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10 Ways to Give Real-World Experience to High School Students with Virtual Learning


Virtual learning has taken the world by storm. Before 2020, online or virtual learning was for the select few homeschooled children, people earning degrees from universities or ill students. But now, almost everyone is on the virtual learning train.

When it comes to high school education, virtual learning can be tricky. The high school years are meant to equip students with the tools to thrive in adulthood. Virtual learning may strip high school students of the opportunity to experience some real-world situations. Real-world experience doesn't mean racing through the halls to make it to class on time. It is more of making genuine connections, researching tricky subjects, doing real-life simulated projects, etc.

It may be hard to give high school students a flour or egg baby to parent for a month, but there are still some ways to provide them with that real-world experience through virtual learning. We've compiled a list of ten ways to give high school students real-world experience during virtual learning.

1. Use Documentaries and Other Videos

With virtual learning, you can't push in a cart with a tv and a DVD of a documentary from the early 2000s. Instead, find a documentary available freely on YouTube or a safe free streaming site and add it to the learning materials.

It could be a documentary on social media use, the monetary system in the US, vaccines, slavery, or the fast fashion industry. These documentaries have real-world applications but are still linked to school topics and subjects.

2. Invite a Guest Speaker

The good thing about virtual learning is that anyone can be a guest speaker. All they need is the Zoom link to the class. With virtual learning, the guest speaker can be anybody from anywhere.

Pick a guest speaker you have access to. It could be a celebrity, a school alumnus, an expert in their field, or an influencer. Find a speaker with enough allure to high school students but with real-world experience to impart wisdom and knowledge of life after high-school.

3. Assign Real-World Research Projects

Instead of vague text-book research, give your students real-world research projects. For example, make students plan a trip to a historically significant place. Students would need to study the site's history, find places to eat and sleep, budget out travel expenses, etc. They would use their results, thoughts, and processes to tie them into what they are studying in school. A project like this would ensure the students engage with the lesson content and still build a good foundation for the real world.

4. Assign an Immersive Project

After a research project, the next best thing is an immersive project. Instead of asking students to present facts, give them a scenario that is in line with the learning.

For example, in English class, each student will be assigned a part of the book to act out. It isn't a play, but they get to immerse themselves in the theme and the book's events to better grasp the material. Students will then need to present live or even create a short video to turn in of their immersive project.

5. Have a Game Day

Use games to teach both the subject matter and real-world experiences. Games can teach money management, project management, business planning and building, historical preservation, creativity, and critical thinking. When using games to teach, make sure they are educational and safe for students. Only use reputable sites that have been approved through your administration and have a real purpose for your students in their learning.

6. Re-work World Problems into Word Problems

Instead of the standard "John bought 15 apples" problem, use current events to tailor-make your word problems. Using real-world problems, trending media reports, and even entertainment media will help your students connect with their work. Avoid using political news to avoid politics spilling into the classroom unless it's relevant to the lesson.

7. Use Observational Learning

Observational learning is a great way to bring the real-world into the classroom and encourage individual learning. Bring in a pet or small child and have the students observe them and describe it as a written assignment. Or ask them to watch a 20-minute video and write down their observations regarding the week's learning material. It could be how to handle conflict, the significance of accurate data, how to deal with disappointment, or even money management. Students could also observe the world around their home and report back the flora and fauna if that relates to the learning.

8. Invite Students to Share Ideas

Short on-the-spot presentations are a big part of the real world. You can give the class a lesson then assign them to present a 2-minute small presentation on their best idea or conclusions related to the subject matter. Small, impromptu presentations will keep your students on their toes since they will not know when this assignment will arise. Impromptu presentations are also a great way to get your students talking in front of the class and to summarize the day's topic.

9. Get Students Involved Outside the Classroom

Just because students are doing virtual learning does not mean they are living virtual life. Encourage students to get outdoors, exercise, interact with their family, or volunteer when available. Tailor projects and other various assignments to encourage your students to be more involved in life outside the virtual classroom.

In some areas, extracurricular activities may be available such as sports and even some school clubs. When possible, encourage students to get involved in these activities.

10. Check-in with Students

Virtual learning is challenging and has been a hard transition for many students and teachers alike. Use your virtual classroom to connect with your students. Let them know that you are there and that you care. They are dealing with a real-world problem and have adapted their life to a new way of learning.

Check-in with them, teach them to check-in with each other and with themselves. Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being when learning virtually.

Written by Joy Makennah

Education World Contributor

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