COVID-19 has upended many of our normal routines, including education. It seems clear that this fall, most school districts will be offering students two options – learn entirely at home in a virtual campus, or attend in-person classes on a rotating basis with online learning, knowing those in-person classes will require social distancing, masks and other virus-related preventative measures. This is our new normal for the coming semester.

At the outset, we should note how this learning environment will challenge students.

First, for those that attend some in-person classes, it will be difficult to maintain complete focus. The class itself will look different – fewer people, sitting apart, and at times without any of your regular friends. The teacher may be hard to understand because she wears a mask. And yes, many will be concerned about catching the virus.

Second, for those in virtual learning or partly remote sessions, class becomes more like an online college course, with videos to watch online, material to digest alone without much help from the teacher, and exams to submit under a camera eye. Maintaining focus and organization and motivation will be a real challenge, especially when the bed may be just feet away.

Given this set of concerns, how can students maximize learning outcomes?

First, all students need to get better at what psychologists call “executive functioning” skills – essentially skills like organization, time management and critical thinking – that allow a student to master a mostly independent learning environment. But many students have not learned or mastered these skills. They will feel particularly stressed.

Time management and organization takes some work to develop, but students can begin to think of their day as if they were actually in school. What would happen? They would have scheduled learning blocks. Following that schedule during the day will help with both time management and organization, as it gives a ready-made template for what to do and when. Also, it will help focus, because students will know what to expect as the hours pass. For organization, have material ready for each class, in folders, and keep a running list of due dates and assignments and questions you have about the material. Routine is critical in this process – treating something unusual as something ordinary and approachable.

The biggest hurdle many students may face will be the absence of regular teacher interaction. It will be difficult to reach the teacher when having virtual sessions; many teachers may schedule appointments but will be limited by time and other teaching responsibilities. In this situation, one thing students can do is form a learning pod with several other classmates to help one another figure new material out and communicate info learned from the teacher.

We at Mackler Associates recognize how difficult this fall semester will be for many students. For nearly forty years, we have been providing one-on-one instruction in subject matter tutoring, as well as evaluating and teaching executive functioning skills critical to academic success, and doing so in a manner tailored to the student’s unique learning style. We are offering similar programs this fall, both in-person and remotely, and encourage students and parents to contact us for additional information on these programs and how we can help you in particular.

We at Mackler Associates have anticipated the coming challenges and are here and ready to help. Please contact us at (314) 434-4431 or