Inspiring joy & connection in online classrooms

It’s in the very essence of who we are, as a future-focused education provider, to keep evolving. We evolve to reflect changes in our learners, changes in education, and changes in the world.

One of the big changes we have made in the last 12 months, is a change to how we deliver our Postgrad Certificate in Digital & Collaborative Learning (DCL). This programme is currently delivered entirely online, and the results from Aotearoa educators have been incredible.

I sat down with Darcy Vo, Online Educator for DCL, to talk about the changes; why we’ve made them, benefits we’re seeing, and how we’ve managed to recreate the joy and engagement of our face-to-face sessions, in our live-online classrooms.

Photograph of Darcy Vo Online Educator The Mind Lab Auckland
Darcy Vo, Online Educator for DCL

How is the DCL Postgrad Certificate currently delivered?

The programme is currently delivered entirely online, which is very exciting for us and our learners!

Students attend 2 x 1-hour sessions each week, and these are both “live-online” learning. So one of our expert educators is there, delivering the learning live during the session, as well as discussing with learners and creating opportunities for collaboration. No pre-recorded webinars, they’re sitting in online classrooms with each other and enjoying all of the engagement and collaboration that comes along with it.

The two online sessions each week focus on two separate things, so it’s not repetitive. Session 1 is all about content, new concepts, unpacking theoretical frameworks, and Session 2 is support around assessments and showing how the content we’ve covered earlier in the week applies to both your assessments and your own classroom.

“It’s amazing watching our learners realise how it all weaves together, all of a sudden they can see how theories can be directly turned into innovation in their classroom, and how this contributes to the next assessment.”

We also take advantage of school holidays and run 2 x sets of longer “block days” where we can delve much deeper into some of the programme content and really pull it apart together. These days are intense – we schedule lots of breaks – but incredibly fun and rewarding.

What are some of the benefits of this new online delivery?

The key benefit that we hear time and time again is that learners love being able to take part from the comfort of their own environment. Literally wherever they are in Aotearoa, a teacher can do our DCL programme.

The timing options are also really helpful. Learners choose from different time slots for online learning during the week depending on what works for them; either directly after school so they can stick around after they finish up and take part with colleagues, or in the evenings after they’ve finished dinner and settle in to take part at home.

Sessions are also recorded, so if one of our students is unwell or something unforeseen comes up on the day, there’s a chance to catch up.

We’ve also seen learners taking part from home with their loved ones popping in or watching, which encourages the idea of life-long learning and hopefully inspires even more learning in their households.

This all links into the Teaching & Learning Strategy here at The Mind Lab, Te Ara Kōtihi, where we put the learner at the centre of everything we do, and provide the best possible environment for them to succeed.

Why did The Mind Lab switch to online learning for DCL?

We began changing the delivery model in late 2019, by bringing the weekly learning online, and then lockdown for COVID-19 changed it again. From March 2020 onwards the programme has been delivered entirely online.

Initially we started delivering the weekly sessions online to reach more educators in the more remote parts of Aotearoa. We strive to make our teaching and learning inclusive and accessible, and taking away the need to travel to one of our satellite locations opened it up to so many teachers. Especially those in smaller towns who weren’t receiving the support they needed, and so desperately wanted!

When COVID-19 hit this style of teaching became even more important, and necessary.

“We’ve seen some magic come out of this model. Teachers join the classes and open by sharing where they’re from – very quickly a whole bunch of teachers from Cape Reinga to the Bluff are collaborating, comparing experiences and sharing ideas.”

The model breaks down geographical barriers and really opens up that inspiring community of learning.

Are online classrooms as fun and engaging as face-to-face sessions?

They’re different, but they can be just as fun! Our educators all have their own unique way of making the sessions engaging and humorous for students – Dr Dave with his dry jokes, and Milla with her endless energy, we all do it our own way.

We join the calls early and use that time to chat casually with many of our learners, which creates those relationships and ensures everyone is relaxed by the time we kick into the content. Often, once those relationships have been built up, it’s the learners bringing in the humour and fun as they speak up and collaborate during the sessions. 

Technical issues are also a constant source of amusement for everyone, they can’t be avoided and we all experience them at some point, so we just make that part of the fun!

However the most engaging part comes back to that collaboration and the strong connections the learners build with each other. We use break out rooms a lot, especially for working through tasks, and this is where some of the true connections are built. 

“They all have the chance to share experiences, learn together and support each other – it’s incredible to witness.”

Many teachers are used to collaborating with their colleagues, and others in their Kāhui Ako, but this is a unique opportunity to collaborate with teachers all across the country. And it’s often different teachers from the cohort each time they’re put in a break out room, so they’re exposed to huge variety of thought and experience.

This is where we step back, although DCL facilitates this incredible collaboration, it’s all in the learners to make the most of it – to connect, share and support – and they truly do!

Spread the knowledge

Want to learn more about this course?

Our Postgraduate Certificate in Digital & Collaborative learning is perfect for educators that want to step up and lead change in their classroom, school & community.