If you’re reading this, then congratulations: you’re about to embark on a unique, hugely rewarding journey.
You’ll be studying hard for your GCSE and A Level’s whilst making some brilliant new friends – and you’ll be doing this all online.
In this blog, we share our five top tips, taken from our time as experts in the field of online learning, to help you get the most out of the exciting months and years that lie ahead.
- how to manage screen time
- how to stay focused whilst self-studying – and keep it rigorous
- how to ‘be your own boss’ and reap the rewards this can bring
- how to maintain all the regular benefits associated with a traditional, bricks-and-mortar school
What is an “Online School”, and Why are they Relevant?
In an ideal world, an online school should be everything a regular school is – only its buildings, pupils, and teachers are connected online, rather than within a physical place.
At Minerva’s Virtual Academy, all your learning, lessons, homework, assemblies, after-school clubs – your social time and your studying time – it all takes place online.
Some online schools operate in a bit of a limbo – part-university, part e-learning platform – leaving you to work alone towards your exams. Some don’t offer after school clubs or personal mentoring.
At MVA, every pupil benefits from a throrough education with a personal touch. Plus, you’ll gain some very special skills that your peers in ‘traditional’ school won’t. You’ll learn how to manage your own timetable and become self-disciplined with your studies.
Many of us don’t suit an in-person school.
Online schools matter because they offer an alternative mode of education for those of us who want or need something different.
Which is fine.
In many ways, an online education can be far more stimulating and rewarding than attending a regular school.
You’ll meet brilliant new friends who come from all corners of the globe; you’ll come together to hang out and discuss thrilling ideas (see our World Changers programme), you’ll develop rare, world-relevant skills, and all this will happen whilst you’re at home, studying on your laptop.
How to Get the Most out of an Online School: 5 Top Tips
1. Design Your Days
One of the massive advantages you now have at your fingertips is the opportunity to be the architect of your own studying and working patterns.
Gone are the dull obligatory 9AM starts and 5PM finishes!
Are you a morning person? If so, front-load your work so the majority of your schooling day is done by lunch-time. A night-owl? Save your self-study till the evenings, when your brain comes alive.
Working online means you can tailor how, when and where you work to best suit you.
Your timetable still has plenty of lessons and school engagements throughout the week to help you stay focussed and motivated.
In the meantime, you can start to build your days in ways that suit you: whether that’s getting out and about after school, meeting friends between lessons, playing sports around your timetable, or travelling while you learn.
Finding the balance between self-study, timetabling and taking a “self-designed” approach will set you up in great stead for university, or for any step you take in life.
If you need help “Designing Your Days”, you can always ask your mentor, or Lawrence, our headmaster, and they’ll be able to suggest what they think the right approach could be for you.
2. Make Your Timetable Special
At Minerva’s Virtual Academy, you can add classes and subjects to suit you, taking on more or less of what you need.
You can also specialise in subjects not necessarily available at regular schools.
Want to get ahead in coding?
Learn mandarin? Specialise in law, Latin, critical thinking?
Want to prepare for advanced subjects like PPE at University?
Speak to your parents, then check with your mentor to see what your options are – that’s what they’re there for.
This specialisation also happens within your classes. Because you’re part of a small, friendly, integrated group of pupils, it’s easier to bring what you love to lessons, pursuing what’s specifically important or interesting to you within a given subject area. This helps connect learning to your world and lived experience
IDEA! We recommend keeping a small journal to help with “making your timetable special”. Keeping a record of what’s exciting you and what’s got you puzzling each day will help remind you how to focus your learning and join it up with what matters in everyday life.
3. Exchange Stories
Did you know that MVA currently has students enrolled from thirteen different countries around the world? Being part of an online school means experiencing the world from a truly global perspective. There’s as much to learn from your classmates, in this respect, as there is from your teachers! And they can learn from you, too.
Talking with other people who are learning online really helps: a problem shared is a problem solved. In particular, sharing a goal, daily aim or monthly ambition with a friend or family-member can be great for keeping you motivated and on track.
At MVA there are also weekly assemblies and after-school clubs like filmmaking, art and creative computing in which to come together, hang out and learn new skills. There’s even the weekly Worldchangers Programme, a unique, co-curricular cross-year group course about the big topics that matter right now.
Connecting with new friends over radical ideas and important issues might just mark the beginning of a lifelong partnership, be it the starting of a business, charity, social enterprise or creative endeavour.
4. Digital Detox
Because you’re spending a lot of time online, on your computer or logging into lessons via video call, it’s important to know when to switch off, unwind and get some downtime. It may sound obvious, but it’s important to remember: you need time offline to assimilate all the learning you’ve been doing online.
Getting outside, walking, exercising or meeting with friends are all great ways to let your brain rest and process everything it’s been taking in. Some good-old fashioned reading – reading around the topics you’ve been studying – is also an excellent way to detox from all that screen time.
For every hour you spend learning online, try to spend an hour doing something mindful, productive and relaxing. If you want to keep working, try making handwritten notes, instead of on a computer: the slow, deliberate action of writing, drawing and jotting helps settle a brain that’s been logged on all day.
5. Use Your Mentor
It’s not every school that offers you your own personal mentor, but online institutions like MVA do exactly that: assigning you someone who’s there to talk about everything and anything, from academic difficulties to timetabling troubles, motivation, focus, ambitions, hopes and dreams.
Our final top tip is to think outside the box and really take advantage of your mentor. Did you know they can also help with things like work placements, work experience or job and university applications?
Along with helping you with your school work, these amazing people will help you find the people, places and resources that will get you further with your passions and help you achieve what you want to do.
Keep talking, querying, asking for help: being online does not mean being alone.
Good luck! 🙂