7 Virtual Learning Success Tips
Throughout the United States, many students are experiencing the school year in a new way — through virtual learning. We asked leading educational expert Dr. Bob Dillon how parents, caregivers, and schools can best support these students. Here are seven tips Dr. Dillon recommends educators and parents consider when supporting virtual learners at home. Integrate them into your teaching practices and share them with parents.
Create a Comfortable Learning Space
A virtual student’s at-home learning space doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be clean and accessible, i.e., if they are set up at the kitchen table, last night’s dinner should be cleared from the table. Parents and students should declutter the space and make sure supplies are available and near. If they can, they should move the space closer to natural light.
Parents can provide or adapt seating options so they are comfortable. For example, they can add a cushion to a kitchen chair or provide a stool that wobbles. The key is that they keep talking to their child to make sure they are comfortable during virtual learning.
It is really difficult for students to sit in the same spot for six or seven hours staring at a screen. Make sure you encourage them to take breaks, go outside for a walk, run around, and get some fresh air.
Students at school benefit from active seating, and so can students at home. Parents can repurpose exercise balls for their children to sit on while working at home. This will help them expend extra energy and focus on their academic work.
Let Students Decide Where They Learn Best
Logging onto video meetings all day every day can start to feel extremely redundant. Having a place to work while seated, a spot to work on the floor, and a workspace at a standing height offers good movement for students. Encourage parents to offer these choices if they can and keep talking to their children about where they learn best. Maybe their student likes doing math in their bedroom but science at the kitchen table. Allowing them to have some choice and variety helps break up the monotony of a virtual school day.
If families have multiple children and have available space, they can do a noisy room and a quieter room. There can be a space for electronics and a space for low-Fi activities. This can also help keep siblings from annoying each other.
Provide Writable Surfaces
When kids are drawing and sketching, it transfers information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Whiteboards are perfect for this. They can be on the wall or just a portable whiteboard that a student can use on their lap.
Have Conversations About the Learning Experience at Home
Educators should be talking to families about how to get the most out of virtual learning, and they should be giving families permission to do things differently. This situation is much more complex than a normal school year.
Some learning environments at home are tough places to learn. Educators should have deep empathy that many homes do not offer optimal environments to sit in front of a screen all day and get things done on time. There should be ongoing conversations between parents and their child’s teachers.
Reconsider Your Camera Policy
Many people have been asking if teachers should make students turn their cameras on or let them leave them off. A blanket answer to this question would be the wrong answer. Just like many other parts of learning, we need to personalize our response and make concessions for safety and health.
Mandating that the camera be on to prove engagement proves nothing. And, for many students, showcasing the living space behind them is a huge vulnerability. We’re seeing a lot of students who are being intentional about their backs being against a wall. We need to make sure we’re helping to preserve their dignity so they can be ready to learn.
If you’re using Zoom, one answer would be to allow students to put a virtual background on. Another is to have individual conversations with students about what the experience is like for you as a teacher. For example, as an instructor, when my students have cameras on, it helps my energy and feedback cycle, and it helps me know when I’m losing people’s attention. Explain that to students; tell them, “Turning your camera on helps me, and this is why.”
Offer Some Grace
There is a quick level of exhaustion that comes from being on a screen all day. Students and teachers alike are jumping from video conferences to email to other online tools. We’re all being forced to balance screen time with more screen time.
We need to remember that all of us are human — we may need to take breaks, go get a drink of water, or go to the bathroom. Teachers, families, and students have to allow for that and spend less time apologizing.
We’re all in this together.
Hear more about creating engaging at-home learning spaces in the Demco Open Book Webcast below.