Skip to main content

Online school administrator offers tips on virtual education

Apr 30, 2020 09:59AM ● By Libby Allnatt

With schools closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, students, teachers and parents have been adjusting to online education. (Libby Allnatt/City Journals)

By Libby Allnatt | [email protected]

With Utah classrooms set to be closed for the remainder of the academic year, teachers, parents and students continue to adjust.

Social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 have altered the daily lives of Utahns in everything from grocery shopping to working from home. As schools closed their doors in March, students found themselves thrust into learning remotely as teachers had to move lessons online in lieu of face-to-face instruction.

Erin Taylor, the principal of online school Utah Connections Academy and a school administrator of 15 years, said her advice to parents helping their children do school from home and teachers moving their lessons online is the same: keep things simple.

“What is most important? What’s the objective? Then work backward,” she said. “We don’t have to be bringing the new flashy things in. Hit the basics, do what’s right in front of you. Having that be your daily objective would make less stress.”

While communication is important, too much can be overwhelming.

“I think everyone’s being bombarded on both sides with ideas. The best advice I can give is to simplify things,” she said.

Scheduling your day with a basic outline of tasks to do can be helpful for students doing their schoolwork virtually (and adults adjusting to working from home).

“It’s hard to put it away for an hour and come back to it,” Taylor said. “I think it’s best to schedule it in, then check the box that you’re done with the day.”

She also advises students to reach out to their teachers if they need help.

“We’re all learning as we go. Ask questions, and check in with your teacher rather than get frustrated,” she said. “On the other side is a person that wants to help.”

The current situation is here to stay a little while longer: Gov. Gary Herbert announced on April 14 that all public K-12 schools would continue to be closed through the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year.

But despite the challenges that come with any changes in one’s learning environment, there can be positive sides to remote learning as well, said Taylor.

“We see the advantage in that it allows people to focus on education and then be done with it for the day and move on to something else,” she said. “The flexibility is the best thing that virtual education brings.”

Taylor emphasized that with so much uncertainty, putting in your best efforts each day is all you can do.

“In this unprecedented time, we all need to cut ourselves a lot of slack,” she said. “If we’re doing the best we can, that’s good enough.”

She compares the current situation to learning a foreign language: not something that can be completely mastered overnight.

“If we could just be conversational… We don’t need a mastery of the language,” she said.