Online learning best practices for parents and children

Published: May 07, 2020
Updated: May 11, 2020
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With schools closed during the COVID-19 outbreak, students and parents alike are adapting to online learning procedures. Parents are learning to provide academic support, while students are immersed in interactive and creative lessons.

Assistant Clinical Professor of Elementary Education Martina McGhee discusses how parents can embrace their roles as co-educators with online learning for children of all ages. As a member of the faculty in the Auburn University College of Education, McGhee is helping to prepare the next generation of educators.

What is the best approach to online learning for different age groups?

It is necessary to realize that both the developmental level of the child and their interest in a particular topic will impact the child’s engagement for any learning activity. Both developmental level and interest impact face to face learning and online. Online learning has taken many forms in response to the pandemic. Some educators are using online resources as portals to maintain personal interactions between them and their students. Others have engaged in online learning by using learning management systems to send their students learning activities to complete independently. With either format, the adults should approach online learning by gauging what a reasonable amount of “work time” is for their individual child. For any elementary age child, sitting for long periods of time in front of a screen will be a challenge. Be sure to build in breaks for exercise, rest and play.

How can parents and guardians provide academic support as they embrace their roles as co-educators with online learning?

With this shift to online learning, parents and guardians are also shifting their role in supporting their children’s learning. While some children may self-initiate the learning, parents and guardians can help by reading the instructions, learning the platforms, and listening to their children. Teachers are going above and beyond to provide students with detailed instructions for online learning. Taking the time to thoroughly read the instructions upon receipt of the assignment and prior to submission will enhance the impact of the learning activity. Many school systems are using Office 365, Google Suite, Schoology or other learning management systems that the parents and guardians are unfamiliar with. Taking the time to become familiar with the platform’s functions by viewing tutorials will increase the amount of support they can provide their child.

Listening to your child impacts their learning. Some teachers are allowing students to select their own topics to explore their interest. Listen to the child. Some children need more breaks than others. Listening to the child will extend beyond just actual words and needs to include observing their body language. This shift to online learning impacts each child differently.

Why is it important for elementary-aged students to have interactive and creative lessons?

We want children to have a positive relationship with learning. Their views of learning should be comprehensive and useful beyond the learning activity. Helping children to understand the usefulness of the learning activity in their daily life deepens the impact of the activity. I remember learning topics throughout my schooling solely for the sake of passing a test. We want to shift away from this approach. With learning activities being comprehensive, children experience how academic content supports their daily activities and tasks. Online learning helps to increase the frequency at which children to engage in such activities. Lessons that creatively connect academic content and children’s daily life helps sustain the positive relationship with learning.

How can you strengthen science, social students, math, reading and language arts through online learning?

Just as learning in a physical classroom, online learning is strengthened when children have the opportunity to implement the learning in authentic activities and tasks. Online learning should also be purposeful and connect back to support the learning that happens in the physical classroom. As educators develop learning goals for each lesson, the online learning selected should also directly support those learning goals. This type of intentional planning strengthens the impact of online learning.

How does Auburn’s HomeWorks program provide educational resources to both students and parents?

HomeWorks was envisioned to help students make deliberate connections between their academic content and their daily life. Students will be provided with comprehensive lessons that repurpose their daily tasks. The program is designed to help them find learning opportunities in their home life. HomeWorks can also to serve as an opportunity for students to lead in their learning by taking ownership. While the desire is for HomeWorks to be student-centered, parents are encouraged to engage in the learning with the children. HomeWorks expands how children build a positive relationships with learning. We hope that parents see and value the impact of their children’s positive relationship with learning.

Media Contact

To arrange an interview with our expert, please contact George Littleton, at littlgb@auburn.edu.