In recent months, schools and universities transitioned from the traditional classroom to a virtual variant on short notice. Without the face-to-face interactions and a patchwork of technological solutions to enhance the classroom experience from afar, distanced learning comes with its own set of unique challenges. Fortunately, there are many proactive steps students, parents, and educators can take to maximize nontraditional instruction. Below, we’ve curated a series of tips to help students thrive in the virtual classroom this fall.
Carve out a dedicated workspace
For students, the line between personal time and education blurs as the schoolhouse is transported to the home. Without clear boundaries and rituals in place, an unclear differentiation between the two separate worlds can create challenges for remote students. Establishing a dedicated learning environment is an essential part of remote learning. This will help students view this area as an exclusive time and space for education.
Minimizing common distractions is also imperative. Try to keep the television, toys, and other enticing gadgets out of the virtual classroom environment. Installing website blockers and apps to social media sites and more could make sense for some students.
Create healthy routines and habits
Without the physical component of being transported to the school each day, it’s also important to build routines and expectations around the virtual classroom. Set a similar pre-school schedule enabling children to have breakfast, prepare for the school day, and make an itinerary before logging in for the day. Simply waking up and moving straight to the workstation is not a recipe for success.
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Remember the virtual tools
Online learning and virtual collaboration requires a vast suite of technologies. A student’s workstation will need to be fully equipped with all of the tools and accessories required for their full online curriculum. This includes laptops, webcams, dedicated microphones, tablets, dongles for incompatible accessories, noise-canceling headphones, and more. It may be necessary to touch base with the school or lead educator to gain a clearer understanding of the recommended tools and equipment. Selecting the ideal equipment, at times, may mean choosing age-appropriate technologies. Lower elementary school children may not be able to use the same tools and equipment preferred by older, slightly more tech-savvy students.
Take the tech for a test-drive
Similar to having the workstation fully equipped and ready for a school day, it’s also imperative to test the system before the start of the school day. This will involve understanding the curriculum for the days and weeks ahead and having equipment and programs installed ahead of time. Hardware and software incompatibilities can mar even the most well-intentioned plans, so remember to test the virtual learning requirements in advance to reduce these risks.
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It’s also crucial for parents to create this dedicated workstation with comfortability in mind. Remember, the student is going to be situated in this space for hours on end. That said, it may be a good idea to purchase equipment to enable students to change positions throughout the day. An adjustable standing desk, desktop riser, or even a lap desk will allow students to change positions for added maneuverability and comfort.
In a virtual environment, the webcam is the teacher’s window to the student’s world. When designing the workspace and or purchasing dedicated video equipment, remember to keep viewing angles in mind. Students may need to show their work via webcam or present during the school day. An adjustable webcam or maneuverable webcam stand can enable greater versatility for presentations and hands-on learning exercises.
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Involve the child in the setup process
When establishing the workspace and selecting the e-learning accouterments, make sure to include the child in the discussion. After all, this will be their workspace for the foreseeable future. The student may have ideas or preferences to share when curating this learning environment. Allowing the students to create an environment they like and enjoy and feel part of will help start the school year out on solid footing.
Remember, this grand online learning education experiment is new for millions. Many of the teachers and administrators involved in nontraditional instruction are also new to virtual collaboration. That said, there are sure to be hiccups along the way. There will be aspects of the online education process that may need to be tweaked as the year progresses. However, approaching the school year with an open mind and understanding the fluid nature of the model can help create a cohesive, collaborative, and functional learning environment for parents, students, and parents alike. Clear and considerate communication can go a long way to ironing out wrinkles along the journey.