Five tips to help your student stay engaged with and excited about online learning

online learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted daily life in nearly every way, and it’s easy to see why some of these changes have been especially difficult for children and families. Navigating the ins and outs of education in 2020 has been anything but simple, and our “new normal” is going to require some major adaptations.

According to the CDC, prolonged gaps in children’s learning can have long-lasting impacts on social and emotional skill development, and every parent wants to create as much normalcy for their students as possible in these less than normal times. With the serious nature of COVID-19 in mind and the uncomfortable truth that our lives may continue to look very different for the foreseeable future, online schooling is now a long-term reality for many students and families. And while schools and teachers are working tirelessly to transition their in-person lesson plans online, it hasn’t been an easy switch for people on either side of the screen.

As the director of MUSE Virtual — a progressive K-12 online school that was built on over a decade of learnings from long-distance schooling programs — I have seen firsthand just how fulfilling an online classroom experience can be if special steps are taken. Here I’ll share my top five tips to keep your students engaged and thriving through their online education.

1. Create a routine

Structure is everything this year. Children thrive when they have a well-crafted daily schedule that suits their needs and their learning style, and although it may be harder to stick to these days, that schedule is still critical to a healthy learning environment. This means a consistent time each day to wake up, eat, attend online school, play, go outside, talk to friends and family and a wind down from electronics. Enforcing a consistent bedtime is also helpful to get students into the rhythm of the school week, even when “school” is just down the hall.

2. Design an inspiring learning space

For most students, home is the new classroom, so make the most out of it! Invite your child to get involved in setting up a space that sparks creativity, limits distractions and gives them access to tools they need. We recommend students set up a workspace in a clean and quiet area so they can better focus their attention on the curriculum. Some students may even benefit from a mini cubicle arrangement, which can be created by crafting a three-sided cardboard partition out of file folders. Lastly, it’s also important to offer your child ownership of this space by encouraging them to decorate and organize in a way that makes them feel comfortable and excited to be there.

3. Schedule time for fresh air

Make sure your student spends some time outdoors each and every day. Schedule time to go for a walk or to the park, take care of outdoor plants, play fetch with your dog or even just lay in the grass. A daily dose of sunshine gives a proven boost to our bodies and brains by supplying us with much-needed Vitamin D. Physical activity also provides an avenue for stress reduction, mood improvement and increased levels of concentration. Finally, outdoor play is incredibly important for younger children as a way to learn new concepts and even social skills.

Children learn and grow the most when they’re given the chance to explore what they’re passionate about and truly get curious.

4. Incorporate passion projects

Children learn and grow the most when they’re given the chance to explore what they’re passionate about and truly get curious. I recommend finding some time each day that’s dedicated to learning about or working on a subject that your student loves. This might mean practicing an instrument or sport, but it may also mean learning about computer programming, graphic design or drawing. MUSE Virtual was built around what we call “passion-based learning,” and we give our students the chance to work on a special passion project every semester. The clear result has been students who are excited to get online and start learning every single morning.

5. Create a sense of community

Online learning from your living room or kitchen in a virtual classroom can feel isolating if it doesn’t include enough live instruction and interaction with peers and teachers each day. While it’s clear that teachers are offering the best online format they can, finding safe ways to allow students to socialize and interact can be a huge help for their overall happiness and engagement levels. For example, at MUSE we encourage students to speak up and ask questions during online lessons and provide them time during class to talk and catch up with their classmates. We’ve even instituted a weekly virtual cooking class which is open to all students and their families on Wednesday evenings. These occasional social opportunities can mean the world to a child who’s trying to stay focused and excited while adjusting to the changes in their typical school community.

The truth is, we’re all struggling to build a “new normal” that works for our families in the face of unthinkable changes. But online learning does not have to be a determent to your child’s education. In fact, by taking purposeful steps to keep each day both structured and engaging, it can be just the opposite. For more tips and inspiration on making online learning work, explore other articles from the MUSE News blog.

MUSE Virtual School Silhouette