Five Tips for Online Learning During COVID-19

COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, has turned the world upside down, seemingly overnight. The latest change came this week, as Idaho announced that schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year. While this wasn’t a big surprise to some, it does mean that all students will now be doing their learning online, either through school programs or other resources. At Huntington Learning Center East Boise, we’ve had all of our students shifted to remote learning for over two weeks. It’s been a great experience for both our amazing teachers and our fantastic students. To help that process, we’re suggesting five useful tips for online learning during COVID-19 that will hopefully make the transition a positive one for you.

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Relax and enjoy!

Parents and students have been stressing about COVID-19, then toilet paper shortages, then home-bound boredom, and, now, online learning. I’ve taught online extensively before I came to HLC, and it can be a really rewarding experience. Our tutors are the same great teachers you would have in-center, and our digital curriculum is exactly the same as it would be if you were working in-center. Sitting in front of a computer screen with one of our educational experts will bring you the same benefit as if you were sitting at a desk with them. So come ready to work and have fun with the best online instructors around! Whether your student is prepping for the ACT or SAT, AP exams, or just everyday academic work, we can help!

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Have a good headset!

One seemingly minor detail that can make a big difference in the online learning experience is having a good headset or a good set of earbuds with a mic. Most students have these already, and using them for an online session can be incredibly helpful. Being able to hear your instructor makes it easier to focus and process through what’s being taught.

And a good webcam!

Along with a good headset, a well-functioning webcam is crucial. It makes the experience far more personal to have that face-to-face contact with your instructor. And from a teaching perspective, your teachers will be able to anticipate your questions and your focus if they can see your facial expressions and body language.

Pick an ideal study spot!

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When working through an online class or session, location is key! Be sure to pick a spot that’s quiet, that has all of your necessary materials close at hand, and that is far from potential interruptions. Sitting at the kitchen table while dinner is being made–or served!–is not an ideal spot for learning. But if you have a desk in a bedroom or home office, that generally works well.

Use the time wisely!

Finally, this crisis has given everyone a potentially golden opportunity for learning. With students essentially stuck at home, they have the time to make big gains in challenging classes. Set a schedule for the day, even if the school hasn’t done so. Have students spend time on each of their core subjects, and hold them accountable.

So there are five quick tips for your online learning during COVID-19! At HLC East Boise, we would love to partner with you to help you make the most of this time and to come out of it with the knowledge needed to succeed next school year!


This Year’s Resolution: Improve your ACT or SAT scores!

Happy New Year to all of you from all of us at Huntington East Boise! With the New Year comes exam prep season, as the ACTs and SATs come in rapid-fire fashion over the next several months. Now is the time to prepare to improve those ACT or SAT scores!

February 8, 2020March 14, 2020
April 4, 2020April 9, 2020 (School-administered SAT)
June 13, 2020May 2, 2020
June 6, 2020

If you’re a sophomore in high school, you still have plenty of time to plan out which test to take and when. But if you’re a junior, the time is now!

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Plan on taking multiple SATs or ACTs

In the current climate of competition for college, students should plan on taking two to three actual ACTs or SATs. Planning for multiple tests takes stress away from any single exam. With test anxiety looming large for many students, anything that depressurizes is valuable. In addition, since colleges generally expect students to submit multiple scores, there is no disadvantage to taking a test once vs. taking it three times.

Superscoring can be a game changer

Not only is there no real disadvantage, there is also a very real potential advantage to taking a test two or three times. Many schools across the country superscore the SAT or ACT.

Superscoring involves taking the highest verbal and math scores a student has earned over multiple tests and putting them together to make a new composite. For example, let’s say Alexis takes three SATs, and her scores on each test are posted below.

SAT #1600 verbal590 math1190 total
SAT #2650 verbal580 math1230 total
SAT #3610 verbal650 math1260 total

Alexis managed to improve her overall score each time she took the test, which is great! However, if Alexis applies to a school that superscores, that school would look at the highest verbal score, 650, and the highest math score, also a 650, and treat Alexis as though she had scored a 1300 on the test. That’s a 40-point increase!

Superscoring generally gives students a higher composite score than they have achieved on any individual test, and, as many schools use this scoring method, it gives students even more reason to plan on taking the test more than once.

You’re not in this alone!

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Of course, the best way to maximize a student’s score is to provide an expert for her/him to work with. At Huntington, we partner with students on their educational journeys, helping them learn the skills and strategies needed to improve their SAT or ACT scores. And with the next ACT about a month away and the next SAT about ten weeks away, now is the best time to formulate a plan to increase that score!


‘Tis the Season for SMART Goals

For students, the end of the calendar year means Thanksgiving, Christmas, vacations, and, in some cases, final exams. But as the old year ends, the new year is the traditional time for resolutions and change. And for students, it’s a good time to begin planning their goals for second semester. One of the best ways to plan out change for second semester and beyond is to set SMART goals.

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What are SMART goals?

SMART goals have been used since 1981, when George T. Doran presented the acronym in a paper on setting agendas for management teams. Since that time, his framework has been used around the world to set goals for both business and personal growth.

SMART goals are goals that are 

  • Specific – What exactly do I want to happen?
  • Measurable – How will I know when I’ve reached my goal?
  • Achievable – Is it something that can be accomplished?
  • Relevant – Is it a realistic goal?
  • Time-Specific – Can I set a specific deadline for my goal to be achieved?

