Online Learning: How to Help Your Child Excel

Online Learning: How to Help Your Child Excel

As the parent of a high school or college-aged child, you’re likely being put to the test, literally–as teacher, and/or chief encourager. To help you both, we’ve collected online learning tips so you can power up and on–and, perhaps, with a little less stress.

Although it may seem like it is, online learning is not all that new. The New York Times reports: “According to the latest estimates from the Department of Education, 35 percent of college students took at least one course online before the pandemic, and this share has been growing steadily for more than a decade.

Still, most schools are not equipped to deal with the sudden shift to online learning, and there’s a great divide financially: not every family can afford the technology needed to be successful.

There are also issues with the technology itself, course content, exams and tests and how they’re taken and submitted, etc. 

Whether online learning becomes the new hybrid model post-pandemic, for colleges especially, remains to be seen.

For now, research is being gathered, including whether students are absorbing the information, “showing up” for classes, able to use the technology and stay focused, and more. 

The following information is for those who have daily access to a computer and the internet.

If you don’t, your child is hopefully working with their school on alternative ways to receive assignments, and to turn them in.

 

Online Learning: Some Valuable Tips on How to Master It

Step by Step

The best first step is to make sure a workspace has been set up in an area with as few distractions as possible, and where your child can power up as needed.

Next, talk to your son or daughter about not taking anything for granted–especially an internet connection.

In other words: Don’t wait until something is due to submit it.

If they think nothing can go wrong, they likely only need to hear the word “pandemic” to remind them that life doesn’t always go as planned. Speaking of connectivity….

Connectivity Issues?

  • If your internet is slow and your child needs to turn something in on time, if at all possible, ask other members of the household to go offline temporarily. Generally speaking, the more people who are using the internet in a home, the slower the connection will be. 
  • Schoolwork should be saved often, and they should have backup storage systems like the Cloud, or a hard drive. It can help to use Google docs as well, since it saves automatically. 
  • If you’re constantly facing connectivity issues, call your provider to see if you can upgrade. 
  • You can also check out these helpful tips to boost your WiFi, or try a WiFi booster (some people in our Paying For College 101 Facebook group report that they’ve had success with one). 
  • If you find yourself without any internet on your computer, try using your phone as a hotspot--it’s fairly easy to set up. I had to do the same recently and was up and running in minutes. Just keep your phone plugged in while you do this, and if you can, check your data plan now so you know what to expect later. Click this link to learn how to set up a hotspot.
  • Encourage your child to plug their teacher’s contact info into their phone so they can reach them if they’re having technical issues submitting work. To be sure the work is documented as being complete, they can take a photo of it and text or email if they have service, or take a screenshot of the attempted submission, along with the time, and send when service returns.
  • Some people in our Facebook group have also reported that their school districts are leaving their WiFi open to use without passwords. You’ll need to drive up to the school parking area to use it, but if it works, go for it.

Study Tips for Your Child

Be aware that there will be a transition period.

Online learning is a mindset shift from face-to-face learning, and everyone goes through the transition a little differently.

Pretend the computer is the actual classroom. It’s going to be harder to stay up-to-date if your child can’t literally walk into their classroom daily. So the equivalent is to check-in online daily, and look for instructor updates and comments by other students on posts, etc. 

In addition, encourage your child to:

  • Make sure they’re clear on course objectives right from the start. If not, ask their teacher, professor, or classmates for clarity.
  • Create a study plan that’s tailored to their needs and style of learning.
  • Make a list of what is due, and when, then go backwards and build a schedule.
  • Set time limits for projects. 
  • Stick to a routine–the same time every day is best. 
  • Ask for help when they’re stuck. Whether that help comes from you or their school (there may be tutors available through the school with whom they can work by phone or email), or friends in the same class, class “chats,” etc. Conversation is key to understanding. And mentors are more important than ever.
  • Take breaks. The goal is to retain information, and it can just be a big blur when you’re staring at a screen non-stop. Try snacks, stretching, jumping rope–whatever resets concentration levels! The good part about learning from home is the flexibility to create your own schedule as long as deadlines are being met.
  • Avoid distractions. Pretend the professor is there in your “classroom” and can see you texting, e-mailing, or on social media–would you be doing that if they were? 
  • Make the most of online discussions. They help students “get it” and feel a sense of community. This is more important than ever from both a learning and social perspective.

Learning Resources

In addition to good study habits, here are some helpful online learning resources as suggested

by lifehack.org. For their full list, refer to their article on the topic.

 

The Rapid E-Learning Blog: (Articulate Network): “Tom Kuhlmann is a blogger who shares practical tips all students can benefit from. The blog offers up-to-date information on different education-related topics that will help you become an e-learning pro. The discussions under each post are also very valuable, so don’t forget to read the comments and join the community.”

Atrixware E-Learning Solutions Blog: “Atrixware is a company that has developed a great online learning management system that enables students to create great presentations easily. However, the really valuable resource is the blog section of this website, where you can read fresh information about the most popular and most useful e-learning tools.”

Coursera: “This is one of the most valuable learning resources on the web. Students can find free courses provided by prestigious universities. Almost all courses are offered, including humanities, computer science, business, mathematics, biology, and more. This website is necessary for all students who want to expand their knowledge on a subject or find information they will use for their school projects.”

FindTutorials.com: “This website collects useful tutorials from across the web, so you will find literally anything you need there. The best thing about FindTutorials.com is that the users vote on the quality of all offered tutorials, so you will know which links are worth clicking on.”

iHomework: “This app is available on all Apple devices, so you can access it wherever you are. The idea behind its concept is to make your life as a student easier. You can use iHomework to quickly enter important tasks, course information, and homework assignments.”

Open Culture: “The content offered on this website is not only useful for your school project, but your personal intellectual development as well. Open Culture delivers content from many different topics, from writing tips and literature characters to world history and wars.”

The following websites can also be helpful:

The Library of Congress: Information related to literature, American history, and more.

Khan Academy: Free education to anyone of any age.

Textbook Revolution: Managed by students and for students.This is a textbook exchange, and also lists online resources and free course offerings. 

Connections Academy: An online K-12 curriculum. This is for children who are homeschooled or learn in other non-traditional settings.  

edX: Online courses from some of the world’s best schools.

Remember–everyone is going through the same adjustment period. It’s not going to be a seamless experience. Offer support when appropriate, encourage discussion, problem-solving, and patience.

And maybe a treat on those days when it just isn’t coming together.

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Melissa T. Shultz

Melissa T. Shultz

Melissa T. Shultz is a writer, and the acquisitions editor for Jim Donovan Literary, an agency that represents book authors. She's written about health and parenting for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, AARP’s The Girlfriend, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Next Avenue, NBC’s Today.com and many other publications. Her memoir/self-help book From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life was published by Sourcebooks in 2016.
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