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How to help reduce stress in school for students learning online

Amanda ClarkMarch 3, 2021

Student in front of his laptop

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Online teaching is not always a walk in the park. According to the National Foundation of Education research, one in five teachers feels stressed compared to one in eight in other professions. 

After the onset of COVID-19, some schools began offering virtual instruction. And like traditional teaching, online education comes with its own stressors.

All these changes can be overwhelming, so many educators are trying to find ways to provide a more effective and less stressful online teaching and learning experience.

Here’s a list of strategies we’ll explore:

12 ways to provide more effective and less stressful online teaching and learning 

1. Set clear expectations

Some of your students are engaging in online learning for the first time or have a minimal virtual learning experience. In short, they’re looking for guidance.

Setting clear expectations from the get-go is one online classroom management technique that cuts down stress for you and your students.

Encourage your teachers to offer a detailed syllabus for each online class, similar to what they may have done during face-to-face instruction. Naturally, they may need to tweak this to cater to online learning. And while this alone won’t eliminate all of the difficulties of online learning, you’ll find that there is a sense of order in organized chaos.

2. Take your tech for a spin

Whether you’re a teacher, administrator, principal, or other staff member, you should familiarize yourself with your e-learning technology.

Why? Because being unfamiliar with your technology can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. The better you and your teachers understand online learning technology, the better you’ll be able to use it to help students learn in this new format.

Try to find the time to test out an online assignment or attend a real virtual class. Gaining insights will help you become comfortable with the tech required for your online learning. It will  also help reduce stress when the time comes to actually use it in the classroom.

3. Use video conferencing to give online learning a human feel

Shifting to online learning doesn’t need to eliminate interactions with people. In fact, it shouldn’t.

Your teachers (and families) are bound to have questions, and although it’s easy to point them in the direction of an online document, the web offers useful tools like Google Meet, Zoom, and more. Using these platforms allows you to provide more personal resources compared to email and chat boxes.

When communicating, try to integrate video or audio communication as much as possible.

4. Encourage risk

Just like with traditional classrooms, teachers will eventually adapt to online learning and form their routines. Although this is a good thing, your faculty may get bored and want to change things up. Perhaps they’ll want to trial run a new platform or app to make online learning more fun — why not let them experiment?

In the words of former president Jimmy Carter, “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”

The reality is that many schools are facing uncharted territory with online learning. To find what works, teachers should be supported to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

5. Ignore the glitz 

We live in a society that always wants more. Since the recent e-learning boom, photos of decked-out virtual learning spaces have been inundating Facebook and Instagram feeds. 

These stellar learning spaces are not the norm for everyone. Teachers should be reminded that a plain white wall, magnetic dry-erase boards, and alphabet posters work well, too.

It shouldn’t be expected of teachers to deck-out their virtual course with an original song recording, master and utilize all social networks, or start their own YouTube channel.

The possibilities of online learning are endless, and the pressure to impress is steep. Encourage your teachers to try new things, but remind them that this year is a marathon — slow and steady wins the race.

6. Accept feedback

Your teachers are the ones seeing their students every day. They’re the ones who will get to know your technology inside and out — with all its strengths and weaknesses. That’s why it’s essential to solicit and acknowledge their honest feedback.

As you know, teachers appreciate being heard. By encouraging them to share their triumphs and concerns, you’re helping to take more off their shoulders than you may realize.

7. Be open to change

Perhaps your learning management system (LMS) isn’t as user friendly as you thought it would be. Or maybe you’ve decided that a hybrid model is more suitable for your school’s needs. There’s nothing wrong with taking a different route. As you know, part of your job is learning how to be flexible and adapting to your school’s needs.

Online learning will test you. Some things will work, and others won’t. Take the opportunity to learn from these trials, and try new things when it’s in the best interest of your teachers and students.

8. Understand that less is sometimes more

Your teachers will likely not feel stressed about a supposed lack of online resources, but they  may be overwhelmed with the abundance of resources. 

Everywhere you look these days, there are new, affordable, or free online learning resources. 

Be sure to remind your faculty that a solid online learning experience is possible with ordinary tools and resources. Let them know they don’t need to have four alternative ways for parents to reach them.

They don’t need to provide their students with ten online platforms, either. Classcraft can provide you with tons of resources that other teachers have already used, to great success. 

Offering too many resources might cause stress for both teachers and students. The International Journal of Information Management even illustrated that too much information can prevent an individual from taking action and can lead to a feeling of loss of control. 

So remember: When it comes to online learning, less is often more.

9. Schedule breaks

When working from home, it’s easy to lose a sense of work-life balance. Most teachers are go-getters and may have difficulty adjusting to their work being with them 24/7. They may also be unsure of the expectations for availability and office hours in an online setting.

Now is the time to remind your faculty of the importance of work-life balance in education, especially with online learning. For instance let them know there is no need to feel guilty for not opening an email on a Sunday.

One helpful idea is have your school create a policy to decrease teacher burnout, like setting clear hours for availability by phone and email on weekdays.

Let teachers know that you’ve got their backs, and help them with setting reasonable boundaries for their online class.

10. Integrate humor

Yeah, we know, there’s a pandemic going on, you’re rewriting curricula, and parents are asking more questions than ever before. Integrating humor doesn’t mean you’re expected to perform a standup routine.

Instilling a little sense of humor through jokes, laughter, or lightheartedness has its place in a classroom setting — especially online.

Humor can help boost your faculty’s morale, and according to the American Psychology Association, laughing can also increase learning. A recent study found that humor decreases anxiety and increases motivation, leading to better student outcomes.

No need for fancy comedic song and dance routines — simply integrating daily jokes into classes or administrative meetings could help eliminate stress for everyone. Give it a try!

11. Encourage parent participation

Many parents want to help and might even have helpful resources to offer teachers. 

Maybe there’s a parent with a teaching background in your school community with helpful ideas for an online lesson on phonics, or another who’d like to guest speak on Zoom to offer a different perspective on something related to the course. Something to consider, right?

Parents are also an integral part of online learning. If something isn’t working for them, you won’t know it until you ask for their feedback.

12. Ensure that teachers and student have internet access

In a recent post on the best ways to make sure your students show up for online learning, we mentioned how many schools now offer parking-lot WiFi to ensure that students and faculty have reliable internet. 

For those without access to the internet at home, online learning becomes a source of stress. If you don’t already, consider offering parking-lot WiFi or some sort of equivalent accommodation. After all, if students can’t connect to their class, they’ll struggle to succeed.

Online learning has tremendous potential

Let’s face it: Education may never be the same. But as educators, we learn to adapt and to do everything we can to provide an accessible learning experience. Virtual learning has fulfilled this need during difficult times. It’s not perfect (nothing is), and there are bound to be challenges. But through leadership, communication, and trial and error, you can provide a more effective and less stressful online learning environment for everyone involved.

Photo: Google for Education

Intrinsic motivation: 
The key to tiered intervention

When students care about their behavior, a good tiered intervention program becomes great.

Get playbook
Intrinsic Motivation Playbook Mock Up

Distance Learning

Intrinsic motivation: 
The key to tiered intervention

When students care about their behavior, a good tiered intervention program becomes great.

Get playbook
Intrinsic Motivation Playbook Mock Up