Sylvan Learning Views the Future of Virtual Learning to be Filled With Possibility

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Leading Enrichment and Supplemental Education Brand Suggests Parents Acknowledge the Challenges and Adapt Accordingly

When schools across the country officially shut down thanks to COVID-19, it forced many students to engage in virtual learning. While it did have its benefits, virtual learning became stressful for families who were all stuck at home together. Parents were often required to balance their own jobs with the task of making sure their children learned concepts they themselves had long since forgotten. Added to this the emotional stress children felt from being separated from their friends, and the result was less than ideal. Now, the entire country looks toward the fall school year with uncertainty and a mix of students who are returning to classrooms, learning from home or even attending Sylvan Learning locations for teachers to help students start the new year on the right foot.

While virtual learning has its challenges, it also has its conveniences. For one, families spent less time commuting, which is especially appealing to those with multiple children who attend different schools. Virtual learning can also be hugely beneficial for families with students who may not be able to attend school due to illness or other stressors. And for some students, virtual learning isn’t even an entirely new concept. Even before the pandemic, some school districts across the country had processes and digital resources in place to ensure students did not miss school due to events like snowstorms. They could carry on with their assignments without missing a beat.

Indeed, once the pandemic is over, some families might want to retain at least some virtual learning options for their children. In order to capitalize on virtual learning and make sure it’s as effective as possible, though, we need to acknowledge the difficulties and adapt accordingly.

The number-one challenge to successful virtual learning is a lack of access to the basic tools that facilitate it. Depending on a student’s socioeconomic status, not all students may have access to devices such as laptops and tablets or even internet access. These students might possess a smartphone at best, and learning on such a tiny screen difficult. Some school districts have responded by purchasing Chromebooks and Internet hotspots for their students, but not every school district has the budget to provide equipment for everyone.

There’s also the social aspect of virtual learning — or lack thereof. It’s hard for kids to not see their friends on a daily basis. This can be especially true for our so-called “littles,” in ages pre-K through third grade. Research shows they learn much better in an in-person environment due to the brain development at those ages. Virtual learning often puts these students at a disadvantage.

For virtual learning to be successful, families need to set up a dedicated space for learning in the home. This spot should be uncluttered and as quiet as possible and set up with the right resources, such as scratch paper for math problems and a good wifi connection. If internet connection is simply not an option, families in different homes can consider pooling resources to make sure their children all have the access they need. Parents should also let their children have some say in where they do their work - within reason. This will give them a sense of control and comfort in a time where there’s not a lot of either.

To that end, parents must avoid pushing their kids too hard and encourage them to take breaks. This is especially true for overachieving students. Learning continues to be of the utmost importance at this time, but parents must do what they can to ensure their children emerge from COVID-19 with their physical, emotional and mental health.

School districts and teachers must also find ways to adapt to virtual learning. For example, teachers who are tech-averse must be willing to adapt and embrace virtual technology that will help facilitate lessons. School districts must likewise exhibit a degree of flexibility when it comes to the actual subject matter. Intensive projects that require a multitude of supplies not commonly found in the home should be avoided. Busywork should be limited as well, especially if there are better alternatives. Safe places for children to go to learn are also becoming more and more prevalent. For example, many Sylvan Learning locations are now open during the day so that working parents can work more effectively while their children can be directed through assignments and Zoom calls. Additionally, some companies are working with Sylvan Learning to provide satellite education centers for children while their parents are working.

Right now, the world is in the middle of a grand, unintentional experiment. Educators and parents are understandably worried about the long-term effects that being physically away from school will have on children’s education and social development. Everyone may hope that things will return to normal come fall, but the truth is that social distancing guidelines may remain in effect to some degree. The good news is that everyone will come out of COVID-19 with a much better understanding of virtual learning and best practices. By finding creative ways to accommodate students and adjusting project and homework requirements, school districts, teachers and parents can help set students up for maximum success.

By Emily Levitt, the Vice President of Education at Sylvan Learning.

ABOUT SYLVAN LEARNING, LLC
With more than 40 years of experience and more than 750 points of presence throughout North America, Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K-12. Sylvan is transforming how students learn, inspiring them to succeed in school and in life. Sylvan’s proven tutoring approach blends amazing teachers with SylvanSync™ technology on the iPad® for an engaging learning experience. Sylvan also leads the way with Sylvan EDGE—STEM and accelerated courses and Sylvan Prep —college and test prep courses. Sylvan supports families through every stage of the academic journey. For more information, visit http://www.SylvanLearning.com or SylvanLearning.com/blog.

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