If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that humans are flexible and have the ability to cope with abrupt changes. What certainly helps, is having the skills to adapt to these changes, even in the most challenging circumstances.

In recent months, online learning has grown in popularity, greatly aided by the rapid development of technology and sophisticated learner management systems for the delivery of education. Think Digital Academy can attest to this.

Businesses have, where possible, moved to remote work; schools have by necessity embraced distance learning; and many college students who had formerly been enrolled in on-campus courses, now find themselves learning online.

For those already learning online, keeping the doors of learning open, came without any challenges. Embracing the change to digital learning carries many positive benefits.

Parents and tutors with children who are learning online have found that digital learning has had a long-term positive impact on their children, who have also become more resilient to challenges in general.

Online learning is defined by students’ access to various learning materials from the learning management system (LMS), engaging in online discussions, and having virtual classes.

The advantages of online learning

Acquiring IT skills
A definite benefit is acquiring the skill to use technology effectively. Further education programmes and certainly the majority of employers, require candidates to have anything from basic to advanced IT skills. Exposing students to a range of technology within the digital classroom can give them a competitive advantage.

Flexible learning hours
Another benefit to learning online means that students have the ability and opportunity to choose their own learning hours. This is particularly useful if they have other sport or cultural commitments and have to study according to a different time schedule. If they’re early risers they could start learning at the crack of dawn or, if they are night owls, they can start learning in the afternoon and finish late. As a result, online learners can take full advantage of the situation by enabling worldwide, self-directed learning.

Flexible learning environment
With a laptop or mobile device and Wi-Fi, students can manage their own learning from just about anywhere. Another great benefit is the possibility of working from a remote location. Even if a student lives in a rural village far from educational institutions, they can still benefit from attending an online “private” school. Where students need to travel as high-performance athletes, they can do so with online learning, as they do not need to be physically present — all they require to continue learning, is a device and a reliable internet connection.

Tracked progress
Some learner management systems such as the Think Digital Academy platform facilitates online learning and allows parents and tutors to save information easily and access it whenever they log in. This kind of automatic organisation allows the parent or tutor to focus their time on aspects that require more attention. This also allows the parent or tutor to track their student’s progress and easily identify problem areas.

Flipped classroom
Perhaps the biggest benefit to online learning is this — teachers still play the most important role in the learning experience. Technology cannot replace the role of the teacher, but it does lend itself as a very useful tool for enhancing the experience of the student through the use of interactive lessons with videos, animation and quizzes. Think Digital Academy has incorporated the benefits of private teachers who are subject experts, while developing the skill of critical thinking.

When evaluating the different e-learning options for your child, it is essential that:

  • the content is engaging and interactive;
  • students are guided through their subjects by online teachers;
  • students can engage with their subjects through assignments and projects;
  • students receive electronic feedback on their learning;
  • students have platforms on which to interact and collaborate with each other such as online chat rooms and discussion forums;
  • there is a way in which parents can monitor their child’s progress.

Based on these criteria, select an option that will ignite a drive for life-long learning in your child. Ultimately, we are at the cusp of an exciting transformation in our education sector, one that will revolutionise the learning and teaching environment, and change your child’s education for the better.

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We think you should and here’s why:

The world renowned British International curriculum, which we offer at Think Digital Academy, is an internationally recognised qualification, currently offered in over 160 countries across the world, and in over 10 000 schools or colleges. Our world today has become, more and more, a global village, and arming your child with an internationally acclaimed and respected education is the way to go.

In the hundreds of nations where the British International curriculum is taught across the world, there are variations and adaptations inculcated to suit local contexts.

Where does British Assessment International Education take you?

Success in British International qualifications often gives students admission to the best universities all over the world including, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany and many other countries worldwide.

British International qualifications are accepted and valued by universities around the world, including MIT, Harvard and Cambridge.

They are recognised as qualifications that prepare and equip students with the skills they need to succeed both at university and beyond. According to the British Assessment International Education, feedback from universities is that they value the independent research and critical thinking skills, as well as the deep subject knowledge that a British International qualification brings.

The British International curriculum has a clear path for a student which runs from the age of 5 to 19. British International primary is from age 5 to age 11, and it consists of 10 subjects including English, Mathematics and Science.

British International lower secondary also consists of 10 subjects. The age group in this category is from 11 to 14 years old. From 14 to 16 years old, it is referred to as British International upper secondary. This stage identifies British International IGCSE [which has over 70 subjects], British International AS/A level and the British International AICE certificate.

