Our education system has been forced to rapidly adapt new technology to move learning online in response to the covid-19 outbreak. This has brought all sorts of challenges for school administrators, teachers, and parents alike – not to mention the students. And yet, with all the chaos in this situation, we believe there is a silver lining: we are also experiencing the freedom and flexibility technology allows students and families to have.
It is understandable that distance learning feels daunting in this tumultuous time of change in every aspect of our lives. And yet, online learning has been around for years – many schools and teachers are just now beginning to tap into the variety of resources available to bridge the gap between the classroom and the home.
At La Jolla LearningWorks, we have used distance learning tools for years to access students outside of San Diego or to make sessions more convenient for students with such busy after-school schedules that travel to one of our offices is an added stress.
So while you are likely undergoing your own perspective shift and evolving with your kids’ distance learning programs, we want to bring you up to speed on the power of virtual learning to enrich your child’s educational experience. You might just find that are some benefits to remote learning that make it worth the uncertainty to explore and navigate with our children.
What Is Virtual Learning All About?
Virtual classrooms can take different forms, from apps like Zoom that enable simultaneous video and text chat to more comprehensive learning management systems like BrainHoney that also contain curriculum materials such as texts, videos, and exams. They aren’t so different from their brick-and-mortar counterparts in the ways that matter: students are able to connect with their teachers and one another in real time to absorb knowledge and exchange ideas.
At the heart of any virtual school is the idea that learning can happen any time, anywhere, and technology serves as a bridge to facilitate this goal.
The Benefits of Virtual Learning
Some awesome features of distance learning include:
- Flexibility – Distance learning allows for a high level of flexibility in terms of time and location. Students who function better later in the day have the option to sleep in and complete work later in the day, and vice versa. Students can also typically complete their work anywhere that they have a reliable internet connection, which means that families have more freedom to travel more often or allow students to participate in time-intensive extracurricular activities without having to adhere to a traditional school schedule.
- Consistency – Along with flexibility, students enjoy greater consistency in their learning when they can take their school wherever they need to be. Moving to a new city or even a new country no longer requires a disruption to a student’s education or a period of adjustment to a new school. Students also avoid the risk of gaps in their understanding in these circumstances.
- Varied Modalities – Thanks to accessibility features and online tools, students can access the same material in different ways. This means that students with different learning styles and preferences can consume learning material in the way that suits them. Auditory learners can have text read aloud by a screen reader, visual learners can use captions with audio, etc.
- Personalization – Virtual learning provides students unprecedented control over their learning environment, which can significantly improve their focus and information retention. Lighting, temperature, sound, and even access to snacks are all factors that are typically out of your child’s hands in a regular classroom. Every student can benefit from establishing a personalized environment that is comfortable and conducive to their learning style, especially students with learning difficulties and/or sensory issues.
- Developing an Important Skill Set – One of the most important – but often overlooked – benefits of virtual learning is the opportunity to develop critical skills for working with technology. As our entire world shifts increasingly toward online experiences and interactions, students develop an important new skill set when they take classes online. The ability to work independently and take responsibility for meeting deadlines with minimal supervision will serve them well as they prepare for college and the workplace. They will also hone their communication skills via digital media, and practice being respectful online citizens.
How to Make the Most of Virtual Learning
Tips for online learning include:
- Make a schedule. When students are new to virtual learning, they might make one of two mistakes: either they find themselves getting distracted easily and struggle to stay on task, or they get so absorbed in what they’re studying they forget to come up for air and risk burning out. Making a schedule is one of the most successful online learning strategies as it helps students avoid both pitfalls and gives them an opportunity to practice time management skills that will be important for the rest of their lives. Their schedule doesn’t need to mirror a typical school day, but it should have a good balance of structure and flexibility so that they can stay consistent.
- Create a workspace. Although learning from anywhere is one of the greatest benefits to online learning, having a designated workspace at home helps students focus when it’s time to work. It also helps to create space for when they aren’t working, so that students don’t feel like they never leave school. A workspace doesn’t need to be a single location, either! Having particular programs and/or tabs open on their computer, sufficient lighting, and a comfortable chair may be enough to create a boundary between workspace and free space.
- Get involved. As a parent, it can be difficult to be hands-on when it comes to your child’s education – especially if you’re working, supporting multiple children, or need to balance other obligations. Your level and type of involvement in your child’s education will depend on many factors and will ultimately be what works best for your family. You can start by asking about what your child is learning, what struggles they’re facing with the subject matter or modality, and what additional support, if any, they feel they need. It is also a good measure to check in with your child’s teacher on a weekly basis to get feedback on your child’s performance and find out where additional support is needed.
- Celebrate often! Switching to virtual learning when you and your children are used to a brick-and-mortar environment can be difficult. In the beginning especially, celebrate every success no matter how small. Every assignment completed on time, tough concept grasped, etc. deserves a cheer or a special treat – and that goes for parents, too! Times of unprecedented challenge call for unprecedented levels of patience and positivity wherever you can find it. Be generous with words of encouragement and positive feedback for your children – and for yourself!
