The Educational Opportunity Hidden in the COVID-19 Crisis

As educators, parents, and students, we find ourselves in uncharted waters. Schools are closed, perhaps until the fall. And it all happened so quickly that no one had time to plan.

While we do urgently need social distancing, and while we are rightly worried about the rising death toll and looming economic downturn, many are also worried that the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting, negative impact on our children’s education and future.

Schools are offering varying degrees of online education, and teachers are trying their best to make it an effective substitute for actual classroom learning, but it’s unclear how well this will work. It’s unclear how tests will be administered. It’s unclear how work will be graded or how feedback will be provided. It’s unclear how much learning will really happen. Parents and teachers alike are worried about the tragedy of lost potential that could become even more widespread than it already is.

But in every crisis there is an opportunity. Or, to paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, the obstacle that is in your way becomes the way.1 The COVID-19 crisis is forcing everyone to learn from home, so it is an opportunity to practice the skills of independent learning. As an adult, I’ve found that independent learning is a superpower. Relentless learning has enabled me to have a thriving career and has enriched my life immeasurably.

This generation of students could come out of the crisis with a gap in their education – knowledge missed out on due to classroom time they can never get back. Or this generation of students could come out of the crisis with a newfound strength – the ability to learn on their own and self-motivate when the normal structure of classrooms and grade-incentives is taken away. Life will eventually go on as it did before. And when it finally does, they could come out stronger.

Please remember that no one signed up for this. Not the teachers or the administrators. Not the students or their parents. And we all want the same thing: to create the best possible outcome, given the circumstances. We need to be patient with one another. We need to give one another the benefit of the doubt. We need to be supportive of each other. And we need to do our best to move forward with the limited tools we have.

How to Learn From Home During the Coronavirus Lockdown

I will likely have more to offer in the coming weeks, as the nature of remote schooling becomes more clear. For now, here are some quick tips for learning from home:

  • Maintaining a tidy, distraction-free home study space is now more important than ever because it has become students’ primary place of learning.
  • If you’re engaging in video-learning, whether from the teacher or YouTube or Khan Academy, be ready to take notes with pencil and paper. Making written product is critical to understanding and memory.
  • You’ll probably need to supplement whatever instruction you’re getting from teachers with additional resources. Every subject that gets taught in school also gets taught on websites, on YouTube, in textbooks, and in workbooks. Seek these out and use them.
  • You might be finding it harder to get feedback about your work. Look for worksheets that have answer keys (such as KutaSoftware.com), use websites that provide immediate feedback (like Khan Academy and Conjuguemos.com), or use textbooks and prep books that have answer keys.

Whether or not your school is giving you work to do, you can keep learning.

  • If you’re finding yourself with a lot more downtime than before, use it to patch holes in your upside-down knowledge pyramids or walk the mastery paths for things you already know but haven’t fully mastered.
  • For math, science, grammar, and much more, create a free account with Khan Academy. Watch videos, do practice sets, and track your progress.
  • In fact, Khan has put together an excellent resource for families who want guidance about how to structure a day of learning at home. It’s broken down by age groups, and it’s very thorough. Click here to check it out.
  • For Spanish, visit our Spanish resources page, and set yourself up for independent learning. (Similar resources exist for all foreign languages.)
  • For History, visit our History resources page, where you’ll find a plethora of tools you can use to keep exploring.
  • Here’s a sampling of cheap, used textbooks for high school subjects.
  • Here’s a set of great workbooks for elementary and middle school students.
  • And for a wide variety of excellent educational videos, check out PBS Digital Studios.

Lastly, in case you missed it, we’re now offering remote, video tutoring so students can continue to receive one-on-one support from our staff of excellent coaches. Click here to learn more, or email greg@nwtutoring.com to schedule sessions.

1 Holiday, Ryan. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. Portfolio/Penguin, 2014.

About the Author

Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014. He also writes the popular self-improvement blog Becoming Better, so if you liked this article, head on over to becomingbetter.org and check out his other work. Chris also offers behavioral change coachinghelping busy adults with habit formation and productivity. He lives in Seattle, WA.

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