Students as Resources: Navigating Virtual Learning

Educators have reported some surprises in virtual education. Some students who were disengaged during in-person school are actively engaging virtually. Not all students who were actively engaged in-person are engaged virtually. Let’s remember that our students are valuable resources. As we all try to navigate teaching and learning online consider gathering a group of “high flyers” who are having great success with virtual learning. Invite them to attend a virtual focus group where you explore what they enjoy about the new learning environment.

Ask them:

  • What motivates you to participate?
  • What might be turning other students off?
  • What suggestions can you offer to educators, school leadership, parents and clinicians to help us support all learners?

Similarly, connect a group of students who were having success with in-person learning, but are struggling in the virtual environment.

Ask them:

  • What is different for you?
  • What are you missing the most?
  • What are alternative ways school can help you meet your needs (academic, social, emotional, etc.)?

Here are some of the responses Starr has received when students are asked similar questions.

I like not having to worry about impressing people with how I look or what I wear – school online makes that worry non-existent.

Most people don’t want to turn on their cameras but they will if other students do so first.

Sometimes our classroom doesn’t work, but I like that my teacher is learning too and we can fix it together.

I like it when we play games about what we are learning.

It is fun to work in smaller groups than to have so many people on the screen at one time. Maybe we can start all as one group and then break into smaller groups.

I miss seeing my friends.

It is really hard to figure out how to move around the (virtual) classroom – it is confusing with so many links and tabs.

It is really hard for me to learn how to do algebra online – my teacher goes too fast. I just wish he would take it one step at a time. He is rushing and most of my class doesn’t even understand what we learned last week.

These conversations become even more important as many states grapple with a return to online learning and potential isolation. I recently spoke on this topic to my Back to School During a Pandemic learning community. Watch below and follow the links in the description for the course page.

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By Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW

Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW, Chief Clinical Officer, provides oversight for all clinical operations and research at Starr Commonwealth. Dr. Soma provides trauma assessment and trauma informed, resilience focused intervention for youth utilizing evidence-based practices, including TLC’s SITCAP® model programs.

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.