Lockdown might be something of the past but virtual education is here to stay, says Janessa Leita, founder and owner of Think Digital Academy. Leita has just won two prizes in the same year: The Corporate Livewire Prestige Award for Innovation and Excellence and the Excellence Award in Online Schooling Services from MEA Business Awards, which tracks outstanding businesses in the Middle East and Africa.
It’s the third year in a row that Think Digital Academy has scooped the Livewire Accolade as the best online school in South Africa. The awards are the latest affirmations to a journey that began six years ago when Leita established Think Digital Academy which she began in 2016 to accommodate her younger son, Alessandro’s, educational needs after he was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. Read the story.
Alessandro has gone on to study Aerospace Engineering in the US, while Leita has taken her business global: an online school that uniquely offers three different curricula, depending on the student’s needs and aspirations: The South African CAPS curriculum, the US GED and Britain’s International curriculum through to AS levels. Today, Leita divides her time between South Africa and the US.
Think Digital is an online school, she stresses, not a home school: “Think Digital Academy offers many of the same elements as a brick and mortar school, with after-school clubs and social in-person meet ups to ensure that students are still part of a community, but with the added flexibility of learning from home.
“Our overarching aim is to provide innovative, technology-led teaching and it is wonderful to be recognised for this by winning this award. We believe our approach of combining smart technology and engaging one-on-one support is ideal for modern times.”
It is certainly something that impressed the judges of the Livewire Award in the three consecutive years that the academy has won, noting: “Their world-class learner management system gives students access to interactive lessons which can be viewed at their own pace. This includes assessments, access to tutors and peers, study notes, weekly activity reports and quarterly progress reports.”
The academy currently educates children in more than 20 countries across the world, with 90% of the learners still being drawn from South Africa. All of them have the flexibility to work, she says, ‘at their own pace, in their own space’, something that is invariably impossible at a conventional brick and mortar school juggling deadlines and timetables within a physical classroom environment.
It is this flexibility in a continually changing and increasingly pressurised environment that makes online education such a compelling proposition in a post pandemic world; for everyone across the spectrum from young high-performance athletes to children who have to travel frequently, those who are chronically ill as well as children with special educational needs. It’s also a huge benefit to academically gifted learners who can work ahead of their peers and avoid falling into the boredom trap.
“Online schooling also teaches children vital soft skills like better time management; self-motivation; improved virtual communication and collaboration; and, new technical skills, while refining their critical thinking abilities. Mastering all of these different abilities helps equip them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in which they will have to live and earn their living.”
“Children learn how to communicate through language, and, coding is another type of language, but for technology. Coding develops logical and problem-solving skills while stimulating creative thinking, all of which are vital for the brand-new future world that we are actually living in.
“Similarly, Mind Power gives learners the tools to manage their emotions; to study better and to concentrate efficiently. Children with higher emotional intelligence are more engaged in their school work, more empathetic with their peers and have more positive relationships generally.”
The biggest drawcard for Think Academy though is the non-negotiable value that is placed on everyone involved in the academy, irrespective of whether they are students, parents or teachers.
“Our DNA is the human connection, supersized with innovation, positivity, difference and diversity. We strive to nurture significance which supersedes success.”
From here, the sky is the limit, she hopes that Think Academy will expand its global footprint by at least 50% over the next five years.
“Our vision is to provide affordable world class education for any school learner, anywhere and at any time.”
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