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Successful Online Learning

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, July 28, 2016 Byline:  by Danika McClure

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"Learning in an online environment is quite the adjustment if you've never experienced the platform before."

Distance learning is a trend that has rapidly expanded in recent years. Reports by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System indicate that nearly 5.5 million had enrolled in at least one online course in 2012, and an additional 2.6 million students were enrolled in fully online programs—and there’s significant evidence that suggests this number will only continue to increase in years to come, some even arguing that schools might someday be completely online. Online courses are even becoming more common in high schools and for professional development.

While online classrooms offer students flexibility, increased contact with professors and teachers, and additional time to review course materials, online learning is not without its own challenges. In fact, the learning in an online environment is quite an adjustment if you’ve never experienced the platform before, and special preparations are necessary in order to avoid online learning mistakes.

If you are considering pursuing a degree, or even taking a few courses in an online learning platform, here are a three essential steps you can take to ensure your success.

Step One: Plan and Stick to a Schedule

While online courses do offer students flexibility, it’s important that students create and stick to a reliable schedule for completing their coursework. As you grow to understand the expectations for your courses, take note of how long it takes you to understand the reading material, how long and how frequently you are expected to participate in group discussions, and how long completing exams and quizzes takes you.

Once you have a grasp of this information, spread the workload out throughout your week, month, and semester, so you have enough time to complete the coursework before major due dates and exams.

Step Two: Make the Most of Online Group Discussions

Without being a part of the traditional classroom, students can feel isolated or feel like they’re going through the process alone. Participating in online discussions and chat rooms is the easiest way to beat the isolation blues, and can give you added insight into the thoughts of your peers. Some professors go so far as to argue that online engagement can be even more  productive than an in- person environment.

“They’re very dynamic discussions. In a class of 12 people, we might have a discussion question on reading a particular article of how a business has developed a sustainability plan…And out of 12 students, there’ll be a hundred different comments…they’re extensive,” notes Paul Ventura, Acting Director of the School of Business at Marylhurst University. “Our students are literally talking books. They’re bringing in resources. They’re bringing in links to videos–things that you can’t do in a spontaneous classroom.”

Step Three: Optimize Your Workspace

Online learning can be done in nearly any location, but optimizing your workspace will allow you to fully immerse yourself in learning materials and make the most of your busy schedule. Try to locate a quiet, dedicated space where you can surround yourself with no distractions.

Online learning also comes with the temptation to view distracting websites. In order to remain productive during your study hours, try using extensions or apps to block distracting websites.

The expanding presence of online learning is certainly exciting for students of all ages who are looking for more flexible, accessible, and affordable learning opportunities. For many students, however, learning in an online platform requires a new, unfamiliar set of skills, as well as a level of autonomy not found in a traditional setting. By simply keeping these three tips in mind, any student will be well prepared to transition into this new, exciting environment.  

About the Author:

Danika McClure

Danika McClure is a writer from the Northwest who enjoys covering politics and the future of education. She sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl   



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Tags:  distance learning education learning style online classroom online courses online learning

Tips for Parents: Working with Your LBLD Student, Part 3

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Sunday, May 15, 2016

mother and daughter at computer

By Gail Kent

Homework: Importance and Procedures for Success

Ever have difficulty figuring out how to help your child with homework? Why is homework so important anyway?

Homework is used to reinforce skills and information learned during class time. It is important for students because it allows them to further interact with material and repeat learned skills. In addition, it readies them to perform independent work after high school. Below are some best practices for homework completion:

Establish a consistent time and place for homework completion. Use a desk, the dining room/kitchen table, or someplace with a hard writing surface.

Set up the homework completion area for success:

  • Be consistent
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Maintain homework tools:
    • pencils, pens, colored pencils, highlighters
    • paper
    • tape, glue stick
    • hole punch, scissors
    • ruler, calculator
    • miscellaneous items that your student may need

Monitor but don't get involved in the routine completion of homework. The goal is for your student to become independent. While students may need more direct help to set up a routine at the beginning of the school year, slowly decrease your support.

Learn the work cycle of your student and when students need a break. Breaks can happen at certain time intervals or after certain goals are accomplished. Just make sure breaks are taken before students reach points of frustration.

Give positive feedback. Make a point to talk about the things your student is doing well and praise their effort not just their accomplishments.

Expectations. Talk to your student about getting to know their teachers' expectations. Each teacher may have a slight variation of their expectations. Make sure your student knows what these are. If a teacher does not provide a hand-out at the beginning of the year (or for each assignment) listing basic expectations, encourage your student to ask for one.

Use the notes. If your student doesn't understand something, encourage them to look in their notes. Notes are the best way to get information from what happened in class. Asking your student to reference their notes encourages them to take better notes, see potential places they could improve their note-taking, and become more independent learners.

It's still not working. If students still have questions, encourage them to email their teacher.

Don't do it for them! 

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Gail Kent, an academic advisor, has been a teacher and tutor at Landmark for 20 years.

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What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability?

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Wednesday, November 15, 2017

teacher and girl student working at table

What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability? Five Part Series launched the five-part series What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability? to define and explain Language-Based Learning Disabilities (LBLD), offer tips on remediation, highlight the importance of early intervention, and give readers a glimpse into the life a family with a child with LBLD.

Read these posts and give us feedback. We're eager to know what you think.

Part One: What We Know About LBLD and Learning, by Bob Broudoflame
Part Two: Language-Based Learning Disabilities: A Primer, by Melody O'Neil
Part Three: Help Your Struggling Learner: Remediation Is a Key to Success, by Christine Ozahowski
Part Four: It's a Myth That Young Children Cannot Be Screened for Dyslexia, by Nadine Gaab, PhD
Part Five: Language-Based Learning Disabilities on the Homefront, by Angela Timpone Gowans


brilliance award winner icon's post by Bob Broudo about LBLD and Learning won a 2017 Gold InspirED School Marketers Brilliance Award in the national competition that recognizes excellence in private and independent school marketing and communications.

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Writing the College Essay

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Tuesday, June 20, 2017 Byline:  By Suzanne Crossman

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

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"Summer is a great time for students to begin the essay-writing process, when they aren't juggling academics, extracurriculars, and college applications."

Writing the college essay is a demanding and often overwhelming task for students. Summer is a great time for students to begin the essay-writing process, when they aren't juggling academics, extracurriculars, and college applications. Parents can help guide students through this process by providing some direct instruction.

What is the purