Last year all schools were asked to quickly move to online learning, a learning platform which the majority of teachers in the country were not trained. When surveyed in the spring the majority of Notre Dame Academy parents reported they were pleased with how NDA rose to the challenge and continued to deliver high quality instruction. That being said, what has Notre Dame done to make this year’s learning experience even more effective?
In reviewing feedback from the spring parent surveys, NDA made the decision to have all teachers move to a common learning platform, Google Classroom. In moving to one platform, students will have one place to visit and will not have to search for assignments, be asked to turn assignments into multiple locations, etc. Survey results also asked for more “in-person” meetings with teachers. In response to this request, all teachers were trained to use ZOOM and all classes this year will have time with their teachers every day.
In summary, the following improvements have been made and consequently we are confident that we are even more ready than ever to provide an online learning opportunity worthy of the excellence you have come to expect at NDA.
Information Regarding NDA’s Commitment to Hybrid/Blended and Virtual Learning
- A common learning platform has been established for all classes.
- Teachers have been fully trained in Google Classroom, Zoom and virtual best practices
- An NDA Advisory program has been established with an advisor assigned specifically to every child and committed to their success.
- Mobile hotspots have been purchased and may be provided by the school for students with inadequate internet access.
- Increased communication between the student and teacher is our goal. The type of communication will depend on the goal of the lesson and may include Zoom meetings, posted teacher created videos and/or individual phone conversations.
- Recorded lessons are posted for students to review important concepts (virtual schedule).
- Myriad of online interactive programs have been purchased by the school to increase student engagement and interest in online learning.
Last year when the school moved to entirely virtual teaching, my child needed more interaction. What can NDA offer to help if we have to go virtual again?
NDA has implemented an Advisory Program which is new this year. Every student will have an advisor who will provide support academically, help to solve problems students encounter as shifts happen between learning platforms, and act as a college mentor, the perfect fit for high school students. In the event the school must move to virtual learning, the advisor will make weekly contact with every student to help guide them through the process, answer questions and offer support and suggestions. The Advisories are structured so students have consistent contact with peers, providing opportunities for them to interact with each other in academic, social and spiritual situations.
Teachers have daily “office hours” during which student - teacher interaction will be available for students who need additional instruction or support. The at-home learning schedule increases student - teacher interaction by lengthening class periods, and meeting with four of eight classes each day. Students and teachers will meet via Zoom for each class. The length of the Zoom meeting will vary depending on the content in each class each day.
What Improvements have been made in the online teaching abilities of teachers?
Teachers are engaged in high quality professional development on instructional best practices related to online learning and have been completing training over the summer. This training will continue throughout the school year and is the major focus of our professional development during the 2020-21 school year.
Can you describe the Blended/Hybrid Schedule in more detail?
Blended learning will be offered on a schedule of two-week rotation and will provide five full days of in person instruction with five days of at home learning. While at school, students will be in classrooms with desk placement which has been measured to meet the CDC guidelines for social distancing. Because NDA is committed to social distancing, classes will be divided into two subsections. (Example: If there are 26 students in a class, only 13 students can be in the class at one time). Consequently, classes must be divided not by having all freshmen in the building at the same time, but by alphabet.
Whether at home or in school, all students will interact with their teachers on a daily basis using the same class schedule. This provides opportunities for students to collaborate with one another regardless of where instruction is taking place.
What will my student do when at home?
While at home, students will be required to sign into a Zoom meeting which will begin at the time the class begins if they were in school. At the end of the Zoom meeting, students who are at home will continue their learning by working independently or collaboratively with classmates, completing assignments reinforcing important concepts which were taught the day they were in school.
How can my student contact his/her teacher if they need assistance?
Students who are at home and at school will benefit from the implementation of a new initiative this year entitled “Teacher Office Hours.” Whether in school or at home, all teachers will be available at the end of the day to answer phone calls, emails, etc.
Benefits of Blended Learning
- Regular in-person interaction with high quality teachers in an environment in compliance with social distancing recommendations.
- A consistent schedule followed whether students are at home or at school.
- Daily interactions with teachers.
- Dedicated time for student assistance.
- Smaller in-person classes and more personalized attention while students are at school.
- Opportunities to provide support for students as they grow in independence and strengthen their ability to self-advocate.
- Students will develop skills necessary to work collaboratively in-person and virtually, skills that are necessary for success in a rapidly changing educational and work environment.
Please send comments or questions to NDAfeedback@notredameacademy.com.