By Lorenza, IvyWise Master Mentor
After schools across the globe suddenly transitioned to virtual learning models in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students struggled to adapt to their new online learning environment. Now, as schools make plans for the fall semester, we’re seeing that online learning is likely to continue for many primary, secondary, and higher education students for the next academic year, in some format.
So what can families expect if online learning continues, either partially or full time this fall? And how can students continue to succeed in online environments this summer for things like summer programs, courses, internships, and more that have also gone virtual? Below are some long-term skills and tools that families can start to develop now in order to help students better prepare for a virtual (or hybrid) back to school.
Students really need structure in their day. They are used to being in school where they have to follow a set schedule. Suddenly, their days were completely unstructured and they have to make many more decisions about what to do with their time. These are decisions they did not have to make when they had a set routine. It can be exhausting for them to be making all these little decisions at every moment. It is important to work with your student to come up with a schedule that you can both agree to follow. It can include a consistent wake-up time and meal times, a block of time for school work, and some time scheduled for fun activities your student enjoys. It is a very good idea to post this schedule somewhere visible at home so that everyone is on the same page.
Create a Study Space
If possible, try to set a specific room or area in the house as a dedicated study space for your student. Make sure that this room has everything your student might need, like calculators, chargers, etc. Ideally, this would be different than their bedroom. It is very important to make sure that this room is as free of clutter as possible, and that the students sees this space as being specifically for studying or online learning only.
Your students will need technology to complete their online lessons, but it is very easy to move these tools from being productive to distracting. It is a good idea to set limits about what devices should be used in their study area. Computers are necessary, but it would be a good idea to leave their phone in a different room when they are working. The screen time settings on iPhones can help to regulate how much time is spent on each app, and web programs such as Self Control and Rescue Time block chosen websites like YouTube for a set amount of time to monitor productivity.
Stay on Task
It is very easy to fall behind when assignments do not have to be brought into school each day, and once behind, students generally feel overwhelmed and find it difficult to catch up. It is important to try to complete daily smaller assignments on the day they are assigned instead of waiting to complete them on the day they are due. For longer projects, it is key to break up the project into smaller and more manageable chunks and to help the student calculate the time each of these chunks will take to complete. Each specific ‘chunk’ can be noted on a Post-it note and placed on a wall calendar. Notes can be moved to the next day if the student decides not to complete the day’s work on the project. This system gives students a visual representation of how the work will accumulate if they procrastinate.
Create a System of Accountability
It is a good idea to establish a system of accountability so that both you and your student know what is expected of them. You can agree about when and how regular check-ins will occur to make sure that the work is getting done. Checking in at the beginning of each week to map out the work for the next five days is useful, especially if there are long-term projects or hidden homework that is not laid out by the teacher. There must also be an agreement in advance of consequences if the student is not living up to their commitments.
As students and families adjust to this big transition, it will be normal to have set backs. Make room for the possibility that not every day will go according to plan, and that not everything that has been scheduled will be completed. Everyone is trying to do their best under very stressful circumstances, and mental health is key as we live through this pandemic. At IvyWise, we are here to help families navigate this new learning environment, from help with executive functioning and organizational skills, to academic and test prep support as students work to keep up with their educational goals and milestones. Contact us today for more information on our tutoring, test prep, and mentorship services.