Spiritual reality moves into remote reality

The Scots College has been adapting to the impacts of COVID-19 in all areas of the school community.

The college’s Christian Studies and Chapel programs both made the shift to the online environment to ensure continuity of learning for students who had been learning from home.

The way the Gospel was communicated might have changed,  but the message endures.

By design, teaching has become more dynamic in an effort to engage the boys meaningfully. Students have been studying at home, across Australia, and, even in some cases, in different time zones around the world.

“This has been an exceptionally new experience for Scots. Until now, Christian Studies was always face-to-face in the classroom or in school and community gatherings, The Scots College principal, Dr Ian PM Lambert, said.

“This ceased with COVID-19 restrictions. We resolved to stay in spiritual contact with boys, and their families, as much as we did when they attended school,”

Called ‘Home-based Chapel’, there are three key areas: Chapel Service, Short Answers to Big Questions, and Reading for the Week. Lessons or messages are presented in an easy-to-view format. Students are given actions to encourage reflection and conversation.

“The usual face-to-face classroom has a lot more energy and interaction than the Zoom classroom,’’ Mr Lambert said.

“It has been challenging to engage the boys in discussion. However, increased independent learning requires students to report back to the class and this has proven extremely worthwhile.’’

All students from Transition to Year 12 have continued in their Christian Studies lessons once a week, remotely, and this has been successful.

“Without a doubt, the adjustment has been massive, and Scots is constantly aiming to improve. But, so inspiring has it been, that what we have learned from this experience could easily enhance our spiritual education program ongoing.’’

What has the college learned so far?

The Zoom classroom provides an opportunity to create ‘breakout’ groups. This is a helpful aspect of the online program; providing the chance to include the boys in small groups. The ‘administrator’ of the group can ‘visit’ each group and see where the boys are up to with their activities – as in a classroom. The boys also enjoy catching up with classmates and working together. It is also a little more conducive to open discussion.

Chapel Service

A video is uploaded weekly during term. Students can watch the weekly online video during one tutor period or with their family. Weekly Chapel services have been replaced by a pre-recorded talk. The College has  experimented with recording from the computer camera, a phone camera and a video camera. Ultimately, video editing with PowerPoint-type slides were more effective in capturing the student’s attention than having someone speak to the camera. An immediate benefit is that parents also have access. Family participation is warmly encouraged.

Short Answers to Big Questions

This two-minute online video is easy to access via the ‘Chapel homepage’ via Schoolbox. It is an opportunity to actually ask ‘the big questions’. Students can submit any question about God, faith or life. Boys email them in, at their leisure, and each week one question is selected for answering. Recent worldwide events have raised many pertinent questions: Is this the end of the world? Is God really in control? And, if so, why is this happening? It is a valuable opportunity to share on a level that is immediately relevant. Boys and their families are clearly searching for answers. We appreciate this heightened opportunity.

Reading for the Week

Regular quiet time is important for individual self-awareness and reflection. Students complete four short readings for the week and have corresponding questions to assist them in their contemplation. Reading for the Week is a short passage with reflection questions, encouraging regular bible reading and interpretation.

What has changed with Home-based Chapel? Almost everything because society has changed: what we can and can’t do; the impact that it has on communities, families and individuals. As a result, school has changed. Relationships have changed. Teaching has changed. How we interact and relate to one another has changed. The questions the boys ask have changed. It is as inspiring as it is challenging.

What hasn’t changed? The good news about Jesus and our need for relationship with Him. The Gospel never changes; our greatest need never changes.

In so many ways this makes our job slightly easier: no matter what goes on in this world, God’s love for us truly is steadfast and unmoving.