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The 2020 COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing shutdown of schools have left many educational institutions scrambling for a viable response. Schools across the US have canceled entire semesters. Future closures beyond May are a distinct possibility.

What can be done to continue learning in the age of social distancing? For many schools, the answer is online learning.

What Is Online Learning?

The internet revolution ushered in a new era in education. Even before the pandemic, many schools, most notably higher education, had invested heavily in what is often referred to as “distance learning.”

Entire degrees can now be earned entirely online. This has allowed working professionals and people with families and other commitments to pursue educations who otherwise would not have the time or resources to attend class in person.

Many lower-level institutions like elementary and high schools are increasingly reliant on distance learning to educate their students. Children are increasingly connecting online with their teachers and peers to receive instruction.

How Does the Virtual Classroom Differ From Traditional Classrooms?

The most obvious difference between online learning and the brick-and-mortar classroom is the social barrier. A significant portion of learning traditionally involves social cues and in-person interaction between teachers and students and amongst students.

The convenience afforded by not having to leave home to travel to school is often counterbalanced with the drawbacks of online learning. In particular, the social barrier created by distance can be challenging to become adaptive to. Students should learn

Tips for Adjusting to Online Learning

Newcomers to distance learning can utilize the following tips to stay on top of their game:

Stay connected. Without a teacher looking over a student’s shoulder, the temptation to stay logged out until an assignment is due can be great. Make a habit of regularly logging in to stay up to date.

Reach out for help. The additional step of crafting an email, especially to a teacher that you’ve never met in person, can make communication more difficult. Alleviate this issue by making a pointed effort to interact with your teacher and classmates at the very beginning of the semester.

Make a schedule. Devoting a specific time of day to logging into the e-learning system can help you stay on top of assignments and avoid falling behind.