For students, back-to-school this year will be strange to say the least. Many classes are set to begin without students ever meeting their instructor face-to-face. Other lessons may be conducted in front of half-full classrooms — divided by plexiglass placed to separate children as young as 5. Students could also very well find themselves shuttling to and from school for half-days or only every-other-day or on days that don’t end in y. Regardless of the flavor of caution a school opts for, instability and lack of in-person instruction will leave gaps in their students’ education. That is why extra care must be taken by students to ensure that any holes caused by remote learning are plugged.
These are 4 steps students can follow to ensure that their education does not suffer from the COVID slide.
- Create a Study Space
- Stay Connected with Peers
- Engage with Your Educator
- Supplement Your Education
Create a Study Space
Learning from home can be a blessing and a curse for students. Most rooms at home are not conducive for learning the way a classroom is. A conscious effort must be made to develop a space at home for students that is deliberately set up for class time. This requires creating an environment that is quiet, well lit, has a desk, and most importantly, is isolated. Distraction-free, some students perform better in a proper “home classroom” setting rather than in school — where the temptation of socializing takes precedent over actual learning a tad too often.
Stay Connected with Peers
The benefits of isolation from at-home classrooms swiftly fade away when the lecture stops and a student must practice what they’ve learned. Life is not a single-player game and neither is learning. From the comradery that develops when students struggle through topics together, to the empathetic learning that comes from teaching materials to peers that are struggling, a holistic approach to education must lean heavily on social interactions. Without it, learning stalls, students run the risk of failing to develop the soft-skills of human interaction, and depression can rear its ugly head. It is key that group projects continue to be assigned and organized, and that students have time to video chat classmates with a structured emphasis on academics. If these interactions are not initiated by the educator, students and parents need to organize themselves to carry on the tradition of study groups — now in a virtual setting.
Engage with your Educator
One of the many pitfalls of remote learning is that it transforms education into a one-way street. Whereas in a classroom setting, lectures occur in conjunction with teacher-led Socratic-style discussions, at-home lessons are largely limited to an instructor talking at the class. The act of speaking up, asking a question, or any other form of vocal participation have social stigmas for students that do not exist in a physical setting. Students fear embarrassment over the appearance of their home in the background, the chance of awkward noises from parents or siblings when they must unmute themselves, a poor connection, and the difficulties of expressing oneself without the typical aid of body language cues. To pile on, class participation is also impeded by students who, emboldened by a virtual setting, turn class toxic with pranks and crudeness. Behavior they associate with online personas they’ve developed playing video games and surfing the web anonymously that they then take to online class.
In the face of limited interaction with educators, the impetus falls on students to go out of their way to ensure they are extracting maximum value from their instructor. This comes in the form of using email or other online platforms to ask questions directly to teachers. As an asynchronous form of Q&A this allows for a more organic exchange of ideas during and after classes. For more introverted students, the sudden normalization of this sort of interaction has actually improved their participation and understanding.
Supplement Your Education
If there was one thing learned from our collective first bout with remote learning last spring, it is that online class is not the same as class online. Something is lost in translation and it leaves gaping holes in students’ education. The COVID slide is real and unfortunately, schools still seem ill-prepared to combat it on their own. Students need to take their education into their own hands and seek expanded information and clarification beyond the resources provided by their school. They can do so by relying on sites like Numerade, that have aggregated learning material, tools, and lessons that fill in the knowledge gaps being carved out by remote learning.
A single educator limited to synchronous classes online will always fall short of that same educator’s capacity to teach IRL. The only way to combat this shortcoming is to plug additional outlets for learning into a student’s educational resources toolkit.