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Setting Up a Real “Virtual” Classroom

by David Engle | Aug 11, 2020 | 4 min read

As we get further into August, and as COVID-19 case numbers remain at higher levels than any of us would like (especially school administrators), the prospect of schools starting the year either entirely remotely–or at least partially–is now a reality. Yes, just about every student in the country experienced something resembling virtual learning during the spring…but this fall should be a much different story.

Distance learning during the spring was trial by fire. School districts didn’t have the luxury of beta testing or the time to set up a truly remote learning program. Now? Well, it’s been five months, and schools should be much better prepared this time around. Several school districts have already decided to start the year entirely with remote learning, while others are offering the option for either full-time remote learning or a hybrid schedule. Either way, there’s going to be a lot of learning at home this fall…and possibly longer.

So, what did schools learn from the spring? That busy work just isn’t going to cut it. Remote learning needs teachers teaching, and that’s what schools plan to roll out in the next few weeks. Every school district will look a little bit different, but it would be shocking if there wasn’t some type of live teaching via Zoom or Google Meet in every classroom across the country. Kids sorely missed the valuable instruction and attention that teachers provide, and it showed. Sure, there will be some bumps in the road, but live instruction even from a distance is certainly going to help.

If you had a child at home during the spring (that wasn’t legitimately homeschooling vs. school at home), you probably witnessed something like…your kid sprawled out on the bed or couch doing homework, maybe sitting at the kitchen table for 30 minutes and then shutting the Chromebook and heading to the TV to play video games. That won’t be the case this year. Schools have already rolled out preliminary schedules and plans, and students are expected to be sitting at attention when class starts. So, where should that be? Because it certainly shouldn’t be on the couch or in bed.

What kind of setup should students have?
For live instruction, you don’t necessarily need to have a full homeschool classroom setup. But kids absolutely need a quiet, comfortable place to be able to focus on the screen and get to work. What else will they (and you) need?

  • A desk and comfortable chair. Kids are going to need a steady surface for their laptops and to take some notes, if necessary. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy–a simple folding table will do the job, as long as it’s their space. They’ll be sitting there for extended periods of time each day, so you might as well make it a nice environment for them.
  • Good WiFi. This might be the most important thing to have in your house. If the WiFi connection is spotty, that’s going to cause major problems when your student is trying to watch a lesson. If the setup is in an area of your home that doesn’t get a great signal, consider investing in a WiFi range extender. They’re not super-expensive, and you can place them in just about any room that needs the signal boost. If you get your WiFi through a cable provider, they probably offer their own extenders.
  • A nice set of headphones. Whether it’s AirPods or big, noise-cancelling headphones, this is another wise investment. Just about all of these headphones have microphones, so your kids can clearly communicate during class. Plus, if you’re home as well, you don’t really want to hear the entire lesson yourself.
  • Wireless mouse. Seems like a small deal, but trackpads are annoying and a wireless mouse gives your kids the freedom to move around a bit if they’ve been sitting too long. It’s worth the $10.
  • Multiple kids? Multiple setups. Trust me, keep the siblings apart if at all possible. They should each have their own designated area to work; otherwise things get chaotic. They can be in the same room, but make sure they have some space between them–if one is talking while the other is trying to listen, it’s a major distraction.
  • A working knowledge of Google Suite, Zoom, and other apps. Odds are your student probably knows a whole lot more about these, but you should too if you don’t already. Younger kids will inevitably need your help with something, so it’s a good idea to start brushing up on your tech skills now. Many schools distribute Chromebooks, so kids are most likely using Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Classroom, and Google Meet rather than Microsoft Office programs. Ask your school district for a list of programs so you can get a head-start.

If you already homeschool, you know all about how to set up a perfect classroom. But if you’re new to this concept and aren’t sure what this setup should look like, keep this in mind:

  • Unless you’re truly homeschooling (where you’re doing the instructing), you do not need a full classroom setup. You simply need a comfortable space that’s conducive to learning.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t need to create a new office for your child. You don’t even have to give up your own. You can put your kids in a closet if it gets decent WiFi and has enough room for a table. OK, it would need to be a large closet, but you get the idea.
  • This is probably temporary. At some point in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later), kids will return to school. And then you can reclaim your space. Until then, create a nice learning space for your child so he or she can really get the most out of school this fall.

Of course, you might love having your kids home and decide to take on homeschooling for the whole year…or permanently! If so, Bridgeway Academy has plenty of excellent options for every type of learner:

Give us a call today at (800) 863-1474 to learn more about homeschooling and what Bridgeway has to offer!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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