Already beginning to gain momentum before the pandemic, online learning has become a permanent fixture on the academic landscape, with the Department of Basic Education recently announcing a framework for online private and public schools in response to the growth. For many children the shift to digital learning will be dramatic and as such, academic, emotional, and social support will be vital to their educational success. 

In partnership with education technology company Valenture Institute – UCT Online High School was created on the premise that online learning could broaden access to education countrywide. Sanlam is the first corporate in South Africa to partner with the UCT Online High School by fully funding 90 learners’ tuition fees for the duration of their high school careers.  

Sydney Mbhele, chief executive: brand at Sanlam says, “Our promise to Africa is to help pioneer inclusive financial confidence – what this means is equipping millions of individuals to have the confidence to succeed in their own individual financial lives. The compounding impact that can have across the continent will be immeasurable. We see these scholarships as a practical way of having an impact in the lives of these children and ultimately by unleashing their potential, we can have a massive knock-on impact in their communities and beyond.” 

Remote learning has immense potential. The World Economic Forum (Weforum) reports the global uptake of e-learning has been exponential over the pandemic period. Even prior to Covid-19, remote learning adoption was high, with edtech investments reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019 worldwide.  

For learners making the transition to online, the adjustment can take time. Yandiswa Xhakaza, first director and principal of UCT Online High School, says learners who are starting their online schooling in 2022 will need a high level of support from a range of sources, “In any school setting, support is vital to help students fulfil their full potential. With online schooling, however, that need is even higher. That is why we have made sure to build a robust and adaptable support network that will be able to respond to an array of student issues. Parents and guardians would also do well to lend a hand to students anywhere they can.” 

 To help learners, and guardians too, adjust to their new and exciting learning lifestyles, the helpful and supportive teachers and support coaches from UCT Online High School share their top tips:  

1. Plan your week  

Set aside time at the beginning of the week to set goals for the week. Ensure that your weekly timetable is ready for action. Prioritise the subjects and due dates that need to be finished first and highlight the ones that’ll take the most time. Be as specific as possible (e.g., 09:00 – 09:50 Complete English Module 4). 

2. Make visual reminders of your goals and priorities 

Use a small whiteboard, chalkboard or pinboard and add creative visual reminders of your goals and priorities. Use post-it notes, cut-outs or brightly coloured pens/markers; have fun with it. Not only will this help you stay focused, but you’ll also love cleaning your board or ticking off your to-do list at the end of the day or week when you’ve achieved what you set out to do. 

3. Be an active participant 

Distractedly nodding at your screen while Whatsapping is not going to cut it. Be present in class. Listen to what other students and your teacher are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification. Answer questions and get involved in whatever activities may arise. This will help you better understand and retain the course material.  

4. Stick to your plan and don’t multitask 

In the digital era it is easy to think that multitasking equals getting more things done faster but that is not true. Studies have shown that it can actually decrease your productivity and make you finish tasks slower. Focus on one thing. Once you are done, move on to the next one. 

5. Set up a designated workspace  

Doing your assignment in front of the TV while Netflix plays in the background may seem like a fun idea, but you are only going to distract yourself. 

Find yourself a straight-backed chair, a desk and a quiet space where you can concentrate. Setting up a regular workspace will also help you to stay organised and reduce the amount of time you spend looking around for notebooks. 

6. Take meaningful breaks 

As you would in a traditional school, it is important to schedule breaks. Ensure you take some time away (2 x 20-to-30-minute breaks) from your screen and schoolwork to rest and reset. This will help with feelings of frustration or stress. You’ll come back with fresh eyes and a clear mind to help you tackle the rest of your day. 

7. Take a moment to move  

Set an alarm and get up every hour. Take 5 minutes to stand up and gently stretch your neck, back and legs. Studies have shown that getting up and moving around regularly helps stimulate blood flow and that in turn will help you concentrate and stay alert. 

8. Hold yourself accountable 

There are no detentions in online school. Without a teacher sitting a few metres away from you reminding you to do your coursework it can be very easy to start cutting corners. Don’t.  

Set weekly and daily reminders about what needs to be done and give yourself enough time to do it without flying into a last-minute panic. If you feel like you may need help holding yourself accountable, then try working together with a fellow classmate. 

9. Practice time management 

Online schooling allows a degree of flexibility that traditional schooling doesn’t and that can be very alluring. If, however, you are not diligent with how you spend your time, that flexibility can cause problems. Follow a schedule, take note of the due dates for major assignments, and set reminders for yourself. The better you get at this the more manageable you will find your coursework.  

10. Know when to reach out for help 

If you need help, reach out to your support coach for guidance; that is what they’re there for. Alternatively, get into contact with a teacher, some classmates or even a fellow classmate and try to establish some kind of support structure. There is nothing wrong with struggling but you do not have to do so alone. 

11. Reward yourself 

Rewarding yourself with something you enjoy doing can be a good way to keep yourself motivated. Whenever you’ve reached a milestone or accomplished what you’ve planned for a particular study session/day/week, reward yourself with something positive.  

Mbhele says strong parallels can be drawn between financial and academic success. “Neither succeeding in studies nor succeeding in your personal financial journey can happen by accident.  Both take careful planning, consistency in sticking to the plan and hard work. And in both cases having the right partner, coach or advisor by your side is an invaluable support in achieving success and building deep confidence.” 

Pick and choose the tips you would like to implement into your daily routine and watch your online high school career soar!