Prepare for Online Learning During the Coronavirus Outbreak: Three Tips to Navigate

As schools and universities, along with places of work, close for short or longer term durations, online communication and learning is going to be a critical tool. Whether using Zoom™, Skype™, or Google Hangouts™, students and parents will need to rethink their day to ensure learning persists.

One: The Schedule.

Whether in middle, high school, or college, students should start with a schedule for their time at home. Treat your at-home time like your scheduled school day. Sure, take a little longer in the morning since you will not have to travel anywhere, but plan to start early and finish early. You will find you will have plenty of time for Youtube, social media, Facetime, and even video games, depending on the family policy regarding access and use, but these same digital escapes are an online learner’s potential downfall. But, used in moderation and as breaks, students can get through the day knowing they have done their work on time, well, and without jeopardizing learning that may show up later via lower test scores or less preparedness for subsequent grades.

Two: Online Resources.

Most teacher training is focused on in-person instruction. As we move toward using for short or longer term durations online platforms, invariably issues may arise as it relates to student understanding or comprehension. Teachers have a tough task ahead to engage and instruct, but fortunately, many online resources can support their instruction.

  • Khan Academy has great content for students of almost every grade level from standard courses through and including AP. To watch a video on a topic taught that day, even if for 8 minutes, and to then complete 3-4 drill questions, gives students a powerful tool: understanding better what they do not comprehend. With that information, students can move forward without accruing what I call a deficit of knowledge that adds up over time.
  • Quizlet: Used in a very particular way, Quizlet can help students create study guides to identify knowledge gaps and use video content to inform understanding alongside their teacher’s instruction. If your test is on paper, practice on paper. If your test is on the computer, practice on the computer. Use the test function 5 days out but answer with definitions, not using multiple choice or true false, as they mislead students to thinking they are more prepared than they are. After scoring, focus on areas of underperformance (incorrect answer topic areas), and break into two categories: memorization (simply forgot) or comprehension (understanding). Flashcards for memory and additional instruction for comprehension is in order.
  • Youtube: Crash Course or other similar channels, curate content focused on quickly reviewing topical areas is also helpful to buttress areas where students are not fully understanding a topic. In essence, supplemental video content provides a customized way to become better informed on a topic, allowing students to then move to focusing on memorization.

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
March 23 at 7:30 PM EST 
Topic: Online Homeschooling Webinar for Parents: Free Tips and Q&A
Register in advance for this webinar:

Facing online schooling, parents have a unique challenge in supporting their children’s learning: consistency and calmness. Building from last week’s webinar, we will focus on ways parents can best help, teach, guide, and also remain as calm and consistent as possible. For students with 504s and IEPs, we will offer some ideas that are working with our students, too! Our goal is to offer ways to help reduce stress and help each other through this, finding resources and tactics that ensure we get through the day, the week, and also keep the momentum of learning going, too. For parents of students facing questions about test prep, college list selection, visits, the process, and making decisions without visits, we will hold a separate webinar as well. Please email any questions or suggestions in advance so we may address.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Three: Communication.

How students communicate with parents and teachers will undoubtedly need to change in a time of online learning. If students follow a similar school-day schedule and remain consistent with a routine, success is more likely. Still, documenting areas that are challenging via email to your teacher is essential. While we all need to be agile, teachers should be able to help identify online resources or make additional online office hours/X periods available to provide instruction or clarification. But, we must understand that the model is new for many, and therefore try to communicate politely with your teacher if you do not understand the assignment or a topic you are studying. Try to spend some time, having reviewed the instructions or task, the materials, and even some instructional videos, to explain what is puzzling. Whenever possible, this is best done live through a webcam. Depending on access to your teacher, sending an email so your teacher may prepare in advance is optimal.

Together, let us calmly navigate to maintain a sense of normalcy for our children in particular. With a structured day, expectations around when to study vs. when to play (digital or otherwise), using online resources, and communicating, your child is less likely to lose momentum and may even turn this challenging time into a way to explore other avenues of learning that could be helpful to know. If you have any questions, please email us as we plan to help families as much as we can: We will also host webinars occasionally for e-learning, ongoing college planning, and how to navigate admissions decisions. We welcome your feedback on topics of interest.

F. Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D. is an educator and founder of Novella Prep. He has twenty years of experience working in admissions, development, teaching, and research at various universities. You can reach him at


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About the Author: Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D.