A Parent's Guide to Online Learning

Coronavirus has necessitated online learning for millions of students, but how can parents help their child to best perform when learning online? Read our helpful guide for advice.

Hayley Reader-Curtis - 08 March, 2021 · 14 min read

Online learning has enabled a continuous education outside of the classroom, allowing children to continue their schooling whether in-person or digitally. However, during the last year our homes have become schools, extra-curricular centres, social hubs and homework clubs, which has meant a growing pressure on us as parents to provide suitable support in all of these areas - with many of us not feeling as though we have the expertise to really help most effectively. 

Whether you’re an advocate of online learning or not, the opportunity for your child to study online has opened up access to a wide range of additional resources and learning opportunities.

Wondering how parents can support online learning? You’re not alone. In fact, over the past few months, searches for this exact question have risen exponentially. It seems that as remote learning becomes a more flexible learning experience for students, we as parents are keen to support them in the best way possible. 

How can I support my children while they're learning online?

As parents, we want the very best for our children, especially when it comes to their academic success. With the unprecedented challenges the past year has brought upon them, we’ve been feeling even more committed to support them through these most turbulent times to bridge the learning gap they may face from studying remotely. 

Although it can be daunting at first, over time you and your child will soon discover the range of benefits of online learning, especially as you begin to find a routine and rhythm that works harmoniously within your household.

To help support you as you adapt to this new method of living and studying, we’ve collated our 9 top tips on how to manage and embrace online learning in a way that is manageable and successful for you all as a family. 

1. Set up a consistent workspace, even in small spaces

In order for children to thrive with their online learning they need a designated space which they know is their learning environment. It’s the space they’ll know they have to feel motivated in, but also allows them to walk away from at the end of the academic day and leave the stresses of online learning behind. 

In terms of creating a workspace for your child, having the space where you are able to set up a desk space that is their own then is great. If not, you can still set up a dedicated study space for them to use, even if there isn’t a lot of room in the home. 

Follow the below tips to make your study space as effective as possible:

  • Set aside a small area - of their bedroom, or living area which is their learning space. They then always use this space to access their online learning. You could have a particular chair that they use, or set up cushions in the corner of a room;

  • Customise the space they use for online learning - Stick learning materials on the wall, ask them to create their ‘school timetable’ on a piece of paper and have it visible. If they know this is a consistent workspace that is theirs then they can return to it and know that it’s time for learning;

  • Keep any materials they might need to complete assignments in that space - to ensure no essential items go missing;

  • Make sure everyone in the household knows who is working where and when - this way there will hopefully be less distractions and people vying for space.

2. Create a consistent routine

Routines are incredibly valuable for helping your child get into a positive emotional space ready for learning.

The school routine as you know it will have changed and it’s important to remember that you don’t have to recreate the entire school day within your home. But, by creating a consistent routine you and your child will know what to expect and when.

How about trying the following?

  • Set a clear start for the school day -  (if this hasn’t been set by the school) which means everyone will need a regular time to wake up and have breakfast. Your child probably wouldn’t get out of bed 3 minutes before their usual school day starts- having time for a morning routine will mean your child is ready to start the day ahead;

  • Set a time for breaks and lunch - Not just for your child but for everyone who is at home. Take time away from your online learning and work to have lunch together and spend time with your family face to face. Having set breaks and lunch will mean that you all get non-screen time, which we know is part of a healthy work-life balance;

  • Ask your child to contribute to setting the routine - Rather than telling them what to do they can be actively involved in working out a routine that works for them. If they feel they have contributed to the routine then they are more likely to work with it.

3. Encourage independent learning and self-motivation

From being in a classroom with other students to suddenly being on a laptop alone, it’s easy for your child to lack motivation and become disengaged with their new online learning routine.

Perhaps you can sit with them and discuss incentives that might motivate them? These rewards don’t have to be large or costly (we’re not talking about buying them a new tablet), but introducing small initiatives could really motivate them, such as cooking their favourite meal at the end of the week, or celebrating the completion of a daily assignment.  

Find what works for you and your child, and don’t worry if it takes time - remote learning is completely new to you both, and it may take a little trial and error to see what really helps them excel with their independent learning. 

It’s important to remember that, even though you now have an opportunity to see exactly what your child is learning at school, they still need their independence and if you are constantly watching what they’re doing then it can become restricting for you both. You need to give them the autonomy they need to embrace independent learning, but with enough check-ins to make sure they are staying on-track with their learning. 

Check out our advice below to help you achieve an effective balance:

  • Have regular check-ins - to make sure your children feel supported and know that you trust them to complete their work independently

  • If they’re struggling - start them off on their task and see how they manage independently -  it is better if they practise than having you complete it for them straightway;

  • If they are using a new piece of technology for the first time - spend time helping them to understand how to use it so that they have the confidence to do this independently next time;

  • If you don’t think your child is completing the tasks they should be - scroll down to read Tip 5.

4. Eliminate distractions (as much as possible)

If we sat down and thought about the distractions in our houses, as well as those which crop up whilst being online we could come up with an extensive list! Other people at home talking; outside noise; mobile phones; social media; the internet...and we could go on. 

As a parent, it’s your role to try and create a harmonious study environment, so your child can remain motivated with their online learning. By working to eliminate distractions, you will create a calmer and more effective learning environment and help your child to stay motivated for longer periods of time. 

