15 Tips to Help Your K-12 Student Transition to Online Learning

7 min to read
Young female student in a red striped shirt with yellow headphones looking at her tablet while taking an online class at Connections Academy.

While there are many similarities to brick-and-mortar schools in an online learning environment, there are also many differences that families themselves can prepare for to make the transition smoother.  In fact, at Connections Academy®-supported schools, trusted adults in the student’s life, like parents or other caregivers are called “Learning Coaches” because they are encouraged to take an active role in helping their child succeed in their education.  

Learn how to transition to online learning for elementary, middle, and high school students with these helpful tips that can be integrated throughout the school year.

5 Virtual Learning Tips for Elementary Students

Students who are making the transition to online learning in elementary school often benefit from more hands-on involvement from their Learning Coach as they start to learn more about how to behave and thrive in school environments. Below are five skills you can use to help your elementary school student get off to a strong start:

  1. Make new friends and work well with others. While your student will be learning at home, online school gives students opportunities to socialize and interact with their peers. At the elementary school level, this is often through collaborative online games, in-class interactions, or through playdates, both in-person and remote. 
  2. Learn how to use technology. Familiarize your student with computer technology or work on specific skills, like typing or talking on videochat. If you can, practice these skills on the programs the school uses before their first day to make the starting classes easier. Consider creating technology rules so your student won’t stray into unsafe territory or get distracted when they are supposed to be focused on LiveLessons or their homework. Some parents also choose to set up screen-time passcodes and software monitoring to restrict when, where, and how their children use the internet. Don’t forget to cover online communication and etiquette.
  3. Establish a routine. A consistent online learning routine helps provide structure for students of all ages, but it’s especially important for younger students who need to get used to fitting school into their day. Work with your student and their instructors to create a daily schedule as well as a calendar with important dates and reminders. Post the schedule somewhere central, where your student can see it, and be sure to review any upcoming priorities they should have at the start and end of each week.
  4. Give your student some distance. This is difficult for both Learning Coaches and younger children, but it’s an important step in building a student’s sense of independence. Virtual school students aren’t typically on their own as much as those who attend a brick-and-mortar school, so make sure you help support your student’s self-identity by allowing them space to spread their wings and learn to become more resilient in the face of challenges.
  5. Learn proper classroom behavior. An effective way to keep younger students focused, motivated, and well behaved is to create a reward system. Eventually they’ll mature into self-motivated learners, but in the early grades, they may need more help learning how to stay focused on their tasks and not get frustrated if they don’t understand something right away. Help your student learn how to behave in the classroom by modeling good habits for them like taking a moment to step away from a stressful situation, reaching out for help when you don’t know the answer, and keeping a distraction-free environment for yourself. 
Young male student in a blue and red shirt looking at his laptop taking an online class at Connections Academy.

5 Virtual Learning Tips for Middle School Students

In middle school, students go through a number of developmental milestones, including  being more independent, exploring new interests, and experiencing  changes in their social lives and self-image. Help them handle these changes and the transition to middle school with these tips for students:

  1. Surf the web safely and responsibly. As kids get older, they venture online more. Remind your student of the rules of online safety and etiquette, and talk to them about the warning signs of online bullying. Stay aware of the signs your student is being bullied—or bullying others—and be sure they know the difference between productive and unproductive screentime.
  2. Handle school frustration. As students progress, their schoolwork gets more challenging. Becoming tired, bored, or upset sometimes during school is normal, so help your student become more resilient by identifying and addressing each roadblock when it appears. 
  3. Take on more responsibility in school. During middle school, your student should start to rely less on you as their Learning Coach. Make sure your student is comfortable reaching out for help when needed, especially when calling the teacher would solve the problem. If needed, encourage them to keep an open mind about tutoring or course recovery programs.
  4. Get involved in clubs or extracurriculars. In middle school, students’ tastes evolve, and they become interested in new things. While it can be easy to spend time in the same rut, encourage your student to try new things, be social and get involved in their community. Online school students can use the flexibility of virtual classes to find volunteer work, try out for local sports teams, and follow their passions.
  5. Build confidence and self-esteem. Increased social pressures, whether online or in person, and physical changes make preteens self-conscious. To help your student maintain their academic performance and friendships, offer more freedom and responsibility when appropriate, and direct their focus to community involvement, health and fitness, and other positive influences.
Young female student in a purple shirt looking at his laptop taking an online class at Connections Academy.

5 Virtual Learning Tips for High School Students

When students reach high school, it’s important for them to focus on planning for the future as well as performing successfully in school. Students should be largely independent, so make sure they remember to focus on the following priorities and to use the resources available from the school:

  1. Consider and set goals for the future. It’s time for your student to start to seriously consider important questions, such as “What do I want to do after graduation?” and “What should I study if I attend college?” You should both start thinking about the things that will matter after high school: SAT scores, résumés, etc. As a virtual high school student, your child will have access to school counselors and other career and college planning resources, so make sure they take advantage of these proactively. 
  2. Find a part-time job or internship. Learning how to find a job opening and interview for it is a lifelong skill your student needs to build. Besides learning the responsibility of holding a job, your student can also learn new lessons about financial responsibility and scheduling. Since virtual school students can schedule lessons throughout the day and don’t necessarily have to work “after school,” allow your student to decide when to take shifts and how to fit in study time.
  3. Face the challenges of a busy schedule. Virtual high school students have to handle added privileges and responsibilities on top of more difficult schoolwork. If your student is ready for an extra challenge, they could enroll in online Advanced Placement®* or honors courses. But keep in mind that as an independent learner without constant supervision, your student has to stay organized and motivated. There are plenty of time management resources online for high school students that can offer a good example for transitioning to online learning.
  4. Start investigating different career options. Virtual school offers your student the chance to try a variety of traditional and nontraditional career options. Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses are offered for students who want to begin the path toward job opportunities or a college major while still in high school. And because you have flexible scheduling in online school, students are available during business hours to seek job shadowing or internship opportunities.
  5. Make a difference in the community. Volunteering is a great way for your student to build a résumé and try new things, but for a virtual school student, it can also provide more socialization and exposure to the community. Help your student look for volunteer opportunities. Joining or leading local efforts can inspire your student to choose a path in life with purpose and meaning. 

Overall, students who attend virtual school versus homeschool or a brick-and-mortar school have the same needs; there are just different ways you as their Learning Coach can help fill them. With these tips to support your student at all ages and grade levels, you’ll be able to help them more seamlessly transition to online learning and find their own unique flow.

Are you and your student ready for virtual school? Find out more about how online school works!

*Advanced Placement is a registered trademark of the College Board. Used with permission.

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