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November 5, 2018

7 min

Steve Bentley

4 Tips for Parents for Online Learning Success

The educational options available to K-12 students is quite varied. While many students continue to succeed in traditional school settings, we are fortunate, today, to have numerous opportunities for those students who don’t quite fit this mold. If you believe that online education may be a fit for your student, here are a few tips that may help you make your decision and will help you set up your student for success and a valuable and meaningful educational experience.

1. Getting Started

Jumping into online education can be intimidating and confusing for first-time online students. It is crucial that you work to create a working environment that will ensure your student’s success and one that allows them to complete their daily coursework and feel confident in their learning.

Once your student has been introduced to the online platform and is ready to begin his/her work, it’s time to make sure that their workspace is designed for productivity, and also to avoid distractions. Your student should have a workspace with room for, not only their computer but also space for anything else they might need during a typical school day, such as pens, pencils, notepads, calculator, etc. The workspace should lay flat, such as a desk or table. Students should not attempt schoolwork while lounging on the couch, or while lying in bed. While this may option be acceptable once they’ve mastered the online learning environment and are making adequate progress in all classes, this is not the best environment to work in, as a new online student and may lead to distractions such as videos, napping, gaming, etc.

Once a comfortable workspace is established, it’s time to develop a daily work schedule. Your student should set a start time, daily, and their day should include times for short breaks and should be long enough to complete all daily assignments. Students should work for roughly 45-50 minutes, and take a SHORT, 5-10-minute break between work sessions. It is essential that you set ground rules for breaks. We suggest that your student avoid gaming, videos, or any other technology during break time. These breaks are designed to give your student a short time away from the screen and unwind for a few minutes. They should grab a snack, get a drink, stretch, and then get back to work. One early fatal error for unsuccessful first-time online students is taking breaks that are too long, or too frequent, thus keeping the student from completing their daily assignments, and putting them behind schedule. Not completing daily tasks is a very slippery slope, and often, students who fail behind may give up and quit working because they are unable to handle the workload. Your student should expect to work approximately 1 hour per subject, depending on the daily workload in each class. Workload will change on a regular basis, but 1 hour is a reasonable estimate of how much time is needed, per subject or class, on a typical school day.

Lastly, for your student to know what must be completed in each subject, daily, it is necessary to create pacing guides. These will help your student understand what to achieve in each subject area, each day, to stay on track, and complete courses on time. Pacing guide length and the amount of work required daily will vary, depending on course length, so be sure to ask your student’s teacher for assistance with getting these set up.

2. Do Your Research

As the parent of an online learner, it is imperative that you are aware of the tools and services available to your student. Parents often feel isolated and are unsure of where to go if their student needs help. This uncertainty may inadvertently lead to your student falling behind, losing confidence in their abilities as an online learner, and ultimately failing or wanting to search for a new school. By adequately preparing, and knowing how to help your student, your student can successfully navigate the online educational world.

First, be sure that you know your student’s teacher(s). Depending on the program type, this may be a single individual or separate teachers for different subjects. Make sure that your student knows who each of these people is and is confident in reaching out for help, or with questions, when necessary. Knowing the correct person to reach out to for help, the first time, will save time, and help your student avoid the frustration of reaching out to several people, before landing on the right one.

Next, you must take the time to learn your parent portal, into your student’s online learning platform, and become comfortable navigating, and reviewing assignments, grades, notes, etc. Just as your student is being challenged to learn a new, and unfamiliar system, you too, must determine the systems your child will use, so that you are more able to assist them, if and when they ask for your help.

Additionally, you need to be prepared to help your student, and gather the tools necessary, so that your student knows what to do when you or a teacher are not immediately available to them. As online learners, students often have the luxury of looking outside of the ‘lesson’ to seek additional information or to help clarify concepts or ideas presented in their coursework. Be sure that you ask teachers for suggestions to outside web resources, or additional aids, to help your online student be as successful as possible. Be sure to also ask about any available tutoring, teacher’s office hours, and study groups.

3. Communication

Aside from actual time spent working online, one significant indicator of student success is the frequency and duration of a student’s interaction with teachers, parents, and other students, regarding school and schoolwork. To truly learn, your student must talk about, explain, and ask questions about their lessons, and must know exactly who to speak with, and how to contact them for clarification or help. Students who are afraid to, or avoid reaching out to ask for help, often fall behind and are generally less successful than students who actively seek out help when needed. Help is not always a natural habit, and parents should work closely with their student, to help them build the confidence to seek out help whenever necessary.

Additionally, parents should never hesitate to call or email their student’s teacher, if they have any questions, need assistance, or need advice on how to help their student succeed.

Online teachers tend to communicate student progress to parents far more frequently than teachers in traditional school settings. With the isolation that online students can feel if they are not adequately participating in the system, it is imperative that teachers keep lines of communication open with parents and students, at all times, concerning student progress, performance, and pace of work. Frequent communication between parents and school staff, help avoid frustration or surprises when progress reports or report cards go home.

Lastly, make sure that your student attends every scheduled online meeting, and a class session is required. This continued communication and interaction with teachers and other students helps online students feel less isolated and look forward to attending classes and meetings, as well as improving school work, overall.

Unsuccessful online learners often claim that there was no communication, or that they never saw a teacher or other students. It is your job, as a parent, to ensure that your student is enrolled in a program where they, not only, receive frequent feedback, facetime, and communication from teachers, but where you both feel as though you are part of a community, and not just a ‘learning program.’

4. Engage

Stay involved in your student’s schoolwork. Believe it or not, sometimes when we ask children about school, we may not always get a straight answer. Rather than merely asking your student how they are doing in school, ask them specifically about what they are doing in each subject. Ask them to tell you about something interesting that they discovered while studying or ask about a particular assignment they may have completed. Having students explain their learning to others is a great way to help students truly master the ideas and concepts they learn every day.

Review schoolwork frequently. Before your student submits assignments, especially longer written assignments, help them proofread their work, checking for spelling, punctuation, or other grammatical errors, before turning it into the teacher. Many students today struggle with spelling and grammar, just due to our relaxed, informal language usage. Students today often don’t see the importance of proper spelling and grammar, and continually struggle on written assignments and essays, because of this. Working with your student to develop the habit of physically proofreading their written work before submitting it, will most definitely result in higher grades on written assignments and essays, and will help continue to develop overall writing skills.

Review graded work and your student’s grade reports often. Review teacher comments and graded assignments and tests, to see which areas may need to be studied further. Ask your student about low scored quizzes, tests, and tasks. Review missed questions and review written work to help understand why they were incorrect. Just asking your student to explain a missed question may reveal that they know quite a bit more on the topic that was told by the subject and can help you to help your student better explain themselves on future assignments. Don’t be afraid to question grades. If something doesn’t look right, or you would like to discuss the reasoning behind any specific class, you should always feel comfortable asking the teacher.

Lastly, teach your student that, just because they’ve finished an assignment, quiz, or test, doesn’t necessarily mean that that information disappears forever. We are continually scaffolding ideas and concepts and calling on students past experiences and knowledge to help them gain further understanding and delve deeper into each subject. If they’re not working to remember what they’re supposed to be learning now, it will become more and more difficult to do so, as time goes on.

The move from traditional to online learning can be a trying and a confusing time for many students. However, with:

A little planning and preparation on your part
Using the tools available to your student
Working on developing strong communication and study skills, along with developing dependable and productive work habits
the leap into online education can be an inspiring and rewarding experience for both students and parents alike..

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