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Helping new students thrive through online learning

Helping new students thrive through online learning

In the past decade, remote learning environments have become increasingly popular. They've lent beneficial and productive assistance to thousands of students that would have otherwise faced challenges in their learning experience. 

Online learning is not equally helpful for everyone, but it is becoming more of a format that new students should learn to grasp to some extent. 

When the global pandemic struck in 2020, education systems were forced to adapt quickly to remote learning methods. The rapid revolution created new norms for learning, with teachers leading virtual classrooms with Zoom and similar video communication platforms.

Now we're coming out of the frantic rush to create any form of a functional learning space. We can step back and consider refining the distance learning model to allow students to thrive through online learning.

Who does online education help the most?

We're moving past that time when only one learning medium was meant to apply to all students and somehow be an equally positive learning environment for everyone. 

Online learning offers a valuable alternative that saves some students from the discomfort of social anxieties that might have deterred them from wanting to participate in classroom discussions. 

Having fewer physical stimuli that distract students could make all the difference in their ability to retain and absorb what they're learning. It also frees each student to set their own pace for completing learning activities, where one student might wish to proceed faster or slower than others.

How can new students thrive through online learning?

Numerous distractions and complications can get in the way of effective online learning, especially for students taking an online class for the first time. Here are some tips for parents or teachers who want to create an effective learning environment:

Optimizing the online learning space

You want to create a remote learning space that isn't competing for your online student's attention. It has to be a space where they're comfortable but not too comfortable.

Avoid letting your student recline on a bed or couch if possible. Sitting upright at a desk against a neutral-colored, accent-free wall is a great base standard for their virtual classroom, as it will help to minimize external distractions.
The classroom should be in a closed-off, naturally lit space. It's ideally best not to configure the learning environment in a centralized, high-traffic area of the home, such as the living room or kitchen. Try to dedicate an office space or spare bedroom to be the virtual classroom, free from anything else. 

Nextly, organize their devices' interface. Try to build a habit of closing background applications and tasks on the computer to free up the machine to operate as quickly as possible. Also, try to keep the desktop clear of files and shortcuts, leaving the background clean and empty. The fewer things in your student's field of view, the better. 
It's also worth considering creating a separate user account on the device they're working on to be their dedicated school alias, leaving all other distracting content on their primary user account. 

Creating a healthy virtual classroom

As with all computer use, there is always the concern of distasteful or unwanted content that could derail teaching and learning. The potential for this problem makes it necessary to make an effort to protect each learner from unwanted content

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to do this. For instance, you can set boundaries with your students, such as limiting the apps they have access to. You should also place browser filters and your preferred malware security software on your student's computer. 

The last thing you want is for an online school day to become derailed by a toxic website or cumbersome cybersecurity breach. Accessing malicious or inappropriate content online is not only distracting but could also harm the computer and compromise any sensitive data of your student.

From a physiological perspective, prolonged exposure to blue-lit screens, in general, can bear long-lasting damage to a student's eyes. Blue-light glasses are one possible solution you could take to maintain proper eye health. But there are also preventative eye care measures you can consider for your student, such as monitoring their diet and understanding their hereditary risks for eye-related illnesses.

Understanding generational aptitude

Students in today's day and age are getting more and more tech-savvy. It's a state of evolution that's worth a closer look. Each student generation brings its own strengths and weaknesses to the table with online learning.
As the world continues rapidly advancing technology, it means that more technology is introduced into people's lives at earlier ages. That creates younger generations that are comparatively more affluent with new tech than the last generation. Additionally, it equips their brains to adapt to newer technology even quicker than the last generation. 

This in and of itself creates new stressors for younger generations to feel obligated to keep up with new technology just as quickly or even faster than older generations. It can result in yet another source of anxiety. 
We must be careful of our expectations of each generation and how we approach each student's capability to perform in an online format.

Inspiring social connection 

One of the most basic human needs, as articulated by Maslow, is our need to belong and our desire to feel connected to others. 

Getting face-to-face time with someone each day is essential for maintaining strong mental health and being happy. 
Humans naturally yearn for connections with others humans, and the classroom, online or not, is no exception. It's important to accommodate that relational need, especially in a virtual learning environment.

As we touched on earlier, virtual learning can equip shyer students to express themselves in a digital setting while still gaining the benefits of social interaction.

Putting it all together

Online learning can be a world-opening solution for new students. Where the physical classroom might be preferable for many, plenty of students thrive in a virtual space, and that dichotomy grows ever still! 

It carries its own nuances. It can create new hurdles while alleviating others. But the key is knowing the ins and outs, how to do it well, and recognizing it isn't merely a last resort. It can be a personal learning preference that allows your student to fully access their academic potential.

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