With the end of the school year, many kids are ready to dive into “summer mode”. In many cases, this means almost three months’ worth of schooling will magically vanish from students’ memory, and, subsequently, at least a few weeks of revision are needed in the next school year to get the class back on track.
One potentially powerful option your children can explore this summer is built around online learning. But it’s not enough to put ‘online learning’ into the Google machine and give your kids the computer. So, here are some tips and guidelines to help you determine whether a so-called ‘online learning’ or tutoring site is really as effective as it seems! If done right, online learning sites are a great way to learn something new and/or brush up on past curricula, through a fun, interactive, and well-designed display.
The site should accomplish two things: 1) Have a minimal time burden on parents (should be easy for kids to maneuver the site on their own), and 2) Help kids develop their verbal, math, study skills, and/ or whichever subject skills they take most interest in.
Keeping these two overarching goals in mind, you can then evaluate how good a learning website is based on more specific questions. First of all, is the website actually educational, or more of a game? How much time does your child spend ‘playing’ on the site, rather than learning? Many sites are good about giving varying difficulty levels, allowing you to choose ‘play’ vs. learning. On this note, another thing to watch out for is whether or not the site lets you repeat lessons each day. It is entirely possible that your child wants to repeat the lessons that are easier and more fun, rather than move onto more material. So, bonus points if the website makes it imperative that you start new lessons and tracks student progress.
Another question you should ask: Is the program based on relevant, grade-level curricula? Does it focus on core study and subject skills? Also, keep in mind that ‘online education’ does not necessarily mean that the lessons will take place online. Many sites leverage technology but still interact in-person – take Tutorspree, for example, which connects you to teachers and tutors online, but the actual lessons take place in-person (in your home, the local library, or wherever you prefer). Regardless of what educational resources you navigate online, the site should make it clear that their academic standards align with national curricula standards, or are otherwise trustworthy.
Finally, look for a site that’s feedback-driven, that tracks your child’s performance and helps you follow his or her progress. Ask yourself how your child is doing with the site. It also helps if the lessons are more interactive and focused on content (rather than tens of advertisements flashing across the page). A good site would encourage your child or give helpful hints if they don’t answer a question correctly, but also congratulate them if they do.
With these goals and guidelines in mind, it should be easy to determine whether a site is a valuable learning tool for your child. By no means should they continue with lessons if the site doesn’t live up to your standards or isn’t fundamentally engaging – it is summer, after all.