This year, school may look different as a result of continued efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.  An increased reliance on virtual home instruction has many students rethinking their organizational strategies and daily school schedules. Learning at home is different from being in a traditional classroom environment, but with some effective strategies, students can persevere without missing a beat.

1. Stick to a schedule. The Center for Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning says that routines are important because they influence a child’s emotional and cognitive development, which includes remembering, problem-solving, and decision making. Children feel secure with schedules, which may help them recognize what’s expected of them. When learning at home, students should strive to maintain a consistent schedule, including bedtimes, wake times and hours devoted to learning. Students should also have scheduled time to get outside or engage in downtime activities each day. According to Onatrio’s Ministry of Education, greater physical exercise in middle childhood is related to better brain functioning, cognitive skills and academic performance.

2. Connect live if possible. There are many free tools available that enable teachers to provide live video lessons or to record them so students can watch them later. Similarly, social networking apps and virtual meeting programs enable students to connect digitally. This can be helpful for collaborative learning assignments or just to see a familiar face.

3. Stick with tools that work. According to Khan Academy, an educational tutoring resource, once students find apps or systems that work well for them, they should stick to them. There are many

factors outside of one’s control during virtual instruction, but maintaining consistency with tools is one way to feel more confident and secure.

4. Check student accounts frequently. Just like students, teachers may be learning as they go in regard to remote learning strategies. Students should check their school email accounts, or other online places where teachers post assignments, throughout the day to stay on top of assignments and be aware of all due dates.

5. Reach out to instructors. According to Tony Bates, author of Teaching in a Digital Age, e-learning will surge in Ontario’s curriculum over the next couple of years. Students should contact their teachers if they are unsure of how to participate in remote learning environments. Ask questions about assignments, get clarification on topics and tune into any remote chats or virtual office hours. Encourage children to ask questions and ask for help when needed.

6. Stay in touch with guidance, if needed.Remote learning is a new experience for many students, and there may be certain struggles or roadblocks. It can be easy to grow frustrated with equipment failures or lack of in-person interaction. Schools employ qualified therapists and guidance counsellors who are just a click, call or email away if issues need to be talked through. Students should utilize all resources made available to them.

Benefits of virtual instruction include teaching students to learn independently, fostering self-discipline and increasing access to resources. Remote learning can be made easier for students with some extra assistance.