Scotland’s e-Sgoil – based in the Western Isles – has revealed its plans to deliver a national timetable of live lessons that will be streamed online in a bid to support teachers and pupils in the wake of the UK wide school closures, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking exclusively to Tes Scotland the e-Sgoil – which has four years’ experience in beaming lessons into schools across the country – said it was hoping to partner with online learning platform Scholar in order to deliver live national qualification lessons in a wide range of subjects, as well as offering some lessons aimed at primary pupils.
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Scholar – a partnership between Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and education directors’ association Ades – runs online courses in a range of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher subjects, providing pupils with learning materials and assessments.
Meanwhile e-Sgoil – which was set up to ensure equal access to courses and subjects for pupils irrespective of where they live – has a team of teachers on its books who have experience of delivering remote lessons in real time in everything from Higher physics, to primary Gaelic. This year it has had a presence in 15 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
The plan is to start streaming the lessons incrementally, beginning with maths and languages – thanks to Scotland's National Centre for Languages (Scilt), and Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools.
Together the languages bodies and e-Sgoil plan to offer taster courses in Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Gaelic and Mandarin suitable for primary and secondary pupils, as well as delivering national qualification courses in French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Gaelic.
There is also an ambition to make webinars available – aimed at both primary and secondary pupils – based on existing programmes run by the environmental charity, Keep Scotland Beautiful, that address issues like marine conservation and climate change.
According to e-Sgoil head Angus Maclennan, it should be possible within a matter of weeks to offer a wide range of secondary subjects aimed in the main at senior pupils via the national online learning platform, Glow.
The service would be opt in and aimed at schools and councils that had little or no experience of the live, interactive, online teaching which Mr Maclennan argued was crucial during this period of school closures.
Mr Maclennan said: “My main concern is that we don’t take an Open University approach where materials are uploaded into the ether and pupils are expected to access them by themselves because only those who are really motivated or well-supported by parents will engage. You are going to have a lot of pupils who sink rather than swim.
“What is needed is live, interactive teaching. To me the interaction between teacher and pupil – that’s the critical factor in teaching. There’s a huge difference between online learning, and online teaching.”
Mr Maclennan said another benefit of the scheme was that Scottish teachers looking to deliver live lessons themselves could “ghost” the e-Sgoil teachers and see how it was done until they felt confident enough to go it alone.
The national qualification courses in languages will be delivered in a six-week block by Scilt staff who are fully qualified registered teachers.
A lesson a week at each level from National 5 to Advanced Higher would be made available as soon as possible after the Easter break, explained Scilt director Fhiona Mackay, with each lesson lasting 40 minutes.
Ms Mackay added: “What languages are good at is widening horizons and opening doors. At the present time doors are closed and languages are a good way of reaching out to the wider world – if you can’t go yourself, go virtually. There will undoubtedly be a mental health benefit to all of this for pupils.”