PamojaPosted on 26 April, 2016 by Pamoja

Do you know about the amazing world of instructional design?

Behind awesome online education courses are equally awesome instructional designers. Instructional designers have a myriad of technical and social skills, as well as heightened creativity, a thirst for continuous learning, a passion for teaching and a determination to reach every learner. Most importantly, stellar instructional designers know how to engage. This doesn’t mean they can pull a lever to start equipment, nor are they constantly involved in wedding planning, it means they know how shape and create content that engages their audience. They are engagement experts.

Often, instructional designers are considered the wizards of online content design and development. It seems that with a wave of their magic wand, vibrant and appealing courses are created that fit the exact needs of the specified audience. The magic wand actually includes analysing the needs of the specific users, designing and shaping content to maximise the learning potential while addressing the user needs, utilising software and coding skills to develop the learning product, producing quality assessments to measure the learning gains of the user, and evaluating the overall effectiveness of the learning product.

So, what skills are required for an instructional designer? Technical skills include web development utilising HTML and JavaScript, as well as an understanding of the current web development technologies, basic use of word processing and spreadsheet software, and experience with learning management systems (LMSs). Building relationships is a big part of the need for an instructional designer to have strong social skills. Instructional designers often work with subject matter experts (SMEs), web developers and project managers during the design and development of a learning product. Experience with curriculum and instruction is also necessary for a proficient instructional designer.

Let’s circle back to instructional designers as engagement experts. In many ways, being an engagement expert means being a ‘fun’ expert. Think about it – you get to interview subject matter experts, review long and boring materials and perform what is sometimes hours of research. What, you don’t equate that to fun? Okay, maybe those specific tasks don’t seem fun, but it is all about the approach. When interviewing a SME, you are not just taking notes on the information they are providing, you are taking notes on delivering the information the SME is providing. When you review materials to gather information, you are also reviewing those materials with the purpose of gathering ideas. And those sometimes long hours of research, often those are not about gathering additional materials or knowledge on the topic, but rather about locating engaging ways to present the materials. Consider this quote:

‘My course lacks interactivity and it has no point. I assumed the software would take care of that.’

No software can engage a learner without assistance from the instructional designer’s magic wand of engagement. Flat text and flat images magically become interactivities, custom slideshows, detailed charts and graphs, videos, podcasts, read and sniffs (okay, this one is less likely, but never say never), the list is endless. See what fun an instructional designer brings not only to a learning product but to their job?!

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PamojaPosted on 25 April, 2016 by Pamoja

Working together to create a support network

Working amongst a team of diverse and innovative IB teachers, course designers, developers and Pamoja’s in-house support network is a wonderful and unique experience. Each week we face new and exciting challenges, which has meant that the last nine months have flown by for me since I joined Pamoja. Being in a company that exceeds its own expectations is one that I am proud to represent; delivering the IB Diploma Programme worldwide, through the Pamoja Square, is extraordinarily exciting. We are constantly learning about new ways in which the curriculum can be taught and managed within IB World schools across the globe, and know that the Pamoja model can be adapted to fit seamlessly into a school’s structure.

I love being a member of the Business Development Team because we get the opportunity to collaborate with schools with likeminded interests; to engage students in the subjects that they love, and the subjects that they are keen to excel in, in the next stage of their life. Our responsibility to build close relationships with IB schools is important and rewarding; having studied at an IB World school myself, I know the importance of trust, free thinking, and flexibility between student and teachers during the final two years of compulsory school life.

It is fundamental that the students not only have an open and confident relationship with their Pamoja teacher, but that this trust is also extended to the Coordinators in school, our team based in our head office and also to parents. We work together collaboratively to ensure the best quality of support and teaching for students, and to make sure that they are getting the most out of the learning environment and resources we provide.

You will find our small team of four either discussing fresh ideas and sharing updates in our Oxford office, attending the IB Annual Conferences or on Skype, phone or email around the clock. We open the door to all IB World schools and support them in introducing Pamoja classes into their students’ timetables, and we aim to make the process a smooth and enjoyable journey.

Most importantly, I have learnt that combining the primary elements of teaching, exploring free learning, independent research and supervision to ensure consistent student engagement are all achievable and vital to the IB experience. We closely monitor this and will continuously adapt to create the ideal journey for our students, during their IB Diploma and continuing into life after school. Being involved in the first stages of this development is one that I am privileged to be a part of.

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PamojaPosted on 25 April, 2016 by Pamoja

We’re educators, too!

I have a surprising confession to make…I’m a qualified teacher!  With “so what” ringing in my ears, let me explain why this to me feels like my guilty secret. With over 120 teachers in our facility and with an average of eight years IB teaching experience (some with more like 20 years), I wouldn’t begin to compare myself to them.  They really are the experts!  This revelation however does help me to reflect on my own experiences which I hope can ultimately give me a better understanding of your challenges as educators, parents and students – with students at the heartbeat of everything we do! As part of the Business Development team, and together with everyone here at Pamoja, we create opportunities for students that prepare them for the future.

