ISCA continues to innovate during the Covid-19 pandemic
Amid the global pandemic, educational bodies up and down the country have resorted to new styles of teaching. With schools closed for the foreseeable future, and universities forced to send their students home, Colin Kerrigan, the Executive Director of the International School of Creative Arts, discusses how they have responded to the current crisis in a piece for The Parliamentary Review.
As an educational body, ISCA is committed to delivering world class art and design teaching. Through applying a cross-curricular approach to learning, we are able to ensure that a range of skills are applied to a variety of different areas of art and design. We encourage our tutors to work closely as a team, so that knowledge is shared in our staff as much as in our students – all have a voice in how to make changes to improve the student experience.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has meant that, like other educational bodies, we have had to rethink the way in which we teach our students. We were fortunate in the fact that we have years of experience in delivering online teaching as part of our introduction to the A-Level course. As such, we were immediately able to extend our infrastructure, while making the necessary adjustments for classes to promote participation and engagement.
Our mission has been to personalise the virtual classroom. Within days of the countrywide lockdown, our students had full access to their tutors and learning resource materials via an online platform in their home countries. Accounting for the range of countries our students come from, our whole timetable was replicated to suit different time zones and provide six hours of teaching every day. The overarching goal was to find the most effective ways to engage students and to bridge the gap from face-to-face to remote teaching. We have invested in both the technology to facilitate practical demonstrations, and different teaching strategies to personalise the online learning experience.
While our method of education has changed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, our intentions have not. Our commitment to a student-centred approach remains key, essential in motivating, creating rapport and setting high expectations for students and teachers alike.
Online teaching has challenged teachers’ creativity, encouraging them to find different strategies to proactively engage with students. The online classroom is as dynamic and lively as a physical one would be.
Teaching remotely brings a range of assets with it, including allowing students to ask questions both publicly and privately, should the need arise. Teachers have been able to encourage students to engage in lively debates, but also personalise lessons towards individual student needs thereby creating a more focused learning experience.
The online platform means that work can easily be shared between the tutor and students or the whole group, which is possibly even more effective than in normal lessons as everyone’s attention is on the screen. Students can be more productive online as learning and progress during the lesson is checked and these reviews and opinions are shared more easily than in a physical classroom.
The flexibility of ISCA is one of the reasons the online platform has been so successful. The cross-disciplinary specialisation of highly qualified tutors, together with their experience in teaching online, means they were able to adapt quickly to this new way of working.
The real challenge for us has been that students may not always have all the necessary materials due to the lockdown. Tutors have responded to this, designing tasks and delivery in such a way that even those with just a laptop, pen and paper can progress.
We recognise, more than ever, the potential in high quality online teaching for different courses. Through investment in technology and teaching approaches, and the additional support students receive both academically and pastorally, we have maintained our sense of school community throughout this global crisis.