Like thousands of students across the island, and millions around the world, 14-year-old Campion College student, Jordan Taffe, is adjusting to the new reality of going to school at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
No longer having to endure a daily commute, he wakes up on time for his first class at 8:00 a.m., turns on his laptop and gets to work.
“Before COVID-19 came to Jamaica, on a regular day, I would have to wake up by 6:00 a.m. to get ready, leave the house and take the bus to school. I was always early. Once school was done, I took the bus home,” says Jordan in a recent JIS News interview.
“Now my routine has changed a whole lot, since I do everything at home. I wake up a little later and prepare for my classes. All classes begin at 8:00 a.m. and go until about 3:00 p.m. and sometimes a little later. It is intense, so I am usually tired at the end of each day, but it’s not that bad,” he says.
Campion College uses the Zoom platform to facilitate online classes and the Moodle platform to share course material, execute tests and communicate with students.
Jordan misses the physical interaction with his peers and one-on-one time with tutors, and with in excess of 100 students on the Zoom platform, there are often disruptions that occur during classes.
Notwithstanding the few snags of his virtual learning experience, young Jordan, says he is positively affected by the changes.
“I have been able to strengthen my time management skills. I have also grown to be more responsible for my own learning, as I prepare ahead for classes. Something as simple as reading notes ahead of time and scheduling my days have made a great impact on my academic life. Before the threat of the coronavirus, I was not so focused or prepared,” he tells JIS News.
Jordan’s favourite subjects are Science and Information Technology, and he says the use of the open learning and meeting platforms has helped to foster his interest in the subject areas and apply some of what he has learned in a more practical way.
In terms of his career goals, he is interested in the fields of actuarial science, medicine, law and real estate.
Jordan’s mother, Stacy-Ann Gavin, tells JIS News that she is pleased with how her son has adapted to the virtual teaching and learning process.
“My son is a very independent learner. The school has been wonderfully supportive in helping him to effectively manoeuvre Zoom and Moodle. There has been an even greater effort on the part of the teachers to give the students their complete lessons with additional course material,” she notes.
“When the Prime Minister announced that teaching will be done remotely, the following Monday, school was virtually in session. There was no break. It was a fairly smooth transition, and as a parent, I was thankful for that,” Ms. Gavin continues.
She says that the use of the Zoom and Moodle platforms is preparing her son for a future where most interactions will probably be done using similar interfaces.
For her part, Principal of Campion College, Grace Baston, says that the school incorporated the virtual space and tools as part of the curriculum long before the threat of COVID-19.
“It was clear to us from about December that the question was when the virus would get here and not if. So in January, we began thinking about what our remote learning plan would be,” Mrs. Baston tells JIS News.
Over the last 12 years, the institution has worked on its strategic plan to incorporate the use of technology in administration and curriculum delivery.
This is in keeping with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information requirements for schools to provide all students with access to technologies as well as equip teachers with information and communications technology (ICT) skills to deliver the curriculum.
As such, Campion has moved away from computer laboratories to ensure that the classrooms have the connectivity to facilitate full embrace of the virtual teaching/learning process.
Before COVID-19, it was the norm for students to have a personal laptop, and the school invested in devices to assist those who were not able to afford their own.
“The school ensured that every single teacher and student has a unique Campion email address with the domain name being @campioncollege.com. The network allows for control and proper management of how information is transmitted. So we were ready on all fronts,” says Mrs. Baston.
Additionally, Google Education Suite and the Moodle platform became part of the academic life at the school with an e-testing component in some subject areas to prepare all students for a possibility of virtual testing in the future.
“So you see, Campion College has been preparing for this worst case scenario. The coronavirus came to Jamaica and we switched gears just enough to put our virtual learning strategies to the test. We are making changes where necessary and still fulfilling the needs of our teachers and our students,” she says.
Meanwhile, Jordan is advising students who are struggling to adjust to keep calm and remain focused.
“These are the keys to doing well in your studies regardless of the situation,” he says.