“Ahead of the Game” With Remote Learning

In mid-March, amid chaos during the spread of Coronavirus, schools were confronted with the reality that they would most likely be closed. Many needed to quickly find alternative methods of teaching students. Similar to other schools, Hadi School of Excellence, IL had to be proactive and be ready in case of a shutdown. 

A week before the closure, we started planning for Hadi’s e-learning protocol and informed teachers to start preparing lessons that could be delivered remotely, in the event of a shutdown. We conducted our first e-learning rehearsal on Friday, March 13, while school was still in session. We tested our video conferencing using Zoom, with teachers in a separate room than the students to give ourselves a chance to become familiar with the process. Our IT personnel tested out different online programs and technology to ensure that each Chromebook was compatable with the applications we would be using for e-learning. Although students typically do not take the Chromebooks home, except our middle schoolers, we prepared all 3rd to 8th-grade students to take their Chromebooks home to support e-learning. 

Our school has now closed until April 7th. Hadi School believes in viewing these uncertain times as an opportunity for our students, rather than a setback. To step up to meet the demand for e-learning, Hadi School teachers were able to efficiently personalize learning for the students. On a regular school day, teachers use a self-directed learning period (SDL Time) to do weekly 1:1 mentoring sessions with their mentees, as well as differentiate instructions by creating partial groups for focused instructions while managing other students working independently. During e-learning time, teachers are now able to more effectively engage in the mentoring and partial grouping process, minimize interruptions and create higher engagement from students.

The biggest advantage the Hadi School has had is that we were already ahead of the game because we started implementing the Summit Learning program three years ago. The program provides us with an online platform that houses a complete curriculum for our 3rd to 8th graders with projects, content knowledge resources, and assessments. The program helped everyone adjust to the remote-learning process quickly because we had been using the technology tools all along. 

With Summit Learning, students are able to access learning resources, submit assignments, receive feedback from teachers, set goals, and reflect on their learning. Teachers are able to track student progress and provide individualized support, including continuing one-on-one mentoring sessions to meet students’ needs. We recognize that student-teacher relationships will be extremely important in engaging students from home. Finally, parents and guardians are able to see precisely what their student is working on and how they’re progressing at any given time. As one of our school goals is to prepare students to become self-directed learners, our 3rd to 8th-grade students were well-prepared to direct their own learning from home during this closure.

The preschool to 2nd-grade teachers have also started utilizing e-learning to meet the challenges of the school closure. We had already been using several online programs to support these students, and teachers were also able to continue to use these programs to design online lessons. Additionally, we’ve been able to communicate effectively and consistently with families during the closure, keeping them informed of our schedule and expectations for students.

A parent of a student at the Hadi School wrote: “I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your tremendous efforts in setting up virtual learning without even missing a day! It is a testament to your preparedness and hard work that me and my family are very thankful for. Continuing to educate our children during this time is very important.” 

At Hadi School, we are continuing to fulfill our vision of ‘cultivating leaders of tomorrow, by motivating students to become active participants in their own learning and apply the skills, knowledge, and habits to emerge as committed Muslims who are contributing members of society.

About the author

Azra Naqvi
Azra Naqvi is the Principal at the Hadi School of Excellence, an Islamic school in Schaumburg, Illinois. The school’s primary goal for students is to establish a strong foundation in Islamic studies while at the same time excelling in academics.