Coaching Online Students for High School Success (Part 1): Making a Plan
If you’ve ever met a teenager, you know that many act as if they know everything—and doubt that parents can help with school. This behavior reflects a desire for independence and is part of a normal—albeit challenging—developmental stage. Contrary to what kids think, research shows that parent involvement enhances the online learning experience.
Although your teenager may bristle at the idea, your participation is important. Stick with it, and your involvement can play a vital role in your online high school student’s success. Here are some pointers to guide you.
Lay the Groundwork
Whether your family is just starting with online learning for the spring semester, you are renewing your efforts to overcome lackluster performance, or your teen needs to conquer a heavy spring course load, it’s a good idea to discuss your expectations. Explore our four-part series on making a family plan for online schooling to help everyone get on the same page.
Transition to Active Learning
It’s important that both you and your teen understand how the expectations for a student in virtual school differ from those in a traditional school. In the bricks-and-mortar classroom, students tend to be passive because the teacher leads most learning activities: he or she presents lessons, communicates assignments, announces course info, and tells students when to prepare for tests.
But with online learning, students need to take a much more active role in their own learning. Here are a few daily tasks that online high school students are expected to complete:
- Take the initiative: start lessons, read assignments, and complete learning activities.
- Attend online classroom sessions.
- Look ahead for project deadlines; set schedule for completion.
- Note dates for tests/assessments; plan when to begin studying.
- Check for online course announcements and learning materials.
In addition to these “administrative” tasks, online school students also need to take ownership of their comprehension of the material. Zoning out, as some traditional school students do, doesn’t cut it in a virtual classroom setting. To succeed in online high school, students will need to:
- Engage with lessons actively, continually self-monitoring to see if they understand the concepts.
- Answer questions in the lesson and do practice problems; check answers. If needed, seek clarification or do additional practice.
- Take action when having difficulty—reread the material, use a different resource, complete another learning activity, or reach out to the teacher for help.
- Take notes during lessons and online classroom sessions.
- Evaluate work against grading rubrics before submitting.
- Check for teacher feedback, test results, and grades.
Assisting with Scheduling
Students sometimes have the misconception that a flexible learning schedule means “going with the flow” each day without daily or long-term planning. Teens (and some adults, too!) may also procrastinate because they are overwhelmed by the size, scope, or number of projects. With more demanding coursework, it can be easy for high school students to fall behind.
Help your student stay on track by discussing and agreeing upon a time frame for the learning day that has some built-in flexibility. For example, instead of a set time for beginning school, a time range might work—or your student might want to break up the day into several chunks of learning time. There are many effective ways to set up a daily schedule to accommodate a student’s preferences, while also ensuring that lessons and assignments are completed. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Chat about the importance of time management.
- Set rules for handling (and avoiding) distractions such as text messages, phone calls, and online games.
- Estimate time required for each lesson when making a plan with your student. (One hour per lesson is a good starting point, but students may go faster on some subjects and slower on others.)
- Use a planner to schedule lesson times, project work, appointments, and other activities.
- Plan time for lunch and breaks in between.
Guide your student in learning time management skills to create a realistic plan that will help accomplish lessons and long-term projects. Learning time management early can be a significant benefit during college and career. Use the suggestions listed below, and your own knowledge, to create a workable schedule.
- Set a goal for daily lesson completion, and block out the hours needed to do the lessons.
- If you see that a day is overscheduled or you student has a scheduling conflict, talk about doing some work in advance or over the weekend.
- Discuss overdue lessons. Your student may be comfortable with past-due work, but if this is unacceptable to you and the teacher, establish a rule. How many overdue lessons will you tolerate? How long will you allow for catching up?
- As term papers or other large projects are assigned, work together to break them into manageable pieces and set deadlines for accomplishing each one.
While the list of to-do items may seem daunting at first, it becomes more manageable in time. With a positive attitude and a spirit of teamwork, you can help your online high school student make the most of his or her education and prepare for success in college, career, and life!
Visit the blog again soon for Part 2: Holding Online High School Students Accountable.
What hints can you offer other parents for helping teens succeed with online learning? Share your best practices and ideas in the comments.