- Engage support. It’s okay if you don’t feel prepared to be an expert for your child on how to be a successful online student. You aren’t alone when it comes to navigating the new horizons of distance learning! Reach out to other parents of distance learning students, parents of homeschooling students, tutors, and educators to share questions, concerns, strategies, and triumphs. You can also find helpful tools, resources, and connection with our educators and other parents on our Facebook Page!
Virtual Learning Resources to Enrich Your Child’s @Home Learning Experience
While distance learning during this pandemic is still so varied in what schools are providing, there are plenty of amazing resources available to help you create an engaging learning experience for your child or supplement what they are receiving from their classroom teachers. You can find anything from complete grade-level curriculum to virtual field trips and personalized instruction to develop new skills and hobbies.
Virtual learning resources are plentiful, but how can you easily find the right resources for your children? We’ve compiled a list of ten of our favorite online learning resources, including both free and paid options. Many are divided up into sections for different grade levels and subjects, making them easy to navigate and especially useful for families with children at different grade levels. We’ve also included a number of sites for broadening home learning beyond the traditional subject matter – allowing your child to use this time at home to explore their individual interests.
When it comes to finding additional reputable remote learning resources, look to the websites of colleges and universities, museums, art galleries, historical societies, environmental organizations, and scientific research institutions. Many of these entities offer easily digestible texts, images, and videos to the public for free.
Virtual Learning at LJLW
In response to the stay at home orders, La Jolla LearningWorks has shifted our tried-and-true methods into an online format to best serve our families while schools are closed. With La Jolla LearningWorks live, online tutoring, we take over the burden of homeschooling with just a few hours a week of instruction – giving your child live, personalized lessons with one of our passionate and experienced educational coaches to maximize their learning at home.
Our educators help your child build their time management and independent study skills,
and give you peace of mind with regular feedback on their progress. Your child will be happily engaged in learning, and you will be free to get back to being a parent instead of a homeschool teacher. As one of our clients, a parent of a 3rd grade student, shared:
“I am so grateful to be part of the La Jolla LearningWorks community now more than ever. Just knowing that my child is guaranteed a set amount of individualized and high-quality work time takes so much pressure off the overall home learning experience. The tutoring sessions have come to be a reliable and reassuring constant for us both during this time of great disruption.“
Our tried and true four-step process ensures clear understanding of each student’s specific learning challenges and goals for growth before we start sessions. We take great care in matching students with our educational coaches so they can build a lasting relationship that encourages students to take risks and maximize learning. Throughout the process, we provide parents with regular feedback on their child’s performance so there’s always a clear line of communication giving parents peace of mind and tips for supporting their kids at home. We’ll even connect directly with your child’s classroom teachers to be an integrated piece of their education.
We use Zoom Video Conferencing for personalized, one-on-one lessons and GoogleDrive to share materials in advance of sessions. Each session is at least 50 minutes long with longer sessions available, and usually take place at least twice per week with the option for more frequent sessions. Every session is followed by feedback via email to keep you up-to-date on your child’s progress.
It’s been exciting to see the families who were used to our brick-and-mortar sessions finding our online tutoring to be just as valuable. Another client, a parent of a kindergartener, gave her feedback:
“If you’re wondering whether virtual sessions will work for your student, I encourage you to give it a try. We have a little Kindergartner. I had a hard time imagining how a 6-year-old could manage with a virtual session. We decided to give it a try and it was great! We’re so relieved we can keep his learning going while schools are on hold.”
We are here to supplement the instruction your child is currently receiving, address areas of weakness, and help your child achieve their educational goals so you don’t have to worry about them falling behind during this challenging time.
Finding the Silver Lining in These Challenging Times
While we know that distance learning cannot make up for the full value of peer interaction and social skill development of an in-person school setting, we believe that our adaptation to virtual learning will not be fully reversed. Our exposure to the benefits of online learning has raised awareness to its potential for creating a highly individualized learning experience. This is the future of education for sure.
We believe that families seeing the silver lining in kids being more self-directed in their education and having more time to pursue their individual interests will set a new course for education as we make our way out of the current pandemic crisis.
And while online learning can be incredibly beneficial for students, we know it can also be incredibly daunting for parents. When you’re facing the task of guiding your children through a situation you’ve never experienced, it can be stressful, even scary. How do you know you’re making the right decisions and setting your children up for success?
Fortunately, there are many tips and resources available for parents as we face these uncertain times. Our knowledgeable, compassionate educators at La Jolla LearningWorks are here to stand beside you and help you guide your children to their highest potential through virtual learning. Connect with us for personal feedback to make the most of your child’s at home learning experience and to learn more about online learning at La Jolla LearningWorks.