But why British International curriculum?

Skills acquired through the British International pathway equip learners with the ability to thrive at university and beyond. The four stages named above (British International primary to British International advanced level) all build on each other systematically. This is vital as it builds on previous learning in a systematic and creative manner.

Through a combination of the programmes students are encouraged to develop higher-order thinking skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, independent research abilities and information interpretation. These lifetime skills prepare learners well for their academic journey.

British International schools can tailor the British International international curriculum to their culture, and ethos and to suit students’ needs. Many schools around the world use British International programmes and qualifications as the English-medium strand of a bilingual education programme.

Professionals from American universities do concur that British International is a good foundation for students. The academic skills that British International students display are second to none and they are well prepared for college. Students who have experienced the British International curriculum are able to survive and adapt to the rigorous environment in tertiary institutions.

The students are more willing to take part in academic communities and other societies, which enables them to be part of the university holistically.

Another positive attribute noted by the admissions personal of the University of Virginia is that British International students have great writing skills as well as comprehension skills. Arizona State University enrolment services alluded that British International learners match the Arizona preparatory units and perform very well.

Students at Brown University who have a background of British International are said to perform in the 90s and they graduate on time.

British International exams are taken in June or November. The time table is carefully crafted in a manner that no student can have more than six hours of examination per day. Exams for the same subjects are taken at the same time for security and credibility; this is the British International key time rule.

Think Digital Academy offers you an opportunity to be part of this globally acknowledged academic programme. We offer the British International curriculum in a conducive, fun and creative manner. Our hands-on approach creates a holistic learning environment. We produce students who are well groomed independent thinkers, flexible and well prepared to take on the world.

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When a business takes the leap to expand to another country, like in our case, to the United States of America, rebranding is inevitable. And we are excited by both the expansion as well as the rebrand of our award winning South African online school, now known as Think Digital Academy.

Our CEO, Ms Janessa Leita, explains, “As Think Digital College continues to grow in South Africa, and online education gains further popularity under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw it prudent to spread our wings to the USA – a goal we have been working on for some time now.”

She elaborates further with, “The expansion to the United States of America has become a reality as we have now registered our first institution in the state of Florida.”

What happens when you open doors in a new country?

With the first phase of global expansion of any business, online schools are no exception, there must be evolution. In this case, cultural evolvement was necessary. Janessa explains, “Our international expansion has however, meant that we have had to change our name in the process, as the word ‘college’ refers to a tertiary institution in the USA. As a result, our exciting new name Think Digital Academy was birthed.”

When certain things change (like our name) others remain the same

Think Digital Academy is undoubtedly built on the vitally fundamental pillars of Think Digital College, that of quality, advancement, and integrity. This online school that was born and launched in South Africa, which recently scooped the international 2020/21 Corporate Livewire Prestige Award, has carried over its finest traits to the American market. While this growth has been taking place, and remaining true to our mission, we have not skipped a beat in serving the online students of South Africa in the process. The Prestige award was a great honour, one that drove home the message that all online students and stakeholders should be assured of exceptional service in a safe, online school environment. Now we aim to bring the same standard of online schooling to the United States of America.

Energised, excited and exhilarated

There is no better time to use some alliteration to express the sheer joy and passion we are moving forward with as a team and organisation. Think Digital Academy is an online schooling brand that we will grow from strength to strength, but never losing sight of our online students, ensuring they always have the best available education and service delivered to them.

“Our online students are our why, they are our purpose. And everything Think Digital Academy keeps striving to do, will have these fine, young people top of mind” emphasises Janessa.

You can find more information on our online school curricula or feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have.

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It has been estimated that globally 50% of jobs currently in existence will not exist by 2030 and our children are not protected from this reality. The global transformation currently underway, called the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), entails the convergence of all digital, physical and biological technologies. It is predicted, that by 2020, 4IR will have brought us advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, genetic engineering and virtual reality.

However, South Africa is already struggling to employ its youth. The country registered an unemployment rate of 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019 which is staggeringly high. The question is, can South Africa adapt quickly enough to adequately equip its young people with the skills required by 4IR?

The labour market of the future will require new skills including digital fluency, creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, empathy and adaptability. Traditional thinking was that the more specialised a person became, the more economically valuable they would be. However, 4IR requires a person to be interdisciplinary – to have sufficient knowledge in other fields outside of their area of specialisation.

