The virtual class is over. What is next? How to be ready for the next class?

There is an old joke about a tourist walking down 57th Street in Manhattan trying to find Carnegie Hall. Hestops a passerby, who happens to be the famous violinist, Yasha Heifetz and asks, “Excuse me, Sir, do you know how I can to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes,” says Heifetz. “Practice!”

This advice is as simple as it is true. It is impossible to master the material simply by participating in the classroom, no matter how dynamic the teacher, or how gifted the student. Students must practice on their own, to advance in their studies. Studies show that in order for a student to retain and master learned material, he needs to revisit the material many times and from different angles until the student finally “own” the material! This idea is as old as the world. But what is new is how students in virtual classes get to practice the material. The traditional model, in which students receive assigned homework at the end of one class and the teacher collects it at the beginning of the next class – can now be replaced by a ‘continuous feedback loop’ model where the teachers and students can engage in back-and-forth in between classroom sessions.

The students can submit their homework and receive feedback before the next class takes place. Thus the students can actually get a second or third chance to solve the problem on their own – a much better way to learn - and come to the next class having a good grasp of the material. The online teacher also has a much better sense of the classroom – of what the students understood or did not understand based on the responses they submitted online - and can adjust the next session accordingly.

‘Practice!’ is still the way to success but virtual learning makes it that much more efficient. We have all heard, many times, “Practice!” but often “practice” has a negative connotation, conjuring up pages of repetitive drill . This is not what we mean when we say “practice.”

Practice is not a drill. The homework might be one challenging problem but solving the problem reinforces what has been taught in class, prepares children for new, upcoming material, and gives them the valuable opportunity to think longer and more deeply about the subject.

The best way to learn is to combine the virtual class with continuation of learning during week via online communication with teacher, and practice – in the real sense of the word – on one’s own.

We use the Moodle platform for homework assignments. This excellent platform allows for many different formats for homework: multiple choice test, essay, forum, or full write up of a problem. The teacher is notified when a homework assignment is posted and can check it and send feedback to students. Need a very short conclusion sentence or two. It ends too abruptly. I’ll try to think of one J J Virtual classes, allowing for continual communication with the teacher, along with thoughtful homework practice, are a powerful way to learn any subject.

Olga I.Fookson, Ph.D. SchoolPlus Founding Director