It’s almost time for back-to-school: 6 tips to help your student thrive during the COVID-19 crisis

As a parent, you’re likely dealing with concerns about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting your student. As in all things, opportunities can be found even in the worst of times. It is possible for your student to thrive in the midst of a pandemic, even though society may seem upside down right now. Let’s look at 6 tips for helping your student succeed in a COVID-19 world. 

1. Get out of your home every day

If the weather permits, consider going to a park or on a walk with your student so you can both get some exercise and sunshine, both of which can help fight depression. The benefits of exercise have been shown to improve learning and help with mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and ADHD. 

While you can’t always spend time outdoors, you should be able to find a place to go. This may be driving or riding with your student around the neighborhood or making a quick trip to a store, even if just to browse. Having a variety of scenery will likely help your student (and you) feel normal, at least in part. 

2. Stay connected with others

If you can’t or are uncomfortable meeting face-to-face with others, your student can stay digitally connected with their teachers, family, and friends. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or another live-streaming service.

3. Take advantage of free or inexpensive online courses

Now more than ever, online courses that you once needed to pay for are now free or at a reduced cost. While they are geared primarily towards adults, sites like Udemy and Coursera are offering such courses. To find free courses on these sites, simply type in “free” in the search bar. Especially if you have a high school student, you might be able to find something for your student on these sites., which is also targeted towards adults, has similar content to Udemy and Coursera, but you’ll need to become a member to take advantage of their courses. The first month is free.

You could also search for specific tutorials on YouTube. If you don’t already do this, I recommend you screen each video you want to show your student, or at least the YouTube channel that contains the video, before showing it to your student. This is due to the varied nature of YouTube videos, both in terms of quality and content.

4. Make sure to keep communication open between you and your student

Set aside a time at least once a week to sit down with your student and give him or her an opportunity to talk with you one-on-one. The focus here is not on having a conversation, but rather providing an opportunity for a conversation to occur. As such, this time could consist of playing a game, putting together a puzzle, baking something together, or doing another activity your student enjoys. 

If your student doesn’t want to talk much, that’s fine. Providing each student a weekly opportunity to discuss what’s on his or her mind with you can reinforce that they are loved, cared for, and listened to. 

5. Stick to a schedule

Schedules provide a welcomed sense of normalcy for your student. Younger children tend to thrive on repetition and routines. And no matter your student’s age, he or she will likely benefit from a structured schedule. 

If your students are older, you may want them to create their own schedules—from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. They’ll need to block out times for eating, exercising, and resting/doing something fun. You can then look over their schedules and provide feedback. My wife got me hooked on this practice while I work from home, and I’ve personally found it helpful.

6. Have something fun to look forward to

It’s important for your student to have something he or she can look forward to doing, either alone or with others. I recommend having two different types of fun things planned:

  • Fun things planned for each day, such as watching a favorite TV show alone or getting together with friends.
  • Fun things with the family that are planned days, weeks, or months in advance, such as taking a day trip to the beach or staying a few nights at a favorite vacation spot.

2014 College Rankings From the Open Education Database

The Open Education Database has published their 2014 online college rankings. This is a great reference if you’re looking for a good distance education program. The top colleges are sorted by area of study (i.e. engineering, nursing, MBA, and so on). They even have a degree finder. Select a degree type and major and you’ll see the top ranked colleges in that category.

The metrics used are very practical and detailed. For example, they rank colleges according to the faculty-to-student ratio, retention rate, graduation rate, and job placement rate. The college you attend should help you achieve your academic goals. That’s why it’s important to “do your homework” ahead of time. OEDb’s ranking tool helps you do that.

See the rankings at OEDb


Is College for Everyone?

Here at The Distance Learner we advocate a non-traditional approach to the process of earning a college degree. It’s just not practical for everyone to attend a brick-and-mortar college or university, pay exorbitantly to live on campus, and run up an astronomical student debt that takes decades to pay off after graduation.

Distance education offers a cheaper, more practical alternative to this approach. But for some young people, college may not even need to be a consideration to begin with. This post from The Art of Manliness gives 11 alternatives to a college degree. These include starting a business, attending community college, and learning a trade.

