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How To Prepare (and Succeed!) in Online Courses This School Year

The end of summertime is almost synonymous with “back to school!” for most families. However, this year COVID-19 has posed new challenges for many, making this year’s “back to school” unique in a variety of ways. Some parents and students may be experiencing more anxiety than usual as they gear up for lots of new “firsts” this school year. Additionally, many families may be enrolled in a higher number of online courses this school year than any other year before. Here are some of my suggestions for preparing and succeeding in online courses this 2020-2021 school year!

Create A Motivating Space

Perhaps your students already have desk/workspaces set up in the home, but it can be helpful to reevaluate how conducive those spaces really are to productivity. Take a moment to assess how distraction-free the space is (in regards to both being potentially distracted by other people/siblings or by other tasks to do/leisure activities). Do your best to create a space that is free of clutter and empowers your student to feel clear and focused. If your student is starting out the school year in a workspace they’ve had for years, perhaps a little revamp could even boost their motivation as they kick off a new school year. Let them make it fun so that they feel excited to spend time there as they work.

Make a Workable Plan

With many students taking on an even higher amount of online classes as a result of COVID-19, making a game plan is more critical than ever for ensuring success over a broad span of assignments and responsibilities. If your students are given syllabi to their classes or have a general idea of the overview of assignments, help your student map out the requirements for this semester. They can then make a weekly game-plan of coursework, assignments, studying, etc. This can even be something you discuss in your “business meetings” or weekly check-ins.

Manage Time Well

This is one you’ll hear time and time again. One suggestion I have as you dive into new courses and material this semester is to encourage your student to start out without specific time frame expectations for how long a certain assignment or project may take to complete. For example, if they already go into it thinking “I have 45 minutes to complete this assignment”, if they find it’s taking longer than expected they may start to feel overwhelmed or anxious and ultimately if it takes longer than they originally thought, they could feel unsuccessful or disappointed in their work. Instead, encourage them to start the semester by feeling out how long certain assignments or projects will take and creating an average time frame based on reality, not based on some idea in our minds about how long it “should” take or what is “typical”. Use this as a starting point to help your students organize and schedule their school days. It will also help them plan at a pace that works for them and empower them!  Give yourself at least 2 weeks to get that baseline and plan for time for adjustments.  

Give Accountability & Support

We are all aware that utilizing the internet for classwork grants us a great deal of freedom and ease. But remember to keep in mind the level of distractions that the internet also introduces. With that “open a new tab”  option always one click away, distractions like social media, web browsing, and streaming services can be lurking on the sidelines. One great way to approach this that can help lead to success is to foster honest communication about your students’ productivity/use of time. Build in time for taking “screen breaks” for a short walk or a snack (more on this in tip #5!) Create systems with your students about their work time vs. free/open time and how to break these up in a way where you student feels balanced and consistently motivated. This leads us right into our last tip…

Consider Holistic Wellbeing

This is one of the most important areas to keep in the forefront of your mind as you think about your student’s schedule, school days, and overall success in their courses. Ensure that their school day is sprinkled with opportunities to move their bodies, change up their physical environment, interact with a variety of other peers/people, and do the things they love. You can have your students share with you what types of activities they’d like to prioritize in their schedules (like bike rides, Instagram scrolling, snack breaks, activities with friends, etc.) and don’t let these things be an after-thought or something to “squeeze in”. Prioritize them in the same way you would an actual class or assignment (okay, maybe not the Instagram scrolling 😉) If your student is consistently staying physically active, nourishing their bodies, stimulating their creative minds, and cultivating meaningful relationships with family/friends/peers/classmates, all of this will greatly impact their motivation and likelihood of succeeding in the long run.

Lastly, give yourself lots of grace as you dive into a brand new routine! There will be adjustments, re-adjustments, trial and error, and learning as you go. Some things will take some rearranging and getting used to while other things may wind up being much easier than you expected. It’s all part of the journey and as always, I’m here to support you each step of the way. I truly hope the 2020-2021 school year is your best yet!