The best online learning sites help kids develop reading, math and study skills while at the same time minimizing the time burden on parents.
Studies have shown that children who are not well above average in reading and math by grade 3 are unlikely to excel in school later on.
How can parents find the best online learning sites to help their kids academically during the elementary school years?
Parents have increasingly turned to online learning, and the best online learning sites are now available to families in their own home.
However, it’s important to select websites which will help your kids excel, and not just entertain them.
1. Reading skills. Reading skills enable almost all other learning. Kids that fall behind in reading, will tend to stay behind, as they will not have the toolset to learn effectively.
2. Math skills. Math, far more than any other subject, builds upon itself. Counting leads to addition which leads to multiplication and so on. Poor numeracy skills lead to increasing struggles each year and development of “math anxieties”.
3. Study skills. This is the ability to focus, work independently and overcome challenges. The correlation between success in school and early “self-regulation” skills is well established.
The best online learning sites emphasise reading and math skills above all else, and allow young kids to work independently, thus helping to develop study skills.
Here is what you should be looking for in the best online learning sites:
1. Education or “edutainment”? The “educational” label is applied to countless games and sites with very marginal educational benefit. What percentage of the time is your child working on truly educational material? If it is under 75%, move on.
2. Personalized or one size fits all? The best online learning sites adopt their lessons to your child’s skill set, not vice versa. If a program only offers ‘grade level’ activities, think again.
3. Is student performance tracked? Good online tools tract each child’s performance from one day to the next so that a natural progression is maintained and reports are provided to parents.
4. Is the material curricula-based? The best online learning sites are based on nationally recognized curricula; this ensures that you’re not missing important areas.
5. Is the site focused on reading and math? If not, take a pass.
6. Can kids work independently? Young children should be able to start and complete lessons on their own. It builds self-esteem, study skills and will save you a lot of time. The best online learning sites have simple interfaces and good audio instructions.
7. Does the site automatically select lessons each day? Given the option, kids will often repeat “easy” or “fun” lessons that they have already mastered. As a parent, you do not want to have to micro-manage every study session. The best online learning sites will choose lessons automatically, based on student aptitudes and past performance.
8. Are the lessons interactive? Look for sites which allow students to interact with the content even at the tutorial stage.
9. Is feedback immediate and meaningful? The best online learning sites reinforce correct answers and quickly correct wrong answers with encouragement to try again.
10. Are lessons broken into short segments? Make sure the program is structured to deliver ‘bite-sized’ learning.
11. Are there too many distractions? Avoid programs with advertisements or an overabundance of unnecessary graphics.
The best online learning sites fit into your family’s lifestyle and time constraints.
Kids will only benefit from regular study over the long term.
At K5 Learning, it’s our belief that most parents are extremely busy, and that programs which minimize the time burden on parents (through assessment, automatic lesson selection, student tracking, reporting, etc.) have the best chance of being sustained in the long term.
Asa Zanatta is Chief Mom Officer at K5 Learning, an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. K5 allows kids to work independently, at their own skill level, and at their own pace, through over 3,000 award winning multi-media activities.
K5 Learning’s 14 day free trial includes free reading and math assessments and full access to K5, considered to be one of the best online learning sites for kids.