People, rather than the technologies deployed, are the key factor in driving a successful transition to online teaching, a leading facilitator has concluded after working with numerous schools during Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 linked lockdown.
Headstart (Pvt) Ltd., the award-winning internationally-recognised Sri Lankan e-learning solutions provider, cites as an example the success of Musaeus College’s online teaching model, powered by the Company’s involvement in teacher capability improvement.
One of the first schools in the country to adopt the virtual teaching model in the lockdown period to deliver lessons on a regular school timetable, Musaeus College’s quantifiable accomplishments include the active involvement of over 300 Primary grades to Advanced Level teachers in the tech-based teaching method, the participation of over 6,000 students from all grades via Headstart’s single online platform, the development of a substantial digital content library by the teachers themselves, and the successful completion of online examinations for the second term for the entire school, the Company said.
Headstart attributed the focus on teacher capability improvement, rather than preoccupation with tech support and hardware, as the cornerstone of Musaeus College’s success.
While providing digitised learning material to Musaeus College, Headstart’s role in fostering e-learning also encompassed assessing teachers for their tech capabilities, training them on teaching with technology, and continuous engagement for training, support, and monitoring of key performance indicators (KIPs).
Commenting on Musaeus College’s quick transition to e-learning in response to the pandemic, the Principal, Ms. Nelum Senadira said: “Our plans helped us to adapt very quickly and allowed us to begin conducting a very successful online teaching program which started from 20th March 2020. The lessons were meticulously planned according to a set timetable for all classes from Grades 1 to 13 corresponding to the needs of the syllabus. This focused approach has, we are proud to report, seen us complete the 2nd Term’s work targeting the end of 2nd term by the beginning of August. This would not have been possible if not for the special training provided by Headstart to the master teachers and IT teachers who trained all the others, usually in the late evenings or during the weekends along with the team from Headstart.
Headstart Director/CEO Mr Hasitha Dela said: “The unwavering leadership from the Principal and Management of the school in embracing the shift to digital education, the investment commitment provided for teacher training and capability enhancement, and the dedication and adaptive mindset of the teachers to make e-learning work played a vital role in the school’s digital teaching success. Although technology for education has been available for a while, the pandemic highlighted its necessity. An institution may have the best technology and hardware but how teachers make use of this to deliver lessons is what makes the difference in a student’s learning experience. This is where Musaeus College excelled.”
Notably, when the country went into lockdown-mode due to COVID-19, Headstart made available its digital learning content platform Guru.lk containing resources of digitised material to schools and private tuition institutes whose regular classes had been suspended. This enabled these institutions to maintain their interaction with students via the platform, and keep up the learning momentum without any physical contact until the situation could return to normal.
Access to Guru.lk content is provided free-of-charge to government schools with CSR funding from the Dialog Axiata supported Nenasa initiative. Private schools or educational institutions can use the facility for a monthly fee, with private institutions enjoying the added convenience of being able to pay the fees through their Dialog, Mobitel or SLT bills, the Company said.
Headstart and Guru.lk are currently running an online initiative in more than 250 schools island-wide in partnership of Dialog Axiata, Microsoft and Commercial Bank of Ceylon, under the ‘Smart Schools’ project. More than 3,000 teachers have been trained on teaching with technology over a period of three years with the assistance of the Education Ministry and Provincial education offices under this project, which has won many accolades including an award in 2018 from Microsoft as one of the most successful programmes in the APAC region.
Headstart (Pvt) Ltd. has been developing content for the ICTA/Ministry of Education on school curricula since 2009 and is a subsidiary of Dialog Axiata. The company was a tech start-up with a project named ‘Vidunena’ under which the GCE A/L Science curriculum was provided to schools in an E Learning format, through an ICTA grant. The company now owns the largest E Learning interactive content portal in Sri Lanka with more than 650,000 learners and 8,100 plus lessons to choose from. The content knowledge pool includes university academics, teachers, business leaders, corporate trainers and soft skills trainers, and is the largest such education-related talent pool in Sri Lanka.
The company also provides E Learning content and platform solutions to corporates, institutions, the government sector and the general public under the brand name Guru.lk.