Having completed my IBDP examinations over 2 months ago today, I find myself increasingly reflective on the transpired events that have permitted my dream to come into fruition – inexplicably matriculating into the university of my dreams.
One such experience that does not get nearly enough recognition is my two-year affair with an online school studying IB Economics HL. My time enrolled at Pamoja Education has been transformative and, in my opinion, imperative to my growth as a 21st century learner.
However, prior to my enlistment, I was deliberating my contentious decision. In a world driven by technology, I would dub myself as “technologically challenged.” Whilst I can perform basic functions on these contraptions, I find it fully disheartening that my sister of 11 years is more competent in handling these indecipherable gadgets. Whilst my peers often embroil in the moot Apple versus Samsung conundrum, I would rather disparage on the eerily prophetic Big Brother and our convergence to Orwellian society. Suffice to say, my ineptitude with technology was the bane of my summer. Nevertheless, I ventured off, intrepidly I might add, into a self-purported dystopia replete with technological features.
My first encounter with this foreign, outlandish website parallels a child’s first venture into the deep end. Having flirted with the shallow, with the comfort of salvation, one has to eventually plunge into the deep end, trusting the efficacy of their previously amassed skills. However, shortly after perusing this ingenuously designed website and the relevant features, my apprehensions were soon abated. Forever thereafter, I have extolled Pamoja Education for having such a profound impact on my maturation.
In the midst of a hazy transition into my senior year, where more than half of my in-school teachers departed, Pomoja education was the only consistency I had. I unexpectedly took solace in my online classroom. So while teachers lost a few weeks recapping and gripping to new bearings, my online class resumed a predetermined agenda.
Every Tuesday we were given lucid instructions on the imminent tasks of the week and I was always reassured of the class’s progress. This desire of reassurance was in all honesty unwarranted but was prompted by a tumult contrived by my peers concerning the languid and lethargic approach of a teacher in fulfilling the respective syllabus – the teacher’s efforts were in vain; they did not cover the syllabus in its entirety. Braggadocio has no place in the online world.
Nonetheless, the ability to foresee and access future material was priceless and definitely deadened my qualms.
Whilst scrutinizing the course material I would frequently encounter, dare I say, fun tasks that actually promoted active learning juxtaposed with the vacuous regurgitation of facts in my other subjects.
There is something peculiarly enjoyable in creating a 4-page cartoon spread conveying my newly acquired knowledge on exchange rates, and there is something oddly irresistible in vainly trying to level the precarious inflation balloon whilst bombarded with new dilemmas.
Another idiosyncrasy that seems incomprehensible to most is the more intimate setting in which classes are held. Whereas most classes infamously entertain the likes of all disturbers – from the smart aleck to the thunderous snorer – my online class bypassed such hindrances and was civilized in its conduct. Students in need could willingly join a class in which the teacher was in full control – quite the rarity in today’s inordinately filled classrooms.
I did, however, feel like the irregularity of the online class session created a void of longing, of wanting to discuss my newly acquired knowledge. This I believe varies from class to class and is ultimately contingent on the class participation and the students’ desires. In fairness, teachers were readily available both by email and pager. They also offered to privately teach students and I actually did discuss one of my exams with a substitute teacher.
One of the most unconventional features of this teaching platform was the compulsory discussion thread. At first I was extremely skeptical – atop of arduous assignments, we too have to provide input to people who will, I thought, most probably disregard my post. Gradually I understood the worth of my continual participation in the discussion threads.
They have been one of the most enlightening and fruitful discussions of which I took part. Formulating and deriving opinions from such an eclectic group with such diverse perspectives was unrivaled by my physical school, which claims a paltry 9 students in its graduating class, myself included.
This is in by no means typed to belittle my physical school since I am blessed to be part of the inaugural class. Rather, I am grateful to the exposure of different opinions that was lacking in my international school.
Finally, I feel very indifferent towards the group tasks. In one way I know it honed my time management and leadership skills in that tasks had to be evenly divided and clearly coordinated to see its accomplishment. I have often been told that future business will be conducted in such a manner.
On the contrary, some students would seldom respond and if tasks were incomplete or didn’t meet a certain standard, this unfairly burdened committed students.
Needless to say, online learning does not appeal to the masses as it often requires Herculean effort and entails unwavering commitment. Students that have been exposed to such an environment often describe their experience as pyrrhic – whilst they do achieve their inevitable outcome, sitting an exam in my case, it can be an utterly exhausting and draining journey.
Nevertheless, this whole experience has lead to the inclusion of technology in my daily perusing. An invaluable tool that I plan to incorporate throughout my time at university is the Diigo toolbar, which allows me to annotate online documents and websites.
The promise of online education can potentially lead to a paradigm shift in our fundamental approach to schooling and education in general. The synergy between education and the online realm should be cultivated so that it can cater to the innumerable needs of posterity.