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The start of this school year will not look like the others. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on public education as all Virginia schools closed abruptly in March and many will begin two weeks late this year. Instead of taking that bus ride to school Monday through Friday, most northern Virginia public school students will be learning at home. Parents and students alike are asking, what will this look like?

Unlike last spring, learning this fall will be synchronous, meaning students will learn in virtual groups at the same time. Instead of logging in anytime to check for lessons and homework assignments, students will be expected to log in at a specific time and stay logged in until the end of class. Daily attendance will be taken and assignments, quizzes, and tests will be graded.

Prince William County Public Schools has scheduled virtual learning Tuesdays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for high school students, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for middle school students, and 9 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. for elementary school students. Learning will take place on zoom with assigned work in Canvas. On Mondays, students can check in with teachers and guidance counselors.

Like Prince William County Public Schools, both Fairfax and Loudoun County schools will also provide virtual asynchronous learning Tuesday through Friday on a set schedule. Both school districts will offer instruction through Google Classroom or Blackboard. Parent orientation sessions and online resources will be available this fall. All three counties hope to incorporate in-person instruction during the second quarter of the school year.

Here’s how you can make the most of your virtual learning experience.

Know the technology

Familiarize yourself with the learning management system you will be using, whether that’s Canvas, Blackboard, or Google Classroom. Sign up for a webinar or orientation to learn about how to use the system and play around with it. Virtual learning is only effective when the technology works. You can optimize your home internet by running a speed test, constantly updating firmware and software as needed, managing internet bandwidth, upgrading and periodically rebooting the wireless router, and installing up to date antivirus software as needed.

Identify your learning style

Do you learn better while jogging around the neighborhood? Maybe you need to see visual pictures or videos while learning, or write down everything the teacher says in order to recall it later. It’s helpful to identify your learning style and create a realistic study plan before school starts as distance learning requires more self motivation.

Take advantage of breaks

That hour break for lunch is a great opportunity to kick the ball around outside, experiment with a paintbrush, or pick up your guitar and play. One benefit of learning outside of school is that you are free to do whatever you like when on breaks so take advantage of it. During instruction time, make sure you give your eyes a break by occasionally looking away from the screen and stand up or move around as needed. If you find yourself losing focus and motivation, grab something to eat and drink or change the scenery.

Schedule meetings with teachers

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Teachers are available every Monday for this very reason and it’s important to schedule one on one meetings as needed. Don’t be ashamed to meet weekly with your teacher; it’s better to ask all your questions ahead of time than struggle on tests and quizzes.

If you are looking for an Academic Coach or Manager to help you or your student transition to online learning, we can help! Call us at 703-258-3403 or submit an online request form for additional information.