Am I the only mom out there who makes her kid brush his teeth, comb his hair, and change into a clean t-shirt before he starts remote learning for the day?
I peeked in on my son’s driver’s ed online class a few weeks ago. I have to say, I was taken aback.
You know what I saw when I crept into his room and looked over his shoulder at his computer screen?
A Zoom gallery view of a group of the top half of about twenty 15-year old’s heads. Everybody set up their screens so that all you could see was their noses and eyes, and everybody’s eyes were hidden by overgrown hair.
Was this acceptable to the instructor, I asked?! Yes, he assured me it was.
Excuse me?? Momma says I don’t think so!
Ok, so a lot of live classes had to switch to remote learning on the fly this year. You had to give them some slack. A grace period to get adjusted.
As they say on the Jersey shore, “Whaddya gonna do?“ (I lived on the Jersey shore for 10 years.)
But it’s been a few months now. You’ve got to get your kids’ education back on track. The new school year is here!
You need to look at some online classes for your kids.
You’re spinning too many plates in the air already with all the course work you’re organizing for each kid in your family.
You could do with an online class that takes some of that pressure off you.
Sure, there’s a drawback to online classes. You miss the spontaneity of live human-to-human interaction. I certainly miss it as a teacher! But for me, the cons of traditional classroom teaching outweighed the pros. I’ve come to terms with it. That’s another story.
If you can’t find a great teacher for a subject near your home, or a one-on-one tutor is too expensive, then an online class is a good way to go. There are a lot of high-quality online classes with great teachers out there.
Your Facebook homeschool mom’s group has a lot of recommendations for you. But the truth is, you need to pick online classes that are going to work for your kids.
Here’s a little primer for you. It’s based on my experience as a parent and a teacher. I’ve been running my own little online writing program for the past 8 years, so I've learned a couple of things.
1. Kids need to interact with a human being in an online class.
Online classes need to set up a positive learning environment. The must be led by professional instructors and teach your kids useful skills and knowledge they’ll apply elsewhere. That’s a given.
There has to be a human on the other end of it. Kids need to work with a human teacher, not an automated program. They need someone to guide them and to hold them accountable. It needs to be the same teacher through the entire course. This applies to online classes for any age.
2. Every online class has a different content delivery system. Don’t let that spook you.
A content delivery system is the way an online program presents the curriculum to your kids. It could include written text, audio recordings, pre-recorded videos, live video chats, live group video chats, or some or all the above.
As long as there is a clearly marked path for kids to follow when they log into their online class, they’ll be fine.
And now for a little vocabulary you may cross paths with on your search....
3. Synchronous means that the teacher and students meet in real time online only.
This works well if your kids prefer to meet live with their teacher. If your kids aren’t doing this all day long with many online classes, that’s great. But sitting in a program where they have to be present for Zoom or Google Hangout meetings all day long is exhausting.
4. Asynchronous means that the teacher and students don’t meet in real time online.
My Essay Rockstar program, for example, is asynchronous. The content delivery system includes videos and audios, but don’t have live meetings.
Kids work on lessons that are already uploaded to the content delivery system. They send in their work to their student drop-box. I review their work daily, send feedback, and discuss their questions with them through a messaging system. This gives kids more flexibility in their daily routine.
5. A flipped classroom is where kids study some content, then meet live with their teacher to discuss it.
The flipped classroom makes more efficient use of the live teacher time. Kids do a reading or complete some sort of work before the live meeting. In the live meeting, teacher and students discuss the reading and answer questions. The drawback is that kids are expected to be well-prepared and have done their work when it’s time for the live meeting!!
In the traditional classroom, kids are introduced to the content for the first time in the live meeting. Assignments are given afterward.
6. Blended learning uses online programs in the traditional classroom with a human teacher.
In a traditional classroom, students might use Khan Academy, a popular free online program. Khan Academy is automated. That means no human teachers are online. The classroom teacher still manages the course, answers questions and works with kids. That’s an example of blended learning.
7. Remote learning is when teachers and students interact online and not in person.
Right now, remote learning most often refers to schools and colleges that are scrambling to put together a program because of Covid. The story I shared at the beginning of this post about my son’s driver’s ed class is an example of remote learning.
In reality, remote learning is any learning that happens online. It includes all the above.
Those are some main characteristics of online classes, and I hope you found them helpful. Please post about your experiences with online classes in a comment below or share your questions. I'm happy to answer!