Considering that information and communications technologies is the fastest growing industry in South Africa, and that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics sectors are also achieving similar growth, skills in robotics and coding will future-proof our learners and equip them for the ‘jobs of the future’.

According to the World Economic Forum, the top ten emerging jobs are:

  1. Data analysts and scientists;
  2. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning specialists;
  3. General and operations managers;
  4. Software developers and analysts;
  5. Sales and marketing specialists;
  6. Big data specialists;
  7. Digital transformation specialists;
  8. New technology specialists;
  9. Organisational development specialists;
  10. Information technology services

The 4IR is no longer coming, it is upon us. The best we can do as parents, and educators, is to ensure that our students have the necessary skills for future job and labour markets, and have the ability to navigate the uncertain environment of a technology-driven economy. Our education system simply has to adapt, otherwise our children will be left behind.

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The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant closure of schools, has led to a new educational crisis.

While school closures are important to contain the coronavirus in South Africa, a comprehensive catch-up plan for learners has yet to be devised by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. The Minister on the other hand, is leaving it up to each province, district, circuit and school to develop their own comprehensive catch-up plan. Currently only ten schooling days will be lost, which will be caught up by shortening the mid-year break, but the length, and extent, of the disruption to schooling is hard to predict at this stage with some experts forecasting that schools will only reopen at the end of April, or even May. The reality is, that very few schools in our country are able to administer e-learning, and critically, to ensure that learning material is adapted to alternative platforms such as tablets.

Many parents are unable to direct their child’s schooling during this period, either because they themselves are working remotely or have younger siblings to take care of. This leads to a significant amount of stress and tension in the home, with further undue pressure being placed on parents, particularly those with children in matric.

In order to assist learners during the shut-down, Think Digital Academy, a registered online school for Grade R to 12, is offering their full curriculum to South African learners for R500 or up to an 80% discount for Term 2. Rather than returning to school, and trying frantically to catch up with the year’s academic programme, Think Digital Academy will enable students to keep up to date with their school year. Parents can rest assured that their children are deriving the full benefit of a normal school day, remotely, through Think Digital Academy’s structured learning programme.

Students will be able to watch lessons, complete activities, projects and even take assessments to measure their progress while parents are able to pull weekly reports on their child’s activity. The CAPS curriculum is available in both English and Afrikaans, and all lessons are taught by qualified teachers, are interactive and perfectly aligned to the CAPS and British International syllabi. In addition, learners will receive free access to Think Digital Academy’s new Coding and Robotics course.

In these uncertain times, Think Digital Academy takes away the ‘what ifs’, and ensures that your child’s education, and future, is not compromised.

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The school placement chaos at the beginning of this year highlighted a very scary reality – we simply do not have enough good schools in Gauteng, South Africa.

A number of schools faced a very high enrolment demand as parents clamoured to ensure their children have a place in a school of excellence, while many schools, particularly in townships, were virtually empty. The result is that oversubscribed schools are forced to make use of mobile classrooms which are barely conducive to quality teaching and learning. These schools’ resources become constrained, with the average number of learners reaching 60 per class. This puts additional pressure on our teachers, and makes it a near impossibility that our students will be provided with the strong foothold they so desperately need if they are to succeed in high school and beyond.

It has been predicted that by 2020, Gauteng will still be short of 1373 classrooms at existing schools. This means that even at the accepted ration of 40 pupils per class‚ almost 55 000 pupils will be in over-crowded classrooms in three years.

At the same time, it’s calculated that 10% of the country’s teachers are absent from school each day, while a Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) found that 79% of South African Grade 6 maths teachers were classified as having content knowledge levels below the level at which they were teaching. This problem is compounded by a lack of support for teachers and insufficient professional development. In addition, the Centre for Development and Enterprise predicted that South Africa would need to have 456 000 teachers by 2025 to offer our children a quality education, this is 46 000 more than we currently have, and between 18 000 and 22 000 teachers leave the profession every year.

So as parents, how do we deal with high student ratios; a lack of resources; a shortage of qualified teachers in subjects like mathematics and physical sciences; a lack of discipline in our classrooms that disrupts teaching and learning, and absenteeism of teachers who are burnt out trying to cope with big classes and poor learner behaviour?

We simply have to think beyond traditional teaching and learning methods. It is time to consider virtual schools as a viable option for ensuring our children receive the best education possible, and are equipped with the skills needed for the future of work in this country.

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