How are they helpful?

The biggest advantage of students setting SMART goals is that they force a student into thinking through the process to achieve their stated goals. While “getting better grades” is a great sentiment, setting that as a goal doesn’t take the process of achieving the goal into account. What do “better grades” look like? When should that happen by?

A SMARTer way of looking to improve academically, particularly for a student whose grades are suffering because of late/missing assignments, would be to set a goal of “I will begin each week by taking 5-10 minutes to write down all of my assignments for the week in a planner. I will complete each of my assignments at least a day ahead of schedule.” This goal is specific, focused, and measurable, making it easier to see accomplishment and easier to know when the goal isn’t being met. 

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And if a student sets a goal that is too far reaching or not specific enough, those goals can be revisited and retooled. If a student’s goal was to achieve a B in Algebra II, for example, that goal can be changed once the student hits that mark. 

On her blog on Scholastic.com, educator Genia Connell outlines her classroom process for using SMART goals, and she provides a worksheet for younger students to think through their academic and personal plans and goals. 

So as we approach the season of making (and breaking) resolutions, students can begin to practice the valuable life skill of setting good, attainable goals for the new semester.


Putting the “Smart” Back in Smartphones

When I was working as a classroom teacher in the early 2000s, cell phone use by students was a relatively new phenomenon. My policy–as well as my school’s–was that cell phone use was unnecessary during school hours. Students who were caught using their phones at school had them taken away and given to the administrative office, much to the chagrin of the students involved.

Fast forward to 2019. While some teachers and parents are still fighting the tide of technology, nearly every student from elementary school on up carries a cell phone. Fortunately, if used prudently, smartphones can be great tools for educational purposes.

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Homework tracker

Many students still use paper planners to keep track of their tests, assignments, and other obligations, but cell phones are increasingly becoming the mode of choice to organize students’ calendars. Because students carry their phones everywhere, they are able to check their upcoming work quickly and easily, and they can continually adjust as new events arise.

Reminder setting

For students of all ages, smartphones can be used to help remind the students to carry out tasks throughout the day. Your child can be reminded to get a parent release signed, to be sure his/her pencil bag is filled, or to attend their weekly improv club meeting.

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Fact finding

Of course, cell phones put the knowledge of the world in students’ hands. If a teacher mentions a topic or term that is unfamiliar, a quick Google search can fill in the information gaps.

Taking board or screen photos

Teachers can sometimes move quickly through material in the classroom. Any time a student feels confused about that last trigonometry problem or the timeline of Christianity’s progression through the ancient world, she or he can snap a quick picture of the board to either revisit the information or to show it to a tutor, like the wonderful ones working at Huntington.

Note taking

Typing–or Swyping–is generally much faster for today’s students than writing by hand. Given that, smartphones can be a great way of taking important notes from class. Using apps like Evernote or OneNote can make recording and using ideas from class much more efficient.

Apps, apps, apps!

Finally, many classrooms now use specific educational apps that tie in to what’s being done in class. Teachers now routinely use document sharing apps, like Dropbox, as well as study apps, such as Quizlet, to administer their classes. College Board, the maker of the SAT, offers an SAT Question of the Day app. Smartphones make it easy for students to utilize these apps on the go.

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Of course, as with all technology, parents should set expectations with their children when it comes to cell phone use. Talking with your students about the dangers of the online world is always a good idea. But used correctly, cell phones can be a great way to enhance students’ academic experience, putting the smart back in smartphones!


Growth Mindset and the SAT/ACT

“I’m not a math person.”

In all of my experience as a test prep tutor, this is one of the most common self-assessments I’ve heard from students. For better or worse, most students have already developed an expectation for themselves by the time they’ve reached high school, and it can be difficult to overcome. The primary challenge is that the student’s overall outlook needs to evolve into a growth mindset.

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Growth Mindset in the Mainstream

The idea of a growth mindset gained mainstream popularity with the book Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck in 2006. In the book, Dr. Dweck shows how one’s mindset is the determining factor in a person’s overall success in life. The student who believes “I’m not a math person” is evidencing a fixed mindset. Many students working their way through school on all levels are laboring under the delusion that their way is fixed and there is no possibility for change.

On the other hand, a student with a growth mindset, while still potentially faced with struggles in math or other subjects, believes that they can work through the obstacles and come away better. On a wider scale, mindset can be a determining factor in whether a student sees herself or himself as an average student and persists at that level or a student sees their potential to grow and gain the skills necessary to succeed.

Exam Preparation with a Growth Mindset

In the exam preparation game, one of the biggest hurdles many students must clear early on is the idea that they can–and will–improve. A student who has gone through their educational career with a fixed mindset might see an initial score as an end. In my own experience, these are typically the students who look at a low categorical score on an ACT, for example, and respond with a proclamation such as “I’m bad at reading” or “I’m not good at math.”

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Huntington Can Help

At Huntington, our tutors work through the concepts a student needs to be successful on the test, but they also work to change a student’s mindset on the SAT/ACT when it comes to her or his own ability to improve. “I’m bad at math” becomes “I might still struggle with math, but I know I can work through it.” The result is not only an increased test score, but also an outlook on learning and success that will benefit that student in their academic career and beyond.