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8 Tips for Distance Learning Success


As schools across the United States, including Perkiomen School, are temporarily closing campus access due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty, students, and families are planning a shift to distance or virtual learning.  

Distance learning may seem new to many of us, a challenge that requires not just knowledge of your school’s technology, but a modification in our attitude and approach to schoolwork.  But as Peter Gow of One Schoolhouse says, “…distance learning is more like a continuation of normal classroom practice… New technologies for conferencing and document-sharing are relatively familiar, and so the transition from a class discussion in Room 217 to a Hangout or a Zoom is not such a challenge.”

With some preparation, students and families can make the most of this experience and continue to find connection with faculty and classmates while practicing their organization and time management skills.

Perkiomen School’s Director of Learning, Tara McFalls, M.Ed., offers eight strategies to promote success while practicing distance learning.  

  1. Basic Reminder: Treat your virtual course experience just as you would a “face-to-face” class. You must “show-up” with the same level of discipline, focus, and follow through to extract the optimum value from this learning experience.

  2. Hold Yourself Accountable: Without the in-class reminders, you will need to ensure you are allotting adequate amount of time to prepare for and complete class work and assignments. It may be beneficial to establish an “accountability partner,” or a fellow classmate with whom you can share texts and/or emails of assignment reminders and encouragement.  
     
  3. Establish a Specific and Organized Workspace: Select a specific room or area of your living space that you will dedicate as your learning environment to establish a routine that works best for you and boosts your productivity. Keep your workspace organized with all the learning tools you will need: your laptop/iPad, headphones (for listening especially in shared spaces), notebooks, pen/pencils, calculators, etc.

  4. Eliminate Distractions: During your virtual classes, turn off your cellphone and place it in another room. If you can’t resist the urge to check email or surf the web, download a website blocker like Cold Turkey or Freedom

  5. Practice Time Management Strategies: Set reminders on your laptop/iPad calendar for class times and specific times of day when you will study and/or work on assignments for each subject. Practice “time blocking” in which you allocate a certain amount of time for each task before moving onto the next one. You may want to set a timer to keep yourself accountable.

  6. Honor “Energy Zones” and “Learning Preferences”: Identify the times of day when you have the most energy and complete your most challenging assignments during that time of day. For example, if you have the highest boosts of energy in the morning, set aside time before synchronous classes begin to tackle assignments from your most challenging subjects. Honor your learning preferences by printing out handouts and/or transcripts of classes if your preferred learning style is visual and build in time to replay audio classes if your preferred learning style is aural. 

  7. Actively Participate: Make sure you are posing and answering questions on discussion boards, engaging with your classmates through online forums, and create virtual study groups.

  8. Speak Up: Don’t be afraid to contact your faculty members if you have questions or if you feel like you are falling behind. Perkiomen School students can also reach out to the Director of Learning, Ms. Tara McFalls at tmcfalls@perkiomen.org for help with specific learning strategies to support you along this exciting journey!

     

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About Tara McFalls, M.Ed., Director of Learning, Perkiomen School

Tara McFalls earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Philosophy and then began working in the field of neuroscience research. Although she loved the research and potential implications of rigorous scientific examination, she yearned for a classroom setting. She earned a master’s degree in Education and worked in higher education at Cabrini University for 14 years before coming to Perkiomen School.  

My overarching goal as the Director of Learning is to aid each student in cultivating a
growth mindset or the ability to understand how their consistent effort and perseverance leads to deeper
learning and achievement. Tara McFalls, M.Ed., Director of Learning, Perkiomen School

 

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