Friday, 18 August 2017

Singapore Student Learning Space: New online platform will let students learn at own pace

Move helps level playing field as it gives all students same access to quality resources
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2017

Schools are taking e-learning to the next level with the launch of a resource-rich online platform on which students can learn at their own pace anywhere, any time.

The Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS), first announced by then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat in 2013, will be progressively rolled out to primary and secondary schools as well as junior colleges and Millennia Institute from next year.

The portal will also let teachers share best practices and work together on materials with their colleagues across schools.

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said the "rewards for students will be tremendous", adding that the SLS "will open up many opportunities for their learning". Speaking during a visit yesterday to Admiralty Secondary, one of 62 schools piloting the platform, he described how students who want to review a lesson will be able to do it on their own time, even at home.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) stressed that the platform will help level the playing field as it gives all students, regardless of school, the same access to quality learning resources. The move builds on ongoing efforts by the ministry to leverage IT to aid learning.

"By spurring our students to take greater ownership of their learning and work collaboratively with their peers, the SLS aims to support them towards being responsible future-ready learners," MOE said.

The platform, which will feature videos, simulations, games, animations and quizzes, will reinforce learning of subjects, including English and the mother tongue languages, mathematics, history and even physical education.

Interactive timelines on World War II, for instance, can help students visualise how history unfolded through the years.

Many of the resources have been developed with industry and external partners to offer real-world context to concepts taught in class, said the ministry.

Real-time monitoring of online quizzes, for example, will let teachers gauge their students' progress. They can then adapt their lessons to bridge learning gaps on the spot.

Through the platform, teachers will also find it easier to co-develop, adapt and share new pedagogies within and across schools. With the exchange of lesson ideas and strategies, "students in turn will benefit from the wider range of learning resources", MOE said.

Since last month, the portal's basic functions have been on trial at pilot schools such as North Vista Primary and Anglican High.

The ministry, together with the Government Technology Agency, which leads the country's charge in digital transformation, will work with schools to gather feedback and further develop the platform before its national rollout.

Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, hopes the move will not just level the playing field, but also reduce the need for tuition.

She told The Straits Times: "Good learning and teaching resources can now be shared instead of kept within the confines of particular schools. It may well reduce the excessive dependence on tuition, as students can access the portal for revision or self-driven learning."

Based on national curriculum
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2017

A key aspect of the Singapore Student Learning Space is that its online resources are based on the national curriculum, which means students will be learning what is expected of them.

And beyond self-directed learning, it will also encourage teamwork and collaborative learning. Students will be able to share knowledge and ideas, get peers' feedback, work on projects together and showcase their work online.

Examples highlighted by the Education Ministry include a lesson on water desalination. The resource includes a video developed with national water agency PUB to link what lower secondary students learn in class with developments in desalination technology. It also gives a glimpse into the work of a PUB engineer.

Another example is an English lesson to develop critical thinking. Students will be guided to solve a mystery through an immersive story in which they will have to join the dots and come to a conclusion about what happened.

After learning from a lesson package, students can take a quiz, which will be automatically graded to give a gauge of how much they have understood. Teachers will be able to analyse the results and reassign appropriate resources to address gaps.

New online learning portal 'could cut need for tuition'
Students, teachers will benefit from access to quality resources
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2017

A new online learning portal, which is set to become a major part of the education system from next year, is being described by observers and parents as a move that will "level the playing field" and hopefully, reduce the reliance on tuition.

Through the Singapore Student Learning Space, students and teachers will be able to access learning resources and pedagogies from other schools as well.

Admiralty Secondary principal Toh Thiam Chye, whose school is one of 62 already putting the platform through its paces since last month, said: "With more schools coming on board, there will be more quality resources being shared, and it will help to raise the quality of education here."

Social studies teacher Tay Peiyong, 33, has already seen his students appear more attentive during lessons when using the portal, which gives everyone, including the "quieter ones", a chance to engage in online discussions.

"Everyone participates," he said.

This also gives him a better gauge of how well students are absorbing his lessons.

And if needed, they can revise the lesson at home.

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said the portal could reduce students' dependence on tuition. "Students can learn at their own pace," said Dr Chan, adding that parents can also help guide their children at home.

Singaporeans are spending $1.1 billion a year on tuition, according to the Household Expenditure Survey released in 2014. This is nearly double the $650 million in 2004.

Parents who spoke to The Straits Times hope the portal will live up to its aim of encouraging students to "take ownership" of their studies, and allow them to learn at their own pace.

"If they do not know something, they can review their lessons at home and find the answers on their own," said Mr Julian Tan, who has a 14-year-old son.

"It is a good way to get our young ones to make lifelong learning a habit," added the self-employed 45-year-old who is in the food and beverage industry.

But some raised concerns that overeager parents may push children to cover more topics ahead of their peers.

Housewife Helen Lim, 43, who has two children in primary school, said: "Some may see the portal as a chance to give their kids a head start over their classmates, by getting them to learn more in advance. Students may end up having less free time because they have to study even more."

Experts believe this is unlikely to be an issue.

National University of Singapore lecturer Kelvin Seah said: "Even without the portal, kiasu parents will still be able to make their kids learn in advance if they wish, by making kids read textbooks beyond their grade level."

He pointed out that a more obvious issue is that the online platform may not suit some students who are reliant on external help.

"The portal may be less effective for more dependent and less-intuitive learners, who may fail to draw the connections between the activities in the portal and the concepts that these activities are meant to illustrate."

Schools here are given the autonomy to decide how they want to provide students with devices that can access the learning portal.

Experts such as Dr Chan said needy students need not worry as there is financial support available if they cannot afford such devices.

Admiralty Secondary student Kioko Chin, 15, likes the portal's real-time monitoring feature, as it gives teachers a sense of students' understanding of a certain topic. "If we have doubts, our teacher will know immediately and can address them," she said.

Her schoolmate Tan Ying Shan, 14, said that previously, lessons were less engaging as students merely listened when the teacher spoke in class. "Now, with the videos and discussions, we all can take part."

Nurturing Future-Ready Learners - Empowering Students in Self-Directed Learning - 62 Schools to Pilot Student Learning Space

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