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How online schooling prepares students for university

NEWS 19 Oct 2022

Moving from the routine of the high school classroom to the relative freedom of university life can take a little adjustment.

While the later years of secondary schooling certainly offer students more choice and flexibility and an opportunity to take greater control of their learning, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the independence and self-directed style of education that is part and parcel of university study.

Making that leap can be unsettling, at least for the first semester or two. That period can be particularly challenging for students who have been to schools with a highly-regimented routine and where teachers have had significant oversight of how and when they learn.

Fast forward to the first semester at university. The hybrid style of learning with lectures and tutorials switching between in-person and online can take a while to get used to.

The greater responsibility placed on students’ shoulders to direct their own learning, and the expectation that students will get work done on time without constant reminders from their lecturers and supervisors, can also be a little disconcerting initially.

“Students who are given more opportunities to engage with self-directed learning during their secondary schooling may find it easier to make the transition from Year 12 to the more flexible routines of university.”
Sabine Partington, Head of Teaching & Learning (Senior School) at Haileybury.

In 2022, Haileybury launched Haileybury Pangea, Australia's first private online school for students in Years 5 to 12. As well as offering a full online curriculum, the school offers more than 20 single-subject VCE options.

Each subject consists of two live online teaching periods each week, complemented by three to six hours of self-paced learning. In the typical school week, students receive a bespoke blend of live instruction, prepared video content, assessment tasks and one-on-one or small group-based time with their subject teachers.

Self-paced learning is a fundamental component of the curriculum with students supported by an extensive suite of online resources.

“This style of online learning is perhaps the best preparation for what tertiary and university studies will look like,” says Ms Partington.

“Students become comfortable with a broader range of learning modalities and they become comfortable with the fact that some learning happens synchronously, and some doesn’t, and some is done online and some is done in person.

“Most universities have shifted to a mix of live online instruction and self-paced work and that shift was accelerated during the pandemic. Many lecture theatres now are empty or have a minimal number of people in attendance, with students preferring to join lectures remotely.

“The more students access their learning is as many modalities as possible, the better prepared they will be for university and work. They develop skillsets that are invaluable when they move on to the next stage of their education journey.”