With every door that closes, another opens...
It’s an optimistic way of viewing things, but the saying often rings true.
Today, these “closing doors” are sealing off entry to schools and education centers worldwide, accelerating the annual battle formally only known as “summer brain drain” or the “summer slide” and presenting us parents with the challenge of keeping our students sharp for the next few weeks and potentially months.
But the door that’s opening?
It’s the opportunity to try something that is only becoming more and more popular by the day. Something that you’ve probably heard about but haven’t tried, or have tried but in a limited capacity.
It’s online learning, and while the broad term covers a variety of formats, all that means for you is the ability to sample everything that’s available, in hopes of zeroing in on the setup that makes the most sense for you and your child.
Because let’s face it—every student can learn, they just learn differently.
So, here is a list of different online learning opportunities, bucketed by type and format. We will be adding to the list as we hear and become aware of more, so be sure to check back often.
Online learning opportunities for kids
One of the most difficult things to combat in the transition from the classroom to online learning is the loss of structure. Meaning, while the web opens an entirely new world with more avenues than your child will ever have time to explore (believe it or not), there is certainly a trade-off in terms of guiding your child’s time and ensuring they’re learning efficiently.
So, if you’re able to find opportunities that are presented with structure, give them a shot. They include these lesson-based learning options listed below, but also extend to course-based options and those offering live instruction and self-paced progression as explained throughout this post.
First up, BrainPop, where you can “make any room a classroom” thanks to online lessons in science, engineering and tech, arts, math, and much more. The cool thing about BrainPop is the all-encompassing experience that is offered within any subject.
For instance, not only are there more than enough lessons to keep kids busy, but each module presents a structured palette of tools, including an explainer video and related reading pieces, worksheets, and vocabulary flash cards for kids to research and complete on their own. And, of course, a quiz to test knowledge when all is said and done.
One huge benefit of online learning is that it allows users to jump in and learn when most convenient for them. One drawback, though, is that most experiences don’t offer the two-way communication between an instructor and student, with teaching taking place in the form of a recorded video or written word.
In the end, the learning experience is far from personalized, and many student questions might go unanswered...ultimately leading to a decline in engagement.
Online Private Lessons from iD Tech
But, with something like iD Tech’s Online Private Lessons, kids learn through tailored 1-on-1 lessons from iD certified instructors. Yes, 1-on-1, "live" learning from real people. These are tech rockstars and top talent from elite universities who are equipped to help transform your child's interests into a potential tech career.
Whether you want your child to try online coding classes or dive into game design, sessions are available year-round and can be booked according to your schedule.
To play devil's advocate, one potential negative of online learning - especially compared to classroom learning - is the social aspect. If kids are by themselves in front of a computer for hours on end, how are they also going to learn vital social skills? It's a fair point, and to counter I'd say it's all about balance, with parents needing to figure out which levers to pull in order for their children to continue to grow as well-rounded as possible.
But with that said, there are online learning experiences that offer that crucial balance!
Virtual Tech Camps
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a tech summer camp, it can be described as summer camp fun blended with courses and opportunities for kids and teens to learn coding, game design, robotics, and more. So, then, a virtual tech camp is all of that, but now the collaborative spirit of the in-person program is moved online, with campers now experiencing structured tech courses alongside others, all from the comfort of home.
Specifically, Virtual Tech Camp from iD Tech is the perfect online learning option for those on spring break or enduring a school closure who want to continue learning right now. Sessions are available throughout the week, in multiple timezones, with curriculum rooted in Python, Minecraft, AI, and more.
Now kids and teens can advance their tech skills, engage with other students (5 max per instructor), and learn through a combination of live instruction and self-paced project development.
One big advantage of course-based online learning is the built-in progression, which inherently adds structure to your child’s learning experience as they complete, say, intro course A and then move on to a more advanced course B, and so on.
So, for instance, homeschoolers learning coding can now logically move from a block based coding lesson where they're learning about the different blocks available to them, to actually piecing those blocks together in order to program their stories and animations.
