The Transition Back to Online Education

November 12, 2020

Since October 18th, there has been a gradual transition to online education as the Corona Virus situation in Austria continued to worsen, starting with the day students and as of Monday, all boarders as well. Teachers of AIS-Salzburg have had the challenging task of balancing weekly in-class and online instruction as more and more students return home in preparation for when the school goes 100% online as of November 16th. It has been evident that this has taken a toll on the teaching faculty over the past three weeks, with nearly double the workload when also considering the technical hurdles they have had to overcome.

“Getting used to using the technology efficiently is a challenge at first: the document reader, setting up google meet meetings at the right time, learning how to record and upload, etc.”, said Mrs. Fratianni, an English teacher who has been working at the school since 1999

Many teachers have chosen to live-stream lessons during this period, while others chose to record and upload to Google Classroom. Students at home have been able to ask their questions either during the live-streamed lesson, during live Q&A via Google Meets and through a Whatsapp group created by the teacher. Local Salzburg students have also had the option to meet with teachers in person after school from 4pm to 5pm to ask questions and receive extra help.

“I have a scheduled Google Meet during each class period, at the scheduled class time.  This has worked very well for the kids who are physically present in the class, as well as those who are at home online.  During the live meet, I project my computer screen, with all the online students on it, onto the classroom whiteboard via the beamer, so those students still in the classroom feel a sense of inclusion with their departed classmates. We interact in a way that is very close to when we were all sitting together in the same room: questions, answers, discussions all take place in a very inclusive way,” said Mr. Suttmann, a Social Studies teacher at the school since 2009.

Consistency among how we communicate with students at home has been the biggest key to making this transition as smooth as possible. With all teachers utilizing Google Classroom as the tool for communicating and exchanging assignments, everyone involved –both teachers and students– have only one platform to get used to. 

“In Junior High Nonfiction we were about to make ‘How To’ presentations, where students teach the class how to do something.  Those will now be ‘How To’ videos,” said Ms. Cerone when asked about an example of how she has adapted to online education.

Ensuring academic honesty is another challenge teachers face with online schooling.

“Last Spring during our previous lockdown, I switched my entire testing system over to a subject method, whereby the students have a day or two to write a 5-paragraph essay in response to a thesis statement I give them.  I find it useful in securing individual work and effort,” replied Suttmann when asked about how he tests students at home.

Without a doubt, managing a classroom that partially virtual has not been an easy task. Although teachers of AIS-Salzburg love to interact with their students in person, there will be a collective sigh of relief on Monday when they can focus all of their attention toward online instruction as they anxiously anticipate a return of students in the new year.