Online schools are going to be the future after their emergence during lockdown

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He said: “Our education systems were designed over 100 years ago in the Victorian era. They were designed to produce factory-ready workers and we have moved a long way from that. It is about human skills now, things that can’t be automated easily. Empathy, team collaboration and so on.

“I can imagine a future world sometime hence. Where we genuinely have blended education. Combination of face to face and online which is in a better way to deliver some aspects of learning.”

The new network of online schools is linked to Inspired Education which already had 70 schools across 20 countries and five continents.

He told the Express even before covid Inspired was looking at how to design online schools.

The pupils break into four groups with Asian Pacific based students looking for high quality school education.

Another group are pupils who are pursuing a future in the arts or sport and want to have a more flexible form of schooling.

Others have had problems such as bullying in traditional schools and need a home based alternative.

Finally, the children of parents who regularly have to change country with their job need a stable consistent school which does not change but allows them to stay together as a family rather than board.

Mr O’Donoghue said: “We looked at it as if you designed an online school from the bottom up, and you designed it for the digital world from the bottom up you would be producing something the market is moving towards. That accelerated with covid.”

He went on: “I made it a mission to kill the idea of e-learning. If you talk to a bunch of people about e-learning and you play word association with them, the two words you typically get back are boring or compliance. Those are not positive associations.”

The big difference was that his model sets up online classes of up to 15 which can then be broken into groups for discussions.

“It is not just a classic log-in, watch a video and take some learning tests. When you intervene with live online learning you get some benefits.

“Firstly, the discipline of scheduling – the importance of being somewhere and when actually matters.

“Secondly, you get a benefit because of the live interaction between a teacher and a student. You also get the benefit of interaction peer to peer.”

“If you are teaching kids meaningful interaction in a virtual setting at an early age you are preparing them for the way the world is going to be moving forwards.

“That is one of the impacts of the pandemic. We are gradually moving towards a world of semi-home working. Not everybody is going to do what Twitter has said in not opening another office but people are moving towards more home working.

“I can imagine a future world sometime hence. Where we genuinely have blended education. Combination of face to face and online which is in a better way to deliver some aspects of learning.

“I have spoken to kids who said I have missed my friends but I have learnt more from an academic perspective because I haven’t had the distractions.

“We are providing an alternative for people for whom the current provision does not work.”

The new online schools have also tried to encourage socialisation and activities even at a distance.

One of them was to set up a film club which began with reviewing movies but has moved on to students putting a film together.

“We have a strong community,” he said.

But, Mr O’Donoghue was keen as well to underline that online schools do not mean children are stuck to the screen all the time.

“We did design into it a way in which we teach with offline activity as well. For example, lessons can be listening to a 45 minute podcast that allows them to walk around a park while consuming that lesson.”

While online schools such as the King’s College ones are currently private, Mr O’Donoghue can see a future where it also appears in the state sector too, especially with free schools.

“The government is looking into the regulations on how this can work so we will see,” he says.
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