So with that, you've undoubtedly heard the statement more than once—all kids should learn to code. And if you've taken it upon yourself to do related opportunity digging, you’ve probably also heard of code.org, which is a nonprofit dedicated to “expanding access to computer science in schools…”
And again, progression and advancement is the name of the game. Students ages 5-8 can start with "an introduction to computer science for pre-readers" before moving on to a course crafted for ages 7-11 which teaches algorithms, nested loops, and more.
Remember, every kid can learn, but each just might learn a bit differently...hence the beauty of alternative learning experiences, right? Those kids who simply don’t absorb book content or don’t test well now have the chance to learn through something like video, and might find that video concepts “speak to them” (no pun intended) at volumes no other teaching source has ever spoken before.
So why not turn to YouTube, the hub of all things video? It has more content than any family could ever need, right?
True, and while that’s a very good thing, when it comes to the positive and negative aspects of YouTube, it can also be a challenge as you never know where one kid's click might lead.
To help, YouTube Kids was created to provide young minds a “more contained” environment, allowing children to explore on their own. And while such exploration can still lead a user down a variety of non-learning rabbit holes - like cartoons, shows, and more - the educational content can be easily isolated thanks to search options and the presented parental controls.
All of that said, maybe your child does, in fact, thrive off the written word—with their brain functioning as a high-performance scanner just taking in loads of written content and committing it to memory.
Time for Kids
If that's the case, a site like Time for Kids might be a fun learning stop. Touting the headline “Engage. Empower. Inspire. Authentic journalism to motivate curious minds,” Time for Kids does just that!
Spanning explanations on thousands of topics, the site offers write-ups on things like “how to stay safe in school” and "financial literacy for kids," and so. Much. More.
Obviously between the different experiences presented above and below, there is going to be some overlap, with many opportunities offering a suite of experiences like self-pacing, courses, videos, and more.
Looking at self-pacing options specifically, though, the benefit here is “loosened structure” if you will, meaning kids can spend as much time as they want when learning, without being timed or having to stick to a schedule.
e-Learning for Kids
For self-pacers, e-Learning for Kids has rolled out a mini learning search engine of sorts, allowing users to seek desired lessons by keyword or by category, and even filter by grade level, popularity, and more. The lessons themselves begin with a cartoon video introduction, and are followed by a series of interactive challenges.
For instance, at the 6th grade level, kids are introduced to math and angles with Teresa and her family’s pizza restaurant. From there, learners are challenged to estimate angle size and type of different pizza portions, and more.
Let’s face it, kids love their devices. And while screen time should definitely be regulated for balance, a potential compromise is presenting a learning opportunity in the form of a mobile app.
So with that, how about some language learning? With over 700K ratings on the Apple App Store, Duolingo provides app-based lessons in French, Spanish, and 30 other languages. Through a clean and fun interface, Duolingo gamifies language learning to the point of creating an engaging and motivating experience for young learners.
Game and activity-based learning
One way to really grab and keep hold of a child’s attention is to link online learning to something they’re already interested in. Thus, you might find that engaging with portals provided by networks like PBS and Nick Jr. is a successful endeavor, given their presentation of learning opportunities through familiar animated characters.
For example with PBS Kids, young learners can work with Arthur, Daniel Tiger, and the characters from Sesame Street through fun games and activities focused on teaching things like teamwork, feelings, measurement, shapes, and more. The PBS Kids portal skews a bit younger, but offers a ton of valuable content in this regard.
National Geographic Kids
An obvious choice for the animal lover—Nat Geo Kids offers a wide range of “brain boosters”—from animals, yes, to science, history, and much more.
"A lesson a day"
Depending on your child’s level of autonomy, they may just need a little nudge to get them going, which is exactly what these "one lesson per day" formats accomplish.
Scholastic Learn at Home
Scholastic is now offering “day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing” through their Learn at Home portal.
For example, Day 1’s activities encourage learners to get familiar with a teen who is changing how the world views disabilities, while Day 4 introduces kids to insects that can be eaten as protein-packed snacks.
Learning comes in all shapes and sizes
I've said it twice already so I'll finish with a third...
Every student can learn; they just learn differently.
Sure, some may struggle in a particular area or subject, but that's what's great about online and alternative learning experiences.
The doors are now open for students to dive into subjects with which they've never had an experience, but have always had an interest, and in formats that you might find are perfect for their personality and unique needs.