Nicola Peck, Class of 2020, attended our full-time virtual school last year. She landed a near-perfect SAT score and earned a full-tuition scholarship to Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where she is now a freshman. In this blog, Nicola shares her strategies for navigating online school. She hopes her tips will help parents and students as they adjust to the new norms of online learning this fall.
I have always enjoyed learning since elementary school. Rather than considering my schoolwork a chore forced upon me by my parents and teachers, I considered it an opportunity to hone my academic skills and become a productive citizen and contributor to my community.
While a sophomore in high school, I developed some health issues that caused chronic absences during my sophomore and junior years. This, in combination with my family’s move to a new school district last fall, necessitated my attendance at Apex Learning Virtual School, a private online high school. Although taking virtual classes was not my first choice, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the teachers and curriculum. Online school has also provided me the flexibility that I needed to improve my health.
I have adopted several daily habits that have improved my productivity this past year. While online learning is certainly very different from attending a traditional high school, as most students across the country are now discovering, the following strategies have facilitated my online academic success. I hope that they will be helpful to you or your student as well.
1) If possible, work outside your bedroom.
When I began learning online, I completed schoolwork near my bed, which hindered my productivity. Constantly craving relaxation, I was never able to separate my desire to nap from my intention to prioritize schoolwork. But when I started working in a location that I didn’t associate with sleep, I became more productive.
2) Silence your phone.
Silencing my phone and eliminating any tempting distractions from my desktop has improved my focus throughout my workday. Before doing this, I too often wasted many hours perusing social media.
3) Schedule regular breaks.
If I’m completing 6-7 hours of schoolwork during one day, it’s important to pre-schedule specific times for regular breaks, including meals and exercise. I personally enjoy a dance party or two!
4) Follow a calendar.
If you enjoy an online learning environment like mine, ensure that you monitor your due dates. No one will remind you to submit your assignments, so it is imperative that you manage your time and follow a predetermined calendar.
If you know that you struggle when following a schedule, ask a parent or another adult to track your progress and provide accountability. If you don’t submit assignments by their due dates then you will fall behind, which can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. However, a little parental guidance can help you overcome that hurdle.
5) Take notes.
I highly suggest taking notes while reading your textbook and watching lectures. Although my instructors do not require the submission of notes, taking them has helped me to retain the information that I need when completing subsequent assignments and exams.
6) Stay organized.
I recommend printing every worksheet that your online curriculum offers and organizing them in a binder. For example, I keep notes in one portion of my binder and reading assignments in another. This strategy has facilitated my academic success because I know where to locate those resources when I need them.
7) If you are struggling, seek out online resources.
Request online support from your instructor if you don’t understand a concept. When I needed guidance for AP writing this semester, I scheduled a forty-minute video conference call with my English teacher. Some schools, including mine, also offer online tutoring services. Many free educational websites also provide in-depth lectures and videos that likely can explain the concept that you are struggling to understand.