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Aras is an IB DP student at TED Ankara College Foundation High School, and has just completed his first year of Psychology SL with us.

Tell us a bit about your online learning experience.

I first learned about Pamoja when I was in 10th grade. A friend from school told me that he was taking Psychology and Philosophy as IB courses, and I was confused because I didn’t think those subjects were offered at our school. When I asked him he told me about Pamoja and said I could take online courses too. I then went to my coordinator’s office and learned more about the platform.

Why did you decide to study online?

The regular subject offered for Group 3 at our school is a course called Turkey in the Twentieth Century, and is only offered in Turkish schools to meet the national diploma requirements. I assumed this wouldn’t be widely recognised by universities abroad since it is taught in Turkish, and I wanted to apply outside of Turkey.

By that time, I’d also figured that I’d study Psychology at university, and wanted to take a course that was similar to what I’d experience there. When I realised I could use Pamoja to take IB Psychology online, I decided to do it.

What subjects or modules have you most enjoyed learning about?

In IB Psychology we have three units for the core content of our course: biological, cognitive, and socio-cultural approaches to human behaviour. We also have an optional additional topic. We learned about most of the core topics this year, and I enjoyed the cognitive approaches the most.

The topic is unlike any course I’ve taken thus far, and it almost feels like “pure” psychology as it directly focuses on how the human mind functions. It makes me even more keen to choose Psychology as my major at university.

I also liked the biological approaches, because it overlapped with some of the topics of IB Biology, one of my HL courses. This is helpful as there is a lot of content to learn in Psychology..!

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced studying online? How have you overcome these?

The biggest challenge when the classes first started was time management – I couldn’t adjust myself for a while. I was used to going to an actual classroom with physical desks and assignments, alongside a teacher who daily assigns coursework with short deadlines.

With Pamoja it’s a different experience as you’re way more independent. The assignments are weekly, and sometimes an assignment’s duration is longer than a week. At first it was hard, since I’d postpone my weekly assignments to the very end of the week, which would then feel like a burden, and I’d get behind with my work.

I then realised that the assigned coursework for each week isn’t huge – it’s just the necessary amount – and if I completed it throughout the week then I would be fine and be able to enjoy the experience. I made sure I understood the assignment the first day it was announced, then did my revision and completed it as the week proceeded.

What do you enjoy about online learning with Pamoja?

One thing I definitely enjoy is the flexibility. The fact that you can do coursework whenever and wherever you want is the nicest feature you can hope for, especially if you’re in IB where you’re constantly assigned multiple tasks. I can easily do work whenever I’m free, and this enables me to understand better since I’m not under pressure.

The interface of the platform and the content of the modules are enjoyable as well. It’s not at all confusing, which enhances my learning experience. Each week’s module usually features a video and/or a live lesson alongside the reading material, which helps me understand the content better. The discussion forums also help, as reading my peers’ opinions and responses gives me a better understanding of the concepts involved.

How has your Pamoja teacher supported your learning?

My Pamoja teacher assisted me a lot this year. Apart from guiding the whole class through their assignments, the teachers are also available to support you through private messaging. I’ve sent many emails to my Pamoja teacher, and have always received a fast response that has resolved my issue. The teachers provide constructive feedback, are really understanding, and are always ready to listen. The feedback I’ve received will definitely guide me through the rest of my IB Psychology journey. Thanks to my teacher, I know what IB examiners want from students.

How do you hope that your online learning experience will support your future?

Taking an online course is a challenge, yet it is an excellent way to prepare for university. University study usually features a flexible schedule with a system similar to what Pamoja has to offer. Since this is one of my IB courses and I’m taking it online (perceived as more challenging), I’m hoping it will reflect positively on my college applications.

I also want to pursue a degree in Psychology, and this course provides an overview of what I’ll experience in the first year of my degree. I think it will be easier for me to grasp the learning material once I start university.

The skills I’ve acquired through Pamoja will definitely support me in the future. I’ve learned how to write an argumentative essay with solid pieces of evidence to support my claims via the feedback I’ve received from my Pamoja teacher and the ERQ [Extended Response Question] tasks. I’ve also learned a lot about time management – one of the most valuable skills to have.

What advice would you give to a student who is considering taking a Pamoja course?

Taking an online course is not an easy task, but if you do it justice then it will be worth your time and effort. You’ll learn a lot and get the chance to study something that may not be offered at your school.

Learn how to plan your time and never forget to do your revision: you probably wouldn’t want a year’s worth of material piled up to be revised with a month left until the end-of-year exam!

Be patient. The subject you have chosen might be very different from those you’ve taken at school thus far, and it’s more than OK if you struggle and get average grades to begin with. Dedicate yourself to learning the system and everything will be fine.

Finally: sum up your Pamoja experience in three words!

Challenging, different, exciting.

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