Since the pandemic hit the United States earlier this year, we have heard many different terms used to describe student learning outside of the classroom. Some of these terms are: online learning, virtual learning, distance learning, E-learning, and blended learning. For the start of this school year, the majority of districts have chosen a virtual learning approach, as opposed to the distance learning they quickly adopted at the end of last year. So, what’s the difference between the two and how can you help your child have a successful start to this school year?
Distance learning is defined as any sort of instruction that happens online for a student that is in a different time or place than the teacher and their classmates. This could include completing assignments and submitting them via Google Classroom, watching videos of their teacher or another expert on a specific concept or subject, or face to face interactions through the internet. Virtual learning is much more structured and has specific components put in place to ensure students’ academic needs are met. Virtual learning uses computer software, the internet, or both to deliver instruction to students. It has all of the components of distance learning, however lessons are taught live to students from a different location by their teacher; Students have a set schedule to meet with their class and teachers regularly for instruction. This provides students with the opportunity to not only interact with the content in real time, but also ask clarifying questions directly to their teacher or classmates.
This model of learning can be daunting at first, so here are a few ways in which you can help your child be successful with virtual learning this year:
- Set up a designed workspace with the essentials: A notebook, pencils, erasers, a laptop/tablet/iPad with the corresponding charger, a lamp for optimal lighting, a water bottle, and any other tool specified by your child’s teacher (ie. a ruler, textbook, etc.)
- Create a poster to hang next to your child’s workspace with virtual learning expectations. Do this together so your child feels ownership of the rules and clearly understands them. Some teacher’s have already gone ahead and done this for you, or you can purchase an inexpensive printable from Teacher’s Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Search:virtual%20learning%20expectations (No need to be a teacher to use this site).
- Post a visual schedule and have a timer/clock nearby.
- Have your Zoom or Google Meets links ready to go and your child ready to log in at least 10 minutes before their online class. This is to avoid scrambling last minute and added stress that you certainly don’t need right now.
- Finally, be patient and stay calm! Remember to cut yourself and your child some slack. After the first few weeks all the kinks will be worked out and we’ll be back into a routine in no time.
We hope you and your child have a smooth start to virtual learning this school year!