6 Ways to Balance Out Online Learning: Service

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Heidi Oxley-Whitnell Previously the Vice Principal of Student Life at the Aga Kahn Academy in Mombasa, Kenya, Heidi has had extensive experience as the Head of PE at schools such as UNIS, New York, and The International School of Manila. She is committed to the concept of service-learning and has led students working on projects in places such as Kenya, the Philippines and Cambodia. As well as CAS coordination and teaching P.E in the Secondary School, Heidi is responsible for ensuring that service remains a central component of a UWCT education with all students from K-G12 involved.

Online learning is challenging, not only for students but for their parents and teachers too. While many schools and families have been forced to resort to online learning, it may feel difficult, if not impossible to ensure that students maintain a good balance of activities and learning without having them constantly glued to their screens.



Apart from creating a structure to the day in order to ensure that students are able to stay engaged and can maintain some routine, UWC Thailand’s educators share their 6 tips over a couple of days to ensure students have the opportunity to maintain balance while learning from home.

Find opportunities for Service-

During these times of social distancing, financial cut-backs and furloughed jobs, we often look at the ways that we can become more financially astute – closely watching what we spend our money on. Spending more time at home, we all notice that our food and utility bills have increased. We are online ordering more takeaways, and that’s not to mention the random items we order from Lazada that we have managed to live without.

We have noticed the financial implications on our bank balance, but what about the impact on our social community and environment? With the phrase ‘charity begins at home’, that is where we will start and consider how we can be more environmentally and socially aware.

When ordering online…consider choosing restaurants that use biodegradable or easily recycled packaging.

When ordering online, consider the environmental impact of all the plastic packaging. We know mother nature has shown resilience over the decades and is now healing herself, demonstrating growth and regeneration across the world. But what is going to happen in the months to come to the countries that already have a plastic problem, clogging up her pores with the increased plastic that will end up in landfill as it can not be recycled? We know that this is already going to be a problem with all the personal protection equipment that is imperative for people’s safety, so let’s not add to it. When you order, consider choosing restaurants that use biodegradable or easily recycled packaging.


Visit your local market to show your support


Although it’s easy to do the one-stop-shop at Tescos or Villa, consider what you can get from local market stalls. More and more fruit and vegetable stalls are popping up in our communities. Whilst maintaining social distancing, go and support them, knowing that the profit helps and supports local community members rather than corporations.

We have been having such discussions in our experiential learning classes. Considering, whilst in “lockdown” what changes we can make to support our community and the environment. Although we can not go to Bodhi dogs or the Gibbon Rehabilitation Sanctuary we can still support them, aiding with online translation services, advocacy campaigns or simple donations of the money saved from not going to the cinema.


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Every community has people in need, so consider tidying up the cupboards, having a spring clean and sorting through all those toys and clothes. What has not been used over the last few months, consider whether it is still needed, and find out where your local donation drop off points are.

Improving ourselves often results in increased skills and knowledge which in turn can help others. Creating “how-to videos” and online resources for the wider community is a more valuable exercise than you would imagine. Check out Ted Ex and the UN website – great resources with fantastic libraries of educational videos. But these are only available in a range of languages. Encouraging students to help with translations opens these resources to more and more people.

As a school, we have focused on service being a hands-on activity, but in the changing times, we have to be realistic and look at the wide variety of alternatives available to support both our local and global communities.

Coming up tomorrow: Learning through daily activities