For some professions – like many of those in STEM fields – college is absolutely the right choice. But for many, it ends up being a waste of time and money. For some, college even limits your career options, as you get strapped into thinking you have to go into a certain major (most often business) in order to be successful. That’s just not the reality, however.

Those who say every high school student needs to attend college to get a good job are either misinformed or lying. Any high school graduate can land a stable job with a healthy salary by pursuing their natural inclination or talent in a vocational school or apprenticeship. Similar to earning a degree through distance education, this is a smart and economical alternative to taking on student debt for that “magic” piece of paper.

Read the full article at The Art of Manliness


Attend College Overseas

Here’s an interesting alternative to the traditional American college experience: consider attending college overseas. Despite what you might think, it’s much less expensive to study abroad. Experiencing a new country is exciting. And earning a degree overseas can distinguish you from other graduates who didn’t bother to travel.

On his blog Sovereign Man, Simon gives examples of several foreign colleges that are less expensive than American options, yet consistently rank among the top schools in the world. If you’ve ever wanted to visit another country, you should seriously consider whether earning a degree at the same time might be a good option for you.

Read the full article at Sovereign Man


MIT Offers Free Online Education

In late 2011, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched M.I.T.x, an online learning program that offers hundreds of courses for free. This isn’t a full degree program, but it does allow those who demonstrate mastery of a course of study to receive a certificate of completion.

This new program is a continuation of MIT’s original free online learning curriculum, OpenCourseWare. It’s very exciting to see a respected university like MIT offer additional distance learning options. The groundswell of online programs over the past few years has been nothing short of spectacular. In the Forbes article linked below, James Marshall Crotty calls this new education initiative a “game changer.” I agree with his assessment.

Read the full article at Forbes


Think Before You Intern

As someone who began a career in software development with an unpaid apprenticeship, my personal experience has been that any internship, paid or otherwise, can be beneficial. But these statistics compiled by Online College Courses are nonetheless very interesting and may indicate a trend away from what I experienced 10 years ago.

Studies show that students who intern without receiving pay in return tend to learn less, perform more menial tasks, and be hired on full-time at a lower rate than students who are paid for their internships.

As with any aspect of your education and career, it’s important to evaluate whether a given opportunity will advance you towards your goal or just waste your time.

Read the full article at Online College Courses


Don’t Let College Interfere With Your Education

David authored this article for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy back in 2010. It remains relevant for those making decisions about where, or whether, to attend college.

I made a decision early on that college was about getting a piece of paper, not an education. My goal wasn’t to become a better-rounded individual, or even to gain a greater understanding of my major area of study. Rather, it was to gain the educational credential that employers now use as a screening device for most jobs. And my experience confirmed what I had expected—that post-secondary education today has only a lackluster ability to provide real value aside from that credential.

It’s critical to understand the true value of a college degree before embarking on an expensive voyage that may or may not get you where you want to go.

Read the full article at the Pope Center


Does Earning a Degree Increase Your Salary?

One commonly held belief about college degrees is that earning one will boost your income in your current job, or help you secure a job with a much higher starting salary than someone who only has a high school degree.

This may have been true at one point, but in recent years the earnings gap between high school and college graduates has been shrinking dramatically. Mary Pilon takes a detailed look at the earnings landscape in a recent Wall Street Journal article. It’s well worth a read whether you’re considering college for the first time or planning to return to school to earn a post-graduate degree.

One advantage to pursuing a degree via distance education is the lower cost. Combine that with the ability to work a full-time job while studying in the evening and you have a powerful alternative to the traditional college experience. Of course, it’s still a good idea to research your target career field and determine whether the cost of a college degree is truly worth the salary increase. It might not be.

Read the full article at


The Case for Working With Your Hands

High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass.

Read the full article at NY Times


Some Encouraging Advice

The Teaching Home is a magazine for Christian home educators. A few years ag, they published some suggestions for parents and students who are considering higher education. If you’ve been wondering what the Biblical motivations and goals behind higher education should be, this is an excellent read.

Read the full article.