I’m very privileged to have four very special children in my life – each with their own unique skills and passions. One has a very clear picture of where their future lies and the career they want to follow – rightfully confident at a very early stage in the very definite talents she has. The others enjoying and excelling at their hobbies – hoping to follow their hearts in the future, but not quite set in what that future will be. As young adults, I’m sure they may even change their mind. I was of course a teenager once too! That’s where we can help you.

We’re an energetic team who are passionate about helping schools establish learning partnerships so that every student can take the subjects they love, enabling them to reach their full potential and allowing them to own their future.

It would be really great to catch up with you, because we care!

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PamojaPosted on 22 April, 2016 by Pamoja

Can we help you? Yes we can!

Solving all your online course related queries is how we can help you today to impact your tomorrow.

We are the School Services team, and we are here to support you along your journey with Pamoja. Our team, lead by Philippa (aka Pip), includes Carly, Gabriele, Karolina, Shantana and our intern Carine, who is spending a year with us whilst she studies for her Degree in Economics with Politics and International Relations at Oxford Brookes University, UK.

We are passionate about the service we deliver, working in partnership with more than 500 IB World Schools from around the globe and supporting over 3,000 students enrolled on our online IBDP courses.

We deal with a variety of queries every single day that impact students, Site-based Coordinators and our teachers’ day-to-day activities. Every morning, we arrive in the office knowing very little of what the day will bring – each day is different and exciting! This is the fun aspect of working in a knowledge sharing environment like the School Services team.

So, what does our typical day look like? Let’s give you a sneak peak:

  • Managing all inbound phone calls and email queries
  • Supporting Site-based Coordinators to monitor students’ performance, registration and enrolments
  • Supporting transfer students
  • Publishing term reports
  • Supporting schools with exam registrations
  • Supporting students and schools with any technical queries they may have
  • Working closely with our Academic team to administrate and support Pamoja teachers
  • Maintaining internal systems to ensure school details are updated accurately and in a timely manner
  • Working with other departments at Pamoja to deliver excellent customer service

…and occasionally making a cup of tea!

We feel inspired and motivated to share the knowledge we gain when we communicate with schools, students and teachers every day, and we learn from the feedback our customers share. We don’t dwell on the past but rather learn from how we can improve our services today as tomorrow is yet to come!

Gabriele and Carine

School Services team, Pamoja

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PamojaPosted on 21 April, 2016 by Pamoja

Collaborating with Site-based Coordinators to support students

The Site-based Coordinator (SBC) is the key link between Pamoja and the student. Acting as a supporting face-to-face mentor for online IB Diploma Programme students, the SBC liaises with Pamoja teachers, the School Services Team (SST) and individual students to connect and maintain the network within Pamoja’s global campus. This global campus is the virtual classroom where the students, teacher, the SST and the SBC collaborate and discuss ways to improve their Pamoja experience, while learning from each other in an online global community.

Currently, the SBC supports their students in the following ways: they schedule regular meetings with students depending on their engagement in the course, explore their general motivational levels and encourage them to communicate with their teacher and classmates directly in order to build these important relationships. They are proactive and transparent in communications with Pamoja about the circumstances at their school, the students taking courses and any potential students who will be looking to take an online course. The tools available to the SBC to support students with their engagement are the dashboard overview which gives a snapshot of a student’s engagement, the learning management system where the SBC can see assignments that are due and what has been submitted, their grades and the content of the course.

Part of my role in the SST is to book time to speak with our SBCs through a telephone or a Skype call. This is important as it allows me and by extension the rest of the SST to continue to build good relationships with our SBCs and to gain key insights into their experience with us. The SBC is integral to the way that Pamoja communicates and builds relationships with students, their schools and parents. Hence we see the SBC as someone who is a vital addition to our extended team at Pamoja and who we wish to consistently collaborate with, learn from and support.

The main aim for me when I speak to SBCs is to have a good conversation about their experience with us. I understand that the time they have available to speak with me is valuable. Hence the two most important points I plan to discuss is the engagement levels of students as well as capturing feedback about their and their students’ experience. This helps me to understand the unique context of each school and gives insight into how we can improve this experience for students, SBCs, and parents going forward. I will also consult the appropriate people within the organisation in order for us to address these needs. This is central to and incorporated into our improvement plans as we grow and expand in our offerings to schools.

Speaking with and collaborating with SBCs is incredibly rewarding. The conversations I have had has both encouraged and challenged us as a team to continue to put them at the centre of what we do in supporting our schools and students.

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