In the current digital age, doing things online seems to be the most efficient and convenient way to go. But is this true for the popular International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme?
As a programme that’s meant to teach students transferable skills such as collaborative thinking, is it really wise for young students to be taking IB courses online?
Hannah Senel-Walp, Principal of Online Courses at Pamoja, an online education provider, enlightened StudyInternational on the topic in an exclusive interview.
Students can take online IB courses with Pamoja in preparation for the Diploma or career-related programmes, but not the full IB Diploma Programme. Currently, Pamoja is the only online course supplier that is authorised by the IB, whereby approximately 4,500 students are enrolled.
She explained why the IB is so popular with parents and students today.
“I think parents and pupils are drawn to the rigour and breadth of study of IB programmes, their international transferability, and the fact that IB curricula are highly regarded by university admissions officers around the world.
“Students must undertake research alongside broader extra-curricular elements, so it also offers a balanced education that addresses not only students’ intellectual development but also their social, emotional and physical progress, focusing on each student as a whole person.”
What are the benefits of taking IB courses online?
“By living in countries all over the world, each of my classmates has a different perspective and often a different way of learning” – Pamoja alumna Aayisha’s experience of studying in a global classroom 🌎 https://t.co/w8gM83FhAk
— Pamoja (@pamojaeducation) August 5, 2019
Pursuing IB courses via an online platform like Pamoja has its own advantages, teaching students to take charge of their own learning.
As Hannah explained, “A UCL Institute of Education study in the UK found that online learning helped prepare students for university, making them more independent and self-directed learners.
“Students who had taken courses online at school took greater ownership of their learning, were more likely to set goals based on their own performance, were less likely to rely on university tutors for help, and were better able to manage and pace their studies.
“Studying online, students also gain practical experience of the kind of digital, collaborative tools that are increasingly being used in today’s workplaces. Other benefits of online courses include the fact that schools and teachers can accommodate last minute or ad hoc requests to tailor and personalise a student’s learning experience.”
She said that by accessing course content online, students learn at their own pace and can easily refer back to lessons as and when needed.
If parents are worried that taking IB courses online is an isolating experience for their kids, there are still opportunities for them to collaborate and communicate with other students.
As Hannah said, “They also join a global community of students, also studying online with Pamoja, with whom they can collaborate.”
What kind of support is available for those who take IB courses online?
Hannah explained that Pamoja teachers are experienced professionals and subject matter experts, so by studying online, students are still able to learn from the best teachers regardless of location.
The online teachers are also highly experienced and fully trained in online learning methodologies so they are able to respond quickly to student questions, as well as closely track student engagement and activities to provide support at the point of need.
They also help guide students towards developing important skills such as efficiency, organisation and time management.
She said, “Student time management is paramount. Pamoja courses follow a rigorous academic calendar and students have to plan their work against defined deadlines.
“Pamoja students have fed back that liaising with their teachers has been beneficial in developing these skills which proved useful in their continued academic careers.”
The platform provides insights into a student’s progress which enables the supportive team at Pamoja, along with Site-Based Coordinators (SBCs) on campus, to step in and help where and when appropriate.
She explained, “Site-based Coordinators (SBC) are the point of contact for both the student and Pamoja, playing an essential part in liaising with our team and providing students with direct face-to-face support.
“SBCs support students in a number of ways. They monitor students’ progress throughout their course, helping them whenever necessary. The SBC also regularly catches up with their students and ensures ongoing communication between students, our teachers and our School Services Team.”
SBCs also encourage students to take ownership of their learning by supervising rather than tutoring, providing support in the creation of a term time planner to promote effective time management.
Plus, they also set time aside with each student to evaluate their individualised study method, suggesting improvements where appropriate.
How do those who take IB courses online fare?
— Pamoja (@pamojaeducation) July 5, 2019
Several students who take IB courses online through Pamoja have succeeded academically. Hannah said that in IB Diploma exams between 2014-2018, 61 percent of Pamoja online students achieved a grade 5 or above.
“In terms of average Diploma grades between 2014-2018, Pamoja students scored 4.78 against an IB global average of 4.66.”
She advised those who are thinking of taking IB courses online to have the right attitude and not fall prey to the misconception that online learning is easier that classroom learning.
“In fact, students report an initially steep learning curve, which is why it’s important to regularly correspond with your teacher– try to build a friendly relationship with them the same way you would with a teacher at your school.
“Be proactive and don’t be afraid to ask them all the questions you need – that’s what they are there for. Time management and organisation are also important – plan out your schedule in advance to keep up with the weekly assignments.”
She said it’s also helpful to form study groups and collaborate with others on your course and for students to compile their own organised notes.