Four Tips to Plan for Success with Online Learning

Many families have made the decision to begin this school year with their students attending class in person, but there are some who have decided to take advantage of remote learning. Having survived the abrupt shift to remote learning last year, I understand just how important having a well-defined plan for remote learning is. Rolling out of bed and booting up my computer while my coffee gets started in the background simply does not prepare most people for the beginning of a school day. With that in mind, I have four tips that should help students who choose to learn from home.

Set up a space just for school

It might be tempting to haul a Chromebook from the couch, to the dining table, back to the couch, and then into a bed, but sticking to one consistent work space is likely the better approach to remote learning. Even with so much of the work being completed on student’s Chromebooks, having some paperwork or materials for class is unavoidable. One dedicated school space will make it easier to keep up with everything students need throughout the school day, and minimize the amount of time they spend looking for materials. As an elementary teacher, I can attest to the difficulty of keeping just one confined space organized; I can only imagine the organizational challenge with an entire house to spread out in!

Be sure to ask questions

In the classroom, I check students’ work as I move around the room looking over their shoulders. When I am working with students online, I am forced to rely much more on their questions to know when to help. Perhaps the biggest challenge I face teaching in a hybrid classroom is knowing when my remote students need help. Since I am not able to check student work in person, I am much more reliant on these questions. My heart sinks when I realize for the first time that a student has been struggling only after grading an assignment. Addressing misconceptions early in the learning process can make mastering a new concept far easier than trying to correct mistakes that have time to become part of a student’s thought process. As I like to tell my class, if you have a question there is a good chance someone else does too, and that other student might be too timid to raise their hand, or might not even know they need to hear the answer. 

Limit distractions

One huge benefit of working from home is the near total control of your environment. However, there are more tempting distractions at home than in the classroom. It might seem possible to work with the television on in the background, but as much as I like to think I can multitask, I frequently find myself sucked into the show I am watching, leaving my work half finished. If there are other members of the family working from home, it may not be possible to find a space that is entirely quiet, so listening to instrumental music could help students maintain their focus while others are working around them. And as nice as it seems to have a big window nearby for natural light, facing a student’s desk towards a wall can help the student maintain focus on her work rather than the mail delivery, people walking by, or the squirrel that just ran up the tree. 

Stick to a consistent schedule

Having a schedule when you wake up, just like you would coming to school, can be really helpful. I do not imagine there are many people who can roll straight out of bed and be ready to jump into a class right away. Setting a schedule where students have time to wake up and get ready for their day (wash their face or eat breakfast) will allow them to be more alert in their first class. This means going to bed at a decent time as well. Throughout the day there should be scheduled breaks where students can move to a new room, or even spend some time outside. If your home learning environment allows for flexibility, you might even try moving to a new room during specials times, like music or art, just so students have a break from being alone in the same room for the entire school day.

The best learning environment will vary student to student, but these four ideas should help you think about how to set up a space where they can effectively learn from home. Minimizing the number of distractions and time spent searching for materials during a lesson should help students stay engaged and learning. And as comfortable as they might be at home, dedicating a space to school might be key to their overall success in remote learning.

Evan Carpenter
5th Grade Instructor