approach to learning this way you will never take it off the ground.
  • Have a goal in mind – and never get your eye off it.
  • Cut the distractions – there is a time to work and a time to play. Make sure you use focus time and class time to ask questions and gain ideas.
  • At the same time, make sure you enjoy it. Have fun, because this will help to bolster motivation. However, you must know where to stop and focus on the task.