Top tips for making the most of online learning

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Here’s what you can do to cope with the change to online learning.

There are so many unanswered questions for parents who are considering making the move to online schooling. On top of the usual parental concerns, you’re now having to face the reality that your children really want to be doing some (or all) of their learning from home, in front of a screen.

If you are keeping up with the real time changes in South Africa and all around the world, there is a growing likelihood that online learning has become the popular reality.

Here’s what you can do to cope with the change:

Convey calm

Most importantly, encourage your child to talk to you about what they are feeling and respond with empathy and understanding. We need to show our children that we’re here for them. Children are receptive to learning when they feel safe and secure.

Make a plan that helps achieve outcomes

In the world of learning, “outcomes” is a word used quite often; it refers to the learning goals that students are meant to achieve. Whether learning takes place online or face to face, it’s all about students achieving the outcomes that will set them up for success. The outcome might be to understand a topic, develop a skill, or for students to socially develop and connect with the community they’re in. Get clear on what these outcomes are for your child, based on what they want to learn, what their learning goals are and how you as a parent can support them. If you do eventually give in and make the switch online make sure you know:

  1. What your child’s learning goals are (AKA outcomes)
  2. What other outcomes your child should be focused on, such as improving their critical thinking skills or ability to collaborate with others
  3. What the expectations of you, as a parent are, for helping your child make progress towards these outcomes

Many parents have decided to supplement what their school provides, with additional online learning experiences. It’s important to keep outcomes in mind if you select learning technology for your child; identify the outcome your child needs to achieve and make sure there is evidence that the product you choose has a positive impact on the outcome you’ve identified. At Think Digital Academy we’ve done the hard work for you, so that you can enjoy the online learning journey with your child. We’ve already designed and developed the content so that it aligns 100% with the learning outcomes.

Create routine

Students usually work best within a routine. Work with your child to set the expectations for completing schoolwork.

  1. Ensure you know the expectations that the school has for completing their lessons online and how the teachers or Student Success Coaches can be reached. TDA students will find a list of their Success Coaches on their dashboards under the “Who to Contact” tab. Preview lessons, assignments and don’t miss any lessons. For TDA parents and students, we’ve made this task stress free and simple by providing students with a “Termly Planner” which can be used as a check list and planner for working through the term lessons. Parents can also easily check how their child is doing, by reading through the student “Weekly Activity Report” every Monday morning.
  2. Prepare a schedule of what needs to be completed each day/week. Part of effective scheduling is building breaks into the day and not trying to put too much learning into one block. A general rule of thumb is 30 to 50 minutes of learning and then a break for older students. Learning should take place in smaller chunks for younger students.
  3. If you are working from home, make sure your child knows when you are available and unavailable to help them. Setting clear boundaries is essential for your sanity and for your child’s self-esteem.
  4. Embrace the fact that online learning does not mean your child only learns in front of a computer. Given that educators must focus on achieving a variety of outcomes, you should expect that activities will be adjusted based on the best way to achieve each outcome. Activities might range from being given several links to follow at the student’s own pace, being asked to do some practice work or completing work independently.
  5. Review and reflect on the day by asking your child to show you what they worked on and ask them a few questions about what they learned. This isn’t you “checking” their work; it’s simply you showing an interest in what they’ve done and learnt.

Help your child believe they can do it

Everyone is going to experience setbacks and frustrations. It’s key to try and see those moments as useful markers on a journey towards learning, rather than signs that it is time to give up. If students struggle with a task or assessment, use statements such as:

  • Tell me what you’ve tried so far.
  • What else can you try?
  • What have you learned so far?

Remember to model this, as much as you can, for your child; if you get frustrated and shut down when something unexpected happens (e.g., the technology doesn’t work like you think it will), your child may think that some things really are just too hard.

Help your child see the value

You may become accustomed to hearing the phrase that teachers have heard millions of times, “Why do I have to learn this?” It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t see the value of what you are doing. Try to help your child connect what they are learning to things that are important to them. This might mean connecting learning to their interests (e.g., “Well, if you understand averages you can follow your favourite footballer’s performance”) or, helping them understand ways in which they could use what they are learning to help themselves or their friends and family (e.g., “could you use this lesson on photosynthesis to help us decide where it would be best to put our indoor plant?”). Students who learn to take charge of their own learning are often more successful.

Ensure there is a focus on individual progress and feedback

Every school will have a slightly different approach in terms of how they assess students. This will be even more true as schools grapple with online learning. As a parent, you need to make sure that your child’s knowledge and skills are being tracked in a meaningful and productive way. This should be a depiction of their individual progress (not how they compare to their friends). Ask your child’s school how progress will be shared with your child and with you.

At TDA, parents receive a “Weekly Activity Report” which details all activity completed on the system by your student. In addition to this, students also receive quarterly and annual reports. It’s essential that parent’s or tutors receive regular feedback on how their students are doing. Further to this, parents receive a copy of each completed assessment which allows for remedial intervention if necessary. This is an integral tool for measuring progress. No one can improve if we aren’t given regular, immediate information on what we did well and how we can get better. It’s important for you to recognise that feedback doesn’t have to be evaluative or for termly results; it can be as simple as a supportive check-in.

Provide opportunities for developing soft skills and social skills

Whether it’s communication, collaboration or critical thinking – acquiring and developing these skills is just as important as enhancing knowledge. Much of your child’s learning is about having fun and connecting with new ideas. TDA has built skills development into activities (e.g., problem solving, self-management, social responsibility, etc.); but you can further help ensure that you are fostering skills development outside of what the lesson material is providing.

You can use technology to take virtual field trips to museums or foreign countries, play interactive games and video call with friends and family. Or you can develop these skills without technology – have siblings work together to solve a problem (e.g., how can you earn enough money to buy that new video game) or have your child plan a new layout of their bedroom to maximise space.

Look after your own wellbeing

This is probably easier said than done, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to become a professional educator; you are a parent. Communicate with your child, empathise with each other and, try to take some time for yourself. Adjusting to a new way of learning isn’t easy for anyone, but we’ll navigate it together. Here at TDA, we have a whole team of people who love chatting and are only a call, mail or WhatsApp away from offering you all the support that you need!

Free trial

Why not try our online learning environment by enrolling for our free 14 day trial.