When a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic brings entire economics to a halt, what are businesses and organizations to do? For Greater Atlanta Christian School, this has meant pivoting to its robust online learning platform. Launched two years ago, GAC’s online Ethos School is now being adapted to support the current need for online learning for GAC’s 1600+ student body. Having this experience, GAC is well-positioned to give its students and faculty a competitive advantage: full digital learning capability.
“Based on research and the demand for digital skills in the workplace, education systems are moving toward more online options. Top tier colleges are leading the trend by offering higher educational degrees via an online platform. We are preparing students for college and their future careers by offering rigorous, engaging online courses,” says Director of Academics Dr. Betty Morris.
“Currently, GAC educates over 200 students across the globe through our internally developed online platform, Ethos School. Thus, our administration and highly-qualified teachers fully understand the online learning setting and are prepared to quickly transition the GAC educational experience into an online learning environment,” says Derek Wilson.
With modalities adapted to the age and needs of the students, GAC teachers are ensuring that learning continues; that it is engaging; and that students and families feel supported during this challenging time. All students in grades K4-12th are online for the next two weeks. With officials indicating that this pandemic and appropriate response measures may continue past Spring Break, GAC is ensuring that students do not lose valuable academic time. Even assessments such as exams and quizzes will still be given as teachers make the best use of technology to ensure testing integrity.
The response from parents and students has been overwhelmingly positive, for both the way in which GAC has supported students and families emotionally and also for the way in which students are adapting to the new learning environment. With daily videos going out from its president, Dr. Scott Harsh, and frequent, uplifting messages going out through email and social media, GAC is making the most of the situation.
“Maybe the biggest difference-maker so far that I see is the tone of normalcy and excitement GAC has created for the kids during this time of online learning,” says parent Sandra Onal.
GAC students continue with their regular school day, with interactive instruction given in every class period. Teachers are using the best in digital tools to fully engage students during class and are available to help before and after school as well. Besides rich instructional time, teachers are also finding creative ways to make class time fun and engaging. One teacher, Joann Waldrop, asked all of her students to bring their pets to class. Students are also scheduling lunch via Zoom together. The opportunities for connection are endless.
“There are many valuable lessons in all of this,” says Dr. Harsh. “Students are learning to adapt and make the most of the challenging circumstances. Even when so much has come to a halt, our students are continuing to learn, connect, laugh, and grow, even though school looks different. An essential element for personal growth is adapting to change and learning resilience and I’m so very proud of the way our students are responding. I’m also thankful for a faculty who were prepared to implement the very best practices for engaged online learning.”