King's InterHigh is an established online school teaching the UK National Curriculum to families located within the UK and internationally. Part of the Inspired group of 70 private schools across five continents, King's InterHigh has around 1,500 students worldwide, 30% from outside the UK. It currently offers a full UK curriculum from Key Stage 2 (Year 3) to post-16; as students move through the online school, they can study a range of IGCSE and A Level courses.
The IBO currently works with Pamoja Education to offer online courses for the IB Diploma (and the IB Career-related Programme), but this collaboration with King’s InterHigh will be the world's first fully online Diploma Programme.
Executive Head at King’s InterHigh, Ashley Harrold, who was appointed in September 2021, says the time is right to launch a fully online IBDP.
“The pandemic has clearly disrupted education around the globe. We must respond to these challenges and adapt with new ways of learning. As the working world enters a new era, a fully online IBDP offers unparalleled flexibility for both parents and children, and suits those with more peripatetic lifestyles.”
The IBO's decision to trial the IBDP online could soon be followed by a move to online exams. The director-general of the International Baccalaureate (IB), Olli-Pekka Heinonen, has said that the organisation is looking at how it could bring digital assessment to its Diploma Programme. Speaking to TES in January, Mr Heinonen said that "Digital assessment can open doors to a model that supports learning better than the traditional model…We are trying to create the conditions for us to move to that."
For now, the focus is very much on how the IBDP can be delivered by an online school. In March, the IBO announced that it plans to work with a "limited number of partners, including IB schools", to pilot a fully online Diploma Programme. King's InterHigh has been chosen as the first.
Matt Costello, Chief Business Development Officer for the IBO, adds:
“Partnering with King’s InterHigh, a leader in online education will enable more students, and more diverse cohorts of students, the chance to participate in IB education programmes no matter where they are in the world.”
Students will study the same IB programme that is taught in physical IB schools. This includes studying six core subjects – English, mathematics, a science, a humanities subject, a modern or classical language and a creative arts subject. In addition, they write an essay of 1,200-1,600 words (Theory of Knowledge), complete a 4,000-word research project on any chosen subject and title (Extended Essay), and take part in a Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) programme.
King’s InterHigh will launch the IBDP with a choice of three languages (French, Spanish or English); one arts subject (visual arts) out of a possible five options; and the choice of three Individual and Societies subjects from the IBO's list of 10. It’s a more limited choice than offered at some IB schools, but a list that is based on the most "in-demand" subjects. However, King’s InterHigh says there plans to increase this choice of subjects over time.
Students will sit their IB exams during May of their second year at a 'bricks and mortar' Inspired school close to their home.
Initially, the IB programme will operate based on the school's UK timetable, with lessons running between 8:30am and 5.15pm (GST). This certainly makes the online IB more accessible to students in the UK, but as King’s InterHigh offers access to both live and recorded lessons, students can study when they want. Students in Europe, where's a two-hour time difference, could find it manageable to access live lessons, while a student living in Dubai with a four-hour time difference is more likely to use the recorded lessons.
With annual fees of £8,400 for students studying the IBDP, King’s InterHigh is offering an affordable alternative to a private school education. In most Uk schools offering the IBDP, annual day fees are around £26,00-30,000 plus.
In another first for this online school, King’s InterHigh will be using virtual reality (VR) technology and a metaverse school to teach its IBDP students.
Students will wear VR headsets (which will be a compulsory requirement for the course) to go on a virtual geography field trip, virtually experience the cramped living conditions in The Diary of Anne Frank, walk amongst DNA, peer into the human heart, or explore the solar system three dimensionally.
They will also attend live tutorials held in a virtual classroom at a school in the metaverse, which is based on Inspired’s physical Reddam House School in Berkshire, UK.
Ashley Harrold explains why it’s so important to bring Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality into the school’s online curriculum.
“IB is itself a highly innovative, creative, and fundamentally dynamic curriculum, with many opportunities for student interaction, discussion, and cultural and social transfer. To move this experience online our innovative use of technology will enable collaborative virtual reality spaces to elevate and facilitate student interaction, discovery, and inquiry-led learning.
“Our students will use VR spaces to conduct scientific experiments, take field work measurements, explore the structure of DNA, or converse in different languages in real-world situations. A truly global and interconnected experience, facilitated by cutting-edge technology awaits.”
One of the world’s most well-established online schools, King’s InterHigh already has over 16 years’ expertise in online learning – and is perhaps best-placed to run this pilot for the IBO. It currently has the experience of teaching 18-plus GCSEs and over 20 A Level subjects online using an effective online learning model that combines ‘Lead’ (seminar-style lessons) and ‘Explore’ (tutorials of up to 20 students). It can also draw on the expertise of Inspired’s 17 IB schools worldwide, which last year posted a group average score of 36.
Not every part of the IB lends itself to a smooth transition to online learning, though, and specialist subjects such as chemistry, art and languages can be challenging to teach beyond the classroom. King’s InterHigh knows its limitations and addresses them. For example, by introducing ‘on site’ A Level science practicals at Inspired schools or running a GCSE film studies trip to the Harry Potter Studios.
It’s the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) part of the IB that may be most challenging to deliver online, though. This requires students to complete at least 150 hours over an 18-month period in the arts, sport and service to the community.
King's InterHigh is confident about bringing CAS online, and students will be given the option to complete some CAS work at a physical Inspired school.
Ashley Harrold explains:
“As online students they are always developing the online networking skills to make connections locally and internationally. Equally, the technology on our platform, including Virtual Reality and creative spaces, will allow students to plan effectively and create imaginatively when designing and completing their CAS components be it a virtual exhibition, accessing music technology online or planning a social action project with students in other regions.
“Beyond this, our staff are also much more accessible online, able to create flexible support and draw like-minded peers together from wherever they are in the world. Bringing CAS fully online is truly exciting.”