Need tips on how to create a less distracting environment? Read below:

  • If a number of you are working at home - perhaps give everyone a set of headphones so they can focus on their own online learning and not be distracted by someone else;

  • Encourage your child to put their mobile phone away - Unless they are using it to access learning materials it’s highly unlikely they will need it during their online learning. Yes, it’s a great way for them to speak to their friends if they can’t meet up, but they can have time to do that in breaks, at lunch and when their lessons are over.

  • Try to take breaks at the same time - This tip links back to the role of creating an effective routine - if everyone in your household is taking breaks at different times of the day, it could really distract children from their learning. If possible, try to have breaks and lunchtimes at the same time to reduce distraction.

5. Maintain good communication with your child and their teacher

It’s important to remember that although you are now in control of monitoring your child’s education, you are not a substitute teacher. As a parent, you are not expected to assume that role, and please don’t put that pressure on yourself. Methods of teaching may have changed since you were at school and you aren’t expected to know your child’s curriculum in detail.

Despite being remote, teachers are still available to contact, whether it be via email or the telephone. If you have any concerns about your child or need extra support, don’t feel ashamed to reach out and ask if they can help in any way.

It’s also important to remember that you should include your child in these conversations. They are the ones at the forefront of online learning and so will be able to give you honest feedback on what help they may want or need to better support their studies.

  • At the end of the day - sit with your child and ask them how their day was. Show an interest in their learning and, if they found something challenging, ask them how they dealt with it or what they think they could do to move forward;

  • Encourage them to speak to their teacher - teachers are in a challenging position themselves as they don’t have the same instant feedback they would have in the classroom and online it can be difficult to recognise who needs additional help;

  • If you have any questions, discuss them with your child’s teacher - they know that you are in a new position and will be happy to support you in any way possible;

  • If you’re concerned your child isn’t completing all their assignments - speak to the teacher who can advise. It might be that they are right on-track, or it might be they need some encouragement or additional support. Remember, your child’s teacher has worked with them a lot up to this point, and they’ll be able to advise on how to best support them during these times.

6. Alternate screen time with off-screen time whenever possible

We are living in a digital-era where it’s very easy to wake up, check your phone, then look at a laptop for many hours of the day before spending your evening in front of the TV, or your phone or even on the laptop again.

Wherever possible, try to encourage your children to have a break from the screen - this doesn’t have to be additional learning, such as reading comprehension, but an opportunity to embrace non-digital time. Whether it be going outside for a family walk, a quick kick-about in the garden, or inside playing board games, there are plenty of extracurricular activities you can try to facilitate at home. 

  • Encourage everyone to take time away from screens - not just your children, but the adults of the family too, especially during break times. If you are able to, then go for a short-walk or take some form of exercise. Discuss this with your child, what would they like to do away from a screen and work together to make this happen;

  • Suggest new hobbies or activities that take place away from a screen - even a 10-15min break here or there will help;

  • Add breaks and activities to your daily or weekly timetable - so your child knows to take a break and what they could do during that time;

  • Lead by example - try and take time away from your own screen in order to encourage your child to do the same.

7. Arrange virtual playdates 

Wherever possible, try to build in time during the week for your child to see their friends. Due to social distancing restrictions, this may have to be online initially, but can still ensure your child has an opportunity to socialise with others their own age.

For teenagers, encouraging them to speak to their friends might seem like an easy task, but for many who have missed in-person schooling they may feel they have to dedicate their time to learning and trying to ‘catch up’. As parents we can sometimes add pressure onto our children to do this and to see them progress. Remember that seeing friends, developing social skills and having time for fun is important for their emotional wellbeing and we need to make sure we encourage this. 

In addition, it’s important for you to reach out to fellow parents for support too. All of you have been put into a new situation to facilitate online learning and having a support network is important for everyone. 

8. Take full advantage of online resources

The online learning world is at your fingertips, and there are so many resources out there to help you navigate your child’s school work and support you to help them. 

At Melio Education, we’ve found that many of our students who take part in our one-to-one Tutorial courses are doing so because they want to explore subjects which they found fascinating in the classroom, or they want to investigate further. By doing the course online they can work with leading academics and access topics and teaching they never would have had the opportunity to touch before. 

Similarly, students participating in our Academic Online Courses usually want to network with other passionate students, who all share the same drive for learning as they do - and our monitored platform allows them to do so.

Our world is constantly being connected in more ways than ever before. There are resources out there to help you, and help your child to make online learning as effective as possible. Take advantage of them wherever you can to make the distance learning process easier for you both.

9. Know your limits and celebrate the small achievements

Please do not put pressure on yourself to be a teacher, social club leader, as well as a parent or caregiver. You are doing a great job just by adapting to this new way of living!

 Finding a new routine takes time. Sometimes there are days when we’re busy working, your child is at school online and then spends their lunchtime and dinner speaking to their friends via mobile - and that is okay. 

Over time, you’ll begin to recognise what works for you and your family, and what doesn’t. Eventually, you’ll establish a harmonious balance and routine - one which works for everyone in the household. 

We’re all going through unprecedented times right now, and celebrating small successes is needed at every stage.

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However you choose to navigate the world of digital learning and whichever tips you use from this guide, please remember that a large number of parents and caregivers across the world are also going through this process. Find what works for you and use that to make your life with online learning an effective and enjoyable experience. 

Discover our online learning platform

Here at Melio Education, we offer a range of online learning programmes for students aged 13 and over in a whole range of subjects.

Whether you’re looking for one-on-one tutoring support for your child in a core subject, or want to enrol them in a small-group online course to network with others, we have a variety of online learning options to suit your child’s wants and needs. 

To find out more about our online learning platform and how we can best support you with your online education journey, please contact our admissions team

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