Photo Credit: Koa Academy - Supplied

Online learning is changing the face of education in South Africa; The Koa Academy’s online pod system is helping learners, who may have previously struggled, thrive in their schooling.


South Africa (03 November 2022) – Schooling has changed so much in the last few years and new ways of educating young minds are being innovated. For South African youth, online schooling is a great opportunity to explore a more flexible style of learning. This is being done by South Africa’s first-ever “Pod” school.

Koa Academy is an online school for South African learners in grades four to twelve. The team is able to give a well-rounded education by leveraging material from all around the world that leans into each child’s strengths. However, this is done in partnership with the South African curriculum (CAPS) so there is a way to track educational progress.

Online schools offer a range of choices families have never had before. While geography has been a traditional limitation when it comes to choosing a physical school for your child, online schools have no such boundaries. This frees parents to pay closer attention to the online school’s philosophy and values, model and offerings in order to find a school environment that is truly optimal for their child.

One of the highlights at Koa Academy is the Pods. These smaller classes are made up of no more than eight learners. The eight-person Pods give teachers a better chance to connect with each learner and adjust their teaching pace accordingly.

The Pods are done online and prioritise a high level of engagement. Each school day, they get together for Pod Connect, a socio-emotional learning, teamwork, and relationship-building session. There are also daily Pod Check-ins for setting targets, monitoring progress, presenting work and feedback, as well as subject-based Masterclasses. Koa’s unique Pod structure creates an organised space for learners to enjoy social connections, get targeted academic support and develop their executive functioning.

Photo Credit: Koa Academy

“It’s all about accountability and individualisation. We’ve seen several other online learning models crash and burn because they assume that kids, particularly teens, are able to learn without consistent accountability. The fact is that a large part of what school teaches a young person has to do with becoming more independent, and not just assuming that they already are independent.

Our small Pods mean that everyone is accountable academically. The teacher knows every single person in their Pod, where they are in terms of their learning, and what support they need to keep growing. It’s in this highly supportive, highly accountable space in which learners can really master the skill of independence and thrive in their academics.” – Mark Anderson, Koa’s Principal and Co-founder

The other way the Pods encourage collaboration is by hosting interest clubs as well as Science, Business and Art Expos. They also invite presenters and speakers to engage directly with the learners during these sessions.

“There are many clear benefits of online learning but there’s also a real risk in the online space of disconnection, possibly leading to isolation. We knew that if Koa was to really become the standard of online education in South Africa, and truly harness all the benefits of online learning, then everyone must be connected – not just connected in the IT sense, but also feel connected in the social and emotional sense. The only way to do that is for our cameras to be on, and our voices to be heard. That happens best – that happens ONLY – in small groups. With 8 on a screen, everyone can be seen, and everyone can be heard.” says Mark

This new style of learning embraces the changes within Gen Z and Gen Alpha and how they understand class work. The way young people learn today is very different from our past. The teacher has transformed from a content provider in front of the class to a learning expert able to coach the students at their side along their unique learning pathways. The so-called ‘soft skills’ that nobody paid much attention to in a mechanistic, industrial past have now become the top information-age capabilities. Those who know how to think critically, how to communicate, how to collaborate and how to innovate lead the way.

Photo Credit: Koa Academy

Literacy has expanded to include media, information, civic and technological literacies. Qualities such as resilience, emotional intelligence and flexibility help our children win the day. What this means is that as parents, we should be worried if our child’s educational environment today looks and seems a lot like the one that we experienced.

“Our aim is to prepare children for the real world. Learning is rooted in real-world issues; tasks give children options, and age-appropriate feedback is ongoing so that children can adapt and grow in dynamic ways as they learn. In this way assessment is embedded in the learning process, and not a disconnected result that they can’t actually learn from. Our passionate teachers are curating and facilitating content at the child’s pace. Each child progresses when they have mastered the learning which is the only real way to ensure that no one is left behind.” says Mark

Understanding the way young people learn today goes a long way to raising a well-rounded, flexible individual.

Teachers involved with the academy have loved engaging with their learners in this way. It allows them to put their specialised training into action and connect with their learners on a new level, which significantly benefits their education and overall wellness.

Pod teacher, Simone Dames shared what the shift in teaching has meant to her.

“Every day I am connecting with my Pod for fun sessions targeting soft skills as well as academic sessions where I can monitor kids’ progress and assist or coach where needed. I can tell you who everyone is; I know their academic strengths and challenges. I can give each person an individualised timetable that leans into their strengths and allows them to master content at their own pace. It’s a super-accountable structure where kids can thrive both academically and socio-emotionally.” – Simone Dames

If you would like to learn more about the Koa Academy, you can take a look at the video below as well as check out the website here.

Sources: Koa Academy
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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