Understanding That Online Schooling Is Not a 7 Hour Day

With the constant shifting in the education industry lately, how should schools adapt to meet the needs of their students? After the initial closing of schools a year ago and the following scramble by many of those schools to move towards at least some integration of online learning, administrators, and teachers across the country have been left struggling on how to adjust to these new methods. As an employee of an online therapy company doing sales, I saw firsthand how uneasy many schools were to the idea of performing schooling virtually. Hesitancy when changing an established system often makes sense. However with the current precautions being taken by many schools that hesitancy has been left by the wayside, but that does not mean that transitioning has been smooth. School leaders continue to do their best, but problems often arise. In my personal opinion, some of the most common problems for schools to encounter when making this switch can be boiled down to setting unrealistic expectations for their students.

For example, it’s unreasonable to assume that a child will be able to sit through 7 hours straight of learning outside of the school environment. Even within a traditional school environment, there are countless students that struggle with remaining on task and focused, so how can someone expect them to successfully complete the traditional school day while also at home surrounded by distractions? All of this is also compounded by the various issues that can prevent a student from even being available for online learning.

Some of the numerous difficulties a student might encounter while trying to learn virtually can include:

  • Not enough internet-enabled devices for multiple children in a single household
  • Time management
  • Student motivation
  • Lack of access to a stable internet connection
  • Loud family members
  • A chaotic environment
  • Parental obligations
  • All these and numerous other problems unique to each family

In my experience, it is much easier to maintain focus when the student is given some flexibility and control of their own schedule. However, it is absolutely possible to swing the pendulum too far the other way. If students are given too much freedom school work will be put off until the last possible second, if accomplished at all. I know there were many times I personally put off writing a paper for up to a month before writing the entire assignment two hours before it was due to be turned in. When a student treats all of their classes that way they make it much more difficult to actually learn and hold onto the information they’re supposed to be learning.

Now in terms of possible solutions to these issues, there are countless ways to encourage and support students. The best strategy I have encountered came from a college professor I had. His strategy centered around delineating a focus for each week as a primary topic and then requiring students to do at least one small assignment each day that related back to the topic. This helped to ensure that we as students were being regularly exposed to the class information. Then on Fridays, we would have one larger assignment encompassing the whole of the week’s learning. He was also free regularly throughout the week at varied times to try and make sure students could reach him if they were struggling.

This solution was effective because it utilized a number of different strategies together, such as:

  • Letting the student decide when they do their work
  • Ensuring there is oversight and that the work is being completed
  • Circling back and reviewing to ensure student comprehension
  • Maintaining availability and providing assistance where necessary

Being an imperfect solution, it puts a lot of work on the teacher to check their students’ work regularly and comes with a lot of involvement for even a small class. This solution serves as an example of some of the best practice strategies for ensuring students retain what they’re taught. It pairs repetition and accountability with flexibility as it is up to the student how much time they spend preparing for those daily assessments. But more important than any strategy is the need for us to be willing to take the time to adjust the way we do things. This openness to change will ensure students receive a quality education and the opportunities one provides.

Do you need help transitioning online? Click here for our free video series From Brick to Click. You can know how to teach online with confidence!

About the Author: Nathaniel Courtney is a Sales and Recruiting Lead for Lighthouse Therapy. He was homeschooled from 1st through 7th grade including a one-year stint of online school for 6th grade before finishing his schooling at a local public school. He is in his third year of working closely with schools for Lighthouse Therapy. 

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