Unless you have been living under a rock for these past couple of months, by now you know that COVID-19 has changed the way we live, think and learn. Simple things that were a given months ago – like going to a concert or grabbing a coffee with a friend – are now a distant memory. We now have to wear masks to buy groceries in overcrowded shopping centers, the laptop’s screensaver is probably the only vacation spot we are going to see this year and if we want to learn something new, we can’t attend a workshop, instead we have to go online.
I hate shopping malls for a variety of reasons and would be more than happy to write a hate letter to the whole shopping experience, but there is a far more important subject I want to address here. Online learning.
Sounds good, right? You sit at home, on your sofa, your favorite smoothie in the left hand, a computer mouse in your right hand, the pointer probably hovering over the mute button, ready to pause the whole learning thing and switching tabs over to Facebook just to see if everyone is still as miserable as yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong. I love online learning. Udemy is my favorite place on the internet. It’s the place I first look at when having to learn a new skill and the place I browse on sunday evenings when I have nothing better to do. It’s a great platform where you get new knowledge or update your existing skills for very little money. One thing you probably don’t know about Udemy is that tutorials hosted there never get finished.
Sure, we are all in love with the idea of learning new things and being better people tomorrow, but the fact is, very few of us actually follow through with this. In fact, online platforms in general have a very low completion rate. As low as 5%.
“Online platforms have 5-15% completion rate”
Why are we talking about online learning platforms? Bear with me for a moment.
When COVID-19 exploded, schools were quick to react and provided kids with online solutions to follow the school’s curriculum. All seemed well and truly under control, until reports started to surface that the plan to continue with the education online isn’t working. Education leaders started expressing concerns about online learning, kids started to complain that they couldn’t follow lessons and parents often had to take over the role of teacher.
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Lots of schools didn’t have a viable solution to control the kids, so children started skipping online lessons, leading to online classrooms with lower than 20% attendance. Let’s be honest here. If a kid has to make a choice between playing basketball and sitting behind a computer, listening to his teacher, he is going to choose basketball every time.
The issues were even worse for children with learning difficulties. Traditional learning is already difficult enough for these children. Add connectivity issues and a teacher who isn’t fluent in technology and you get a can’t really expect any learning going on, can you?
Yet the world seems to expect just that. That the education will continue on the internet (if necessary) and children will progress like they would in a normal, physical environment. But here is the point of the story.
How can we expect children to have a 100% success rate where the industry standard for online learning is 5%?
Because it’s not like children will get a break because they were unlucky enough to be 8 during the COVID pandemic. It’s not like their first boss will say: “Oh, well, you can’t do math and you can’t read and you are not really adding value to the company, but I will keep you around since you were born in 2010 and the education system has failed you.”
“How can we expect our children to thrive if online learning has a 5% success rate?”
On the contrary. They are expected to learn and progress and flourish in a system that simply does not support that.
How to save our kids?
It is entirely possible COVID-19 or a similar pandemic will repeat in the future. So the question arises. How do we avoid the 5% completion rate and aim for the 100% success rate when it comes to our kids’ online learning? Obviously, the education system will have to do their part, but as parents, there are options you can try to improve your child’s success with online learning.
Make your kid commit
Studies show, people who finish online courses really commit to finishing them with their inner desire. Think about your kid. What motivates them? What is something they can’t say no to? What will drive them so they will stick with the class and get the most out of it. Is it a reward? Is it a threat? Is it a promise? You know your kid best. Try to use that to your advantage, promising your kid what they wish, but giving them what they need.
It is up to the teacher to set deadlines. But even if a teacher doesn’t impose limits, you can. Try setting up deadlines for assignments your kid has to do. You can even break down a longer assignment (set by a teacher) into smaller chunks, creating ongoing daily tasks that will keep your kid motivated and will lead to a successfully finished assignment.
Interact with child’s assignments
Don’t just pat your kid on the back when they have finished making something. Ask them about it. Interact with it. Read what they have written. This will make kids feel like somebody appreciates assignments they are doing. Trouble with online learning is that it sometimes feels like we are doing something and then uploading the completed task into empty space (the internet). Nobody really takes time to look at what we have done, so the tasks feel pointless. Give the assignments a purpose by really acknowledging the work your kid has done.
Set-up a reward system
If rewards work well with your kid, brilliant. Set up a rewards system for them. Preferably, stick to experiences rather than physical rewards like toys or candy. Allow them a fun activity every time they do finish an assignment. Do something together with the whole family after every tough week of online schooling, visit a local amusement park or a zoo over the weekend.
Work with your kid
If your kid struggles to find the motivation for online learning, work with them. Ask them about what they have learned that day, whether there was something interesting being said in class and just generally how they are doing and what they are learning. Try remembering how you felt in school and what made school fun and interesting.
“The goal is to provide our kids with a meaningful, learning-oriented, fulfilling environment”
Ideally, by taking some (or all) of the ideas mentioned above, you would provide your kid with a meaningful, learning-oriented, fun environment where their learning progress would thrive. And while schools should by default provide this kind of environment, there are times they simply don’t (or can’t) do that. Providing your kid with such an environment at home ensures your child will succeed, no matter the circumstances. Yes, we might wake up into another pandemic, but this time, you will be ready for it and your kid will be taken care of.