Will your distance learning be successful?

As we face the reality of having to do long-distance learning with our children long term, parents are worried. After all, this distance learning stuff looks really different. Is it sufficient? Will my child fall behind or regress? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen?

All we can do is the best we can do. That may sound trite, but I think it’s important to keep perspective. But, hey parents, your best is very good!

successful distance learning

How to Make Distance Learning Successful

  1. Give Grace to Teachers and Schools-Remember that most teachers and school staff are giving their all and even then some. A friend of mine posted that his wife has been working from 4 am to 8 pm every single day, in order to provide the best possible learning experience for her class. Teachers want nothing more than to be in school and they are working harder than ever. But, this doesn’t mean to ignore learning issues that your child might be having. It’s just about being reasonable and establishing expectations. A Monday email with “My child is struggling with XYZ, do you have any suggestions? And I will email again on Wednesday or Thursday if I do not hear from you by then” is sufficient. I had a client one time who would call or email the school again if she didn’t hear from them by 2:00 each day!
  2. Ask About Procedures– If this is not outlined somewhere, ask. If you have questions during a lesson or cannot log on, what should you do? What should your child do if they have questions about a lesson or assignment? Two-way communication between students/teachers or parents/faculty during school hours is essential. Just as school staff is available to students and their families during normal school hours on campus, schools need to ensure that staff is accessible online to their remote learners. In fact, the need for communication is even greater when students aren’t able to access teachers in person. Teachers can make themselves available through email, chats, or group calls using remote meeting technology, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts. And if your teacher schedules informal chats at the end of the day, make sure your child attends them most days. Even if they don’t have specific questions!
  3. Make Sure Your Child Understands that School Time is for School-If your child is going to have virtual classroom time make sure they understand that class time is for class and nothing else. They shouldn’t be browsing social media or playing with their puppy. They shouldn’t get up in the middle of class to use the bathroom or get a drink. If at all possible, give them a distraction-free space to use. If they are going to be watching pre-recorded videos of their teacher remind them that these same rules still apply.
  4. Access to Technology/Devices and Internet– Another important thing to remember is that just because our kids were raised on technology and might love complex video games, that doesn’t automatically translate to a successful online learning experience. Not all students have access to devices at home, and schools may be required to provide those students with devices to take home. Another factor to consider is whether the instructor is providing instructional packets to the students prior to heading home or the students are keeping packets at home in a just-in-case scenario. An unrealistic expectation is for the students to be able to print their own instructional packets at home, so the school may need to come up with alternative delivery options or convert all coursework into e-learning materials. The phrase “the devil is in details” applies here, but once you get that worked out, it should be smooth sailing.
  5. Log in with your Child-If we have older or more independent kids, we may take that for granted. Have them walk you through a day of school. Where do they log-in? Does it load? Where do they turn in assignments and how do they know how they are doing? Keep a log someplace of passwords, homework, etc.
  6. Keep Communication Open with your Child and your School-Just like you would have in the before times ask your child about school daily. Ask them what they enjoyed, what they didn’t enjoy, and what they learned. If there is something that isn’t working for them or something that worked really well be sure to let their teacher know. Right now your teachers are going to need all the feedback, including positive feedback that they can get. So be sure to keep that line of communication open between all three of you. District Administrations should provide clear expectations for instructors when students are engaged in a remote learning environment. It is recommended that the school sets up office hours for students, parents, and instructors via an online recorded communication system. This not only protects the instructors, but also the students and their families. Keeping communication plans transparent while keeping everyone safe is important for internet-based education. Districts should have a clear policy or procedure for student, parent, and teacher communication during remote learning sessions to offer support when a student is struggling.
  7. Add an Activity Your Child Will Love-Many kids struggle with a change to their routine and distance learning is a huge change to what they’re used to when it comes to learning. One thing you can do is include a “bonus activity” after they finish their day that focuses on something they would find interesting. This might mean doing an at-home science experiment with them, baking cookies, watching a movie, or going online and learning everything you can about a particular subject. This will help your kids adjust to the new way of learning while learning about something they love.
  8. Make Sure You and Your Child Are on Time-Once again, if there is going to be virtual classroom time, via Zoom or some other software make sure that your child is there on time. Arriving late is immensely distracting to the entire classroom and eats into valuable learning time. Also, if you are scheduled to have a meeting with your child’s teacher make sure you’re on time to that too. Teachers have a lot on their plate right now and when you make them late it has a knock-on effect on their entire day. Being on time also applies to work that your child has been assigned. Make sure it gets done in a timely manner so your child isn’t falling behind the rest of their class.
  9. Be Patient-Most importantly, try to remain patient. This is completely new for everyone so there are sure to be some bumps in the road. Keep in mind that learning might be a little bit slower than normal and there are all sorts of new distractions and complications. Everyone is doing the best they can in a difficult situation. Teachers want your child in school as much as you do and they are struggling with this more than you know.

Successful Distance Learning

Successful distance learning requires internet accessibility, communication, and IT support to teachers and student communities. Making sure that teachers, parents, and students feel supported throughout this process is essential for success and student achievement. In addition, keeping a student community engaged online can address the issue of isolation and loneliness among students. It may be challenging to choose a curriculum and a path study that can be done remotely, but technology can play an important role in this educational environment that has created and excelled remote learning opportunities.

To Recap:

  • Clarify what is and (perhaps just as importantly) what is not a parent’s role during school shutdowns
  • Prepare for at-home learning
  • Support your child’s learning
  • Promote your child’s social and emotional well-being
  • Support your child if he or she is struggling or has a disability
  • Monitoring and Documenting your Child’s Progress and Challenges
  • Keeping up with what a child is expected to learn
  • Creating and sharing learning spaces in what are often crowded living environments
  • Reducing distractions and other obstacles to learning

Remember, we can do hard things!

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