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New learning platform for students

Best friends digital

John Gurguta

Many students suffer from insecurities, stress and pressure to perform since the beginning of the pandemic. Student Connect learning platform aims to support with important questions. © shintartanya/stock.adobe.com

Altdorf – At the beginning of October, former Altdorf resident Ortrun Griebel launched the digital learning platform Schuler Connect. The psychotherapist explains why such an offer is urgently needed at the present time.

Home schooling, strict hygiene rules, contact restrictions, quarantine and still you have to perform and write exams. The daily lives of students have changed dramatically in the past two years. While some voices talk about learning independence at an early age, many children are afraid of being left behind due to a lack of presence in the classroom. In addition, there is the psychological burden due to lack of social contacts and insecurities.

A survey of 331 students asking how they are doing and how to support them came to a staggering conclusion. 46 young people have already thought about taking their own lives in the past school year (we reported).

Corona as a trigger – the program has been running since October

These circumstances animated Ortrun Griebel, a former Altdorf resident and psychotherapist, to start a special help program: the online learning portal Schuler Connect. She works regularly with children and young people and knows the challenges and problems. One point is particularly important to her: "They should not lose control."

The free platform has been available since the beginning of October. So-called tandems are formed from a mentor and a mentee, who then get in touch in chat, video or audio meetings. The point is to facilitate social encounters – albeit online – in addition to assisting with learning content. The advantages of this system are the mutual promotion, the learning of strengths and weaknesses as well as the temporal and communicative flexibility, he said. "There are currently five tandems running, but the platform has space and time for more," she says.

Griebel assigns the tandems herself

Griebel takes care of the allocation of these tandems himself: "At the moment, I’m on the phone with everyone who is interested, so that the matching works out well.Matching" describes the process of bringing together suitable learning partners. It weighs up the needs and skills of applicants. "Basically, it’s not just about subject-specific content," she clarifies. In addition, there is the so-called Best-Buddy concept to help the respective mentee with homework or other school problems.

"This helps build self-efficacy," explains psychologist. Self-efficacy describes the belief that you can basically manage life well. In the psychological sense, often a guarantor of feelings of success and resulting happiness. This is very difficult for those affected by the pandemic. According to Griebel, this concept of school-based assistance combined with friendly trust is going very well. "Of course, I offer companionship in the process," she explains.

Trust, but also control

The requirements for mentors are not set dogmatically: "It comes out in the conversation and the motivation." Let it be said, however, as with all honorary positions, the commitment, which is always meaningful. She also says that togetherness is an important motivator for both mentor and mentee.

To prevent problems like bullying and other conflicts, Griebel uses certain hurdles, or "protective fences," as she calls it. "Only people who I approve come to the platform," she assures. In addition, mentors must provide a certificate of good conduct and, under 18, a parental consent form as well. This ensures safe and respectful interaction between all parties in the digital space. In addition, great importance is attached to data security: "All European security standards are observed."That’s why contact is made exclusively via the Schuler Connect platform and not via other providers such as Zoom. This also results in a certain control function.

Student Lia Renner: "A good concept"

"I think Schuler Connect has a really good concept," explains 15-year-old Lia Renner. She attends the Leibniz Gymnasium in Altdorf and has already been tutoring since June 2021. She is not yet registered with the online platform, but she intends to do so soon. "I really like explaining things to my tutors and supporting them." That’s her biggest motivation, she says, although of course she’s also happy about the volunteer allowance. Her tutoring student is in the fourth grade and needs help, especially in math, but also in German and local history and geography. They also sometimes talk about other things. "That’s about how she’s doing, how her class is going and what school she wants to go to after fourth," Renner says.

She appreciates that everything takes place on an informal and friendly basis. But the focus is usually on the school material. "Sometimes it’s hard to ask questions when you don’t understand something," Renner explains regarding home-schooling during the pandemic. Leibniz Gymnasium has made great efforts and introduced video conferencing to clarify questions – but that is not the case at every school. In the future, she wants to continue supporting other students, so she plans to sign up for Schuler Connect.

The fact that everything on the platform is digital makes the concept promising for Ortrun Griebel: "The students get along well online." The project is supported by the Altdorf Volunteer Agency and the Rotary Club of Nuremberg County. "They’re not just sponsors, they also give me support," she emphasizes. It would be pleased about more prospective customers and registrations on the portal. Then it would also be possible to automate certain processes and possibly hire more employees.

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