During COVID, schools across the globe were forced to move their classes online. Everyone had to learn how to use new technology rather quickly, and the technical issues were still being ironed out. The result was that many teachers and students often felt frustrated by the steep learning curve.
One of the upsides is that many families discovered the treasure trove of teaching tools available on the web. There are games, worksheets, software–you name it. Schools and parents alike are starting to incorporate more online resources into students’ learning.
Even though in-person classes have resumed, many brick-and-mortar schools are still offering virtual classes. In fact, some students have the option to switch to remote full-time as they work toward their diploma.
More families are trying out homeschooling, too, in which students learn at home or in different settings other than a traditional classroom. Others use remote learning as a form of enrichment, or bonus resource.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these formats, and what they potentially bring to the table…
It turns out that many students prefer to work independently or from home! For example, if they’re struggling in a subject, they can learn at their own pace. If they’re a grade-level or two ahead, they can complete advanced courses that challenge them.
Whether these virtual classes meet face-to-face in real-time or not depends on the school. Many of them are offered through an LMS, or a “Learning Management System.” Popular platforms include Google Classroom, Blackboard, Edmodo, and Schoology. Students have a username and password, and in K-12, parents/ guardians typically have access to their child’s account.
It’s becoming more common for students to take a “hybrid” approach, or a combination of in-person and virtual classes. For example, maybe they attend regular classes for most of their subjects, but they might go to the computer lab to work alone on math–or meet for virtual tutoring in music when they get home from school.
It’s sometimes possible to go 100% remote as well. This can be a good choice for children and teens who are struggling with social/emotional issues, like anxiety or bullying, or if they have a learning disability.
There are private schools that allow for this, as well as some public school systems through platforms like Connections Academy. The private school remote options tend to be more expensive, while the public school ones are free. It’s important to know that sometimes there are issues with communication and heavy workloads, depending on the school.
You can read reviews posted online, or connect with other families through social media to learn about their experiences. Keep in mind that if your student is going the hybrid route or 100% remote, they will still need your help. The transition to online learning takes time and patience.
While homeschooling has been around for ages, the concept is becoming more mainstream. In the past, many families homeschooled for religious reasons; nowadays, more and more families are exploring this method for other reasons as well.
For example, some started homeschooling when COVID hit, and then continued their new routine even once brick-and-mortar schools re-opened their doors. Others have been unhappy with the politics surrounding curriculum, and didn’t want these issues to get in the way of their children’s learning.
So what can homeschooling offer? Families can follow a set curriculum, or they can assemble a hodgepodge of content. Two of the most widely used educational platforms for homeschoolers are Khan Academy and Time4Learning. As we mentioned in the previous lesson, check out the GCF Teacher Guide’s Additional Resources for links to other useful websites.
Many homeschooling families join a support network, which you can often find through social media like Facebook. Sometimes these networks share their curriculum, or have in-person meetups so that the homeschooled kids can play together.
YouTube is another helpful resource. There are many parents on there who have their own channels, uploading tips, activity ideas, and “DITL” (day-in-the-life) videos. Here’s a video about “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling in which learning revolves around the student’s curiosity:
If your family decides to homeschool all the way through twelfth grade, then it’s helpful to think about transcript and diploma options. CRHE, or the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, provides families with guidance about planning and U.S. legal requirements for each state.
"Enrichment" refers to additional activities that benefit a child or teen’s learning outside of the regular classroom. If they’re curious about a topic and want to go more in depth, then they might benefit from high-quality instruction and/or materials found online. The same is true if they are falling behind and need extra help.
So how can families enrich their kids' learning through the web? There are some courses with small groups of students and an instructor. These groups might meet in real-time on education platforms like Outschool. Here is an additional article about online classes for kids.
There are also thousands of online tutoring companies; they can be great for one-on-one help, but often come with hefty price tags. However, some non-profits like Learn To Be offer free tutoring to thousands of students.
Many families use interactive software/apps which you can download onto a phone, tablet, or computer. If you start researching software or apps which make learning more of a game, be sure to search for honest reviews (often found on YouTube) rather than promotional materials created by the company. Here’s an example of a helpful review from a parent:
This lesson is designed to give you a sense of how many possibilities there are–not box your kid in! After all, no two learners are the same.