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Common Distance Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Graphic: Common distance learning challenges

In 2020, 93% of households with school-aged children reported using some form of distance learning during the school year. With this sizable shift from in-person education to remote learning, students are increasingly experiencing the challenges of distance learning.

Though there are many advantages of online schooling, some students who are new to the remote experience may initially struggle to transition into it. If your child is among these learners, you can implement many solutions to distance education challenges to make the process smoother and more manageable.

Challenges With Internet Access

Millions of children do not have reliable internet access in their homes, making it arduous to impossible to take classes online. Lack of broadband internet access can significantly impact even the brightest student’s academic performance, creating outages and connectivity issues that prevent them from completing assignments, connecting with teachers, collaborating with classmates, and seeking schoolwork help.

Spotty internet access can also impact parents and guardians, making it challenging for them to receive teacher emails, use school website resources, and access online grade books.

Solution

If your child doesn’t have dependable internet access at home, you can use numerous resources to make distance education possible for them.

  • Setting up a hotspot: Private hotspots allow students to connect to the internet wirelessly. You can either create a hotspot through your smartphone or purchase a portable hotspot device through a wireless carrier.
  • Using locations with free internet: Many public spaces with free internet provide a quiet and comfortable learning environment for kids, such as public libraries, coffee shops, and city halls.
  • Enrolling in government-sponsored programs: You may be eligible to enroll in one of many government programs that provide lower-income families with internet access. 
  • Looking to internet service providers for special offers: Many internet providers offer assistance programs that provide customers with discounted internet rates and other resources to aid with online learning.

Graphic: Multiple modes of instruction appeal to students' varied preferences

Less Room for Multiple Types of Instruction

Often, different instructional types lend themselves better to various lessons. Science class can be more engaging and practical with a hands-on experiment. Group projects can help students brainstorm ideas and hypothesize. Something as simple as viewing a diagram can help students connect the dots in new ways. Plus, multiple modes of instruction can appeal to students’ varied preferences, needs, and skills.

Here are some areas in which teachers might incorporate different preferences or instructional approaches.

  • Kinesthetics and sensory activities: For some students and topics, physical touch and movement are valuable learning tools. Kids can perform hands-on activities, such as crafts, math manipulatives, dramatic performances, and science experiments.
  • Visual elements: Many types of content are easier to understand with visual aids, like charts, images, flashcards, videos, and timelines. 
  • Auditory content: Some students and lessons benefit from information in auditory formats, such as music, audiobooks, conversations, and lectures. 

Because distance learning can have more limitations than in-person schooling, it doesn’t always offer assignments and activities that use these instructional strategies. Online education often involves textual readings, online lectures, and the occasional video, but doesn’t always expand far beyond that realm. This can pose problems for offering flexibility and presenting content in the most effective instructional format.

Solution

Even if your child’s online courses don’t support their learning preferences, you can take measures to make their experience easier and more engaging. As a parent, you can help by acting as a learning coach. By showing students how to adapt content to their needs and abilities, you’re also teaching them valuable skills they’re sure to appreciate later when dealing with hands-off professors or challenging work environments.

For example, if your student likes to work with visuals, you might help them create flashcards or diagrams to maximize their learning skills. To deepen understanding, you could create a dialogue with them about course material, and so on.

Less Support for Time Management and Structure

In-person schooling provides children with an organized learning environment designed to keep them on task throughout the day. However, online learning can lack the same sense of structure in-person education does, making it challenging for students to manage their time and hold themselves accountable when balancing classes and assignments.

Solution

As a parent, you can create schedules for your student to adhere to during the school day to give them a solid plan and a more organized learning structure. These schedules can include class times, lunch and rest breaks, study periods, and time to work on assignments. Other time managers include the following.

  • A-B-C system: The A-B-C system prioritizes a student’s most pressing tasks first and then separates less crucial objectives. You can help your child prioritize their assignments by labeling them as “A tasks,” which are most critical, “B tasks,” which are deadlines with later due dates, and “C tasks,” which encompass all other work.
  • Calendars: You can purchase a calendar and help your student record class times, assignment due dates, and other school-related events.
  • Rewards: To avoid burnout during the school day and keep your child motivated, you can reward them with incentives between tasks, such as snacks and rest breaks.
  • Extracurricular activities: Signing your child up for after-school activities like sports gives them something to schedule their school day around. When students know they have other duties outside school, they often feel more motivated to keep a consistent schedule to ensure they finish their work in time to make it to practices and meetings.

External and Internal Distractions

One of the most significant challenges of online distance learning is managing distractions, especially for younger children who find it more difficult to sit still for extended periods. While in-person classes have teachers present to keep students focused and on task, online learning doesn’t offer the same luxury.

Some students aren’t necessarily prone to distractions but may work in an external environment with various disturbances — such as blaring televisions, fussy siblings, and visual clutter — that can also deflect focus.

Solution

Luckily, this common distance learning challenge has many viable solutions to help your child eliminate distractions from their environment.

  • Creating a designated study space: You can transform one of your rooms into a distraction-free space where your student can focus on their online education. Try choosing a clean, quiet, well-lit area with a desk, a comfortable chair, and other appropriate furnishings to facilitate their distance learning.
  • Blocking access to distracting sites: It’s easy for students to get distracted by social media sites when taking classes online. Try blocking access to these websites during the school day using blacklists or third-party extensions.
  • Removing controllable distractions: Though some distractions are out of your control, you can eliminate many around the house. Try turning off the television, reducing clutter, taking or silencing cell phones, and separating pets and siblings from your distance learner during school time.
  • Scheduling periodic breaks: Studies show that breaks throughout the school day lead to increased productivity, better focus and stress reduction. You can schedule short rest breaks or longer activity breaks to help your child concentrate during the day.

Written Communication vs. Verbal

Text-based communication like chat tools, email, and text messages is typically the primary communication method for distance learners, which can create challenges for students who prefer verbal communication. Composing these messages may be frustratingly time-consuming for some students, while others may prefer a more immediate, in-person response.

Solution

If text isn’t the best communication channel for your child, you can help them adjust to distance learning by using other forms of communication to connect with teachers and students, such as:

  • Zoom
  • Google Meet
  • Video messages
  • Phone calls
  • VoiceThread

Graphic: Overcome the challenges of distance learning at CCA

Overcome the Challenges of Distance Learning at CCA Today

Your child can experience an enriching and flexible online learning environment with Commonwealth Charter Academy. At CCA, we think about education differently, allowing distance learners to create a personalized curriculum, embark on social and educational trips, access non-academic resources, and ultimately become active participants in their education. Our goal is for our graduates to become the leaders of tomorrow and contribute to a better society.

Request more information to learn why CCA is the perfect fit for your family today!

Author

Commonwealth Charter Academy

Published

November 22nd, 2022

Category

Learning Lab

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