Last week, 1300 independent educational consultants (IECs) and school and college admissions representatives, deans, and directors gather together for the Independent Education Consultants Association’s (IECA) Conference in Los Angeles. This annual fall event dedicated to networking and sharing insights featured more than 60 educational sessions dedicated to pertinent topics in education. Founded in 1976, the IECA serves to promote consulting to students and families in need of quality guidance on academic and therapeutic matters, as well as foster professional development among its members.
This year’s event boasted 150 presenters, including nationally recognized speakers and renowned subject-matter experts, who conducted dynamic presentations dedicated to presenting innovative ideas in education, academic consulting, and more. Notable speakers at this fall’s conference included:
- Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, MD – A clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Siegel is providing an overview of interpersonal neurobiology and potential applications to education.
- Richard Shaw – The Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Stanford University is delivering a presentation titled State of College Admissions 2018: The Challenge for Equity, Access, and Opportunity.
Laurel Springs School is proud to have taken part in this year’s conference and Dean of Counseling, Jane Ferris, delivered the presentation Going the Distance: Collaborating in an Online Environment. Presented in conjunction with High Point University’s Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Erin Moran, and Nancy W. Cadwallader, IEC and CEP; this informative session explored the challenges students, parents, and IECs experience within the online environment and the strategies and tools that allow them to overcome such obstacles successfully. Since online schools have students and teachers located around the world, it’s imperative that online educators promote collaboration by connecting the members of its community through interactive technologies and meaningful initiatives that encourage a free exchange of ideas and allow participants to work together to be successful.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning
Online schools often follow two distinct approaches to learning: synchronous learning versus asynchronous learning. In schools that follow a synchronous approach, students attend virtual classes in real time, while students attending schools who employ an asynchronous approach can complete coursework as their schedules allow. While an asynchronous approach to learning is often new for parents, it provides students with distinct benefits, including:
- The flexibility to access lessons at any time
- Progressing through lessons at one’s own pace
- The ability to reflect on coursework
- The empowering of students to learn independently
Three Challenges Experienced in Online Learning
1 | Time Management
One common challenge for students new to online learning is time management. Since they may be more accustomed to a traditional school learning environment, they are familiar with a regimented class schedule and regular interaction with teachers. In an online learning environment, students and their families will need to develop a structured schedule they can adhere to, to complete coursework on time. It is important for students to develop discipline, commitment, and organization in regards to their learning, as these traits will be helpful in succeeding in their coursework now and later on at the collegiate level.
2 | Student Involvement
Many students who attend an online school are heavily involved in sports, the performing arts, and other activities that require solid focus and attention. With only so much time in the day to devote to training, academics, and other extracurricular activities that interest them, these students need to rely heavily on schedules and time management to be successful.
On the other hand, there are students who are shyer and find it more difficult to be active participants both within their courses and in other school activities. The benefit of learning in an online environment is that students can easily engage in school clubs, virtual field trips, and other events all from the safety of their home. It can be beneficial for these students to pre-schedule regular meetings with teachers and counselors to establish a routine that makes them feel comfortable while taking an active role in their education. Shyer students often find comfort engaging virtually and soon find they heavily involved. Having conversations about expectations and goal setting can help these students feel successful from an engagement perspective.
3 | Communication
Self-advocacy is a vital component of online learning, which requires effective communication between students, families, teachers, and counselors that enhances the learning experience and fosters a sense of community within the virtual classroom. Similar to the challenge of student involvement, some students have trouble maintaining an open dialogue with teachers, while others may have a problem with over communication. As educators, it’s important to set communication standards with students in order for them to feel supported while also allowing them to feel empowered in their decision-making abilities.
It’s also important to stress the importance of parental involvement in helping children adapt to and thrive within the online learning environment. Parents who learned in a traditional school setting may experience difficulty with their children’s transition to online learning, unsure of how best to provide support and guidance. Parents should take active roles in the learning process too, familiarizing themselves with the technologies their children will be using and serving as voices of encouragement as their children become proficient independent learners. By utilizing orientation offerings and observer accounts, setting up regular meetings with School Counselors and teachers, and joining school-related parent groups, parents can feel more engaged which will directly contribute to their children’s success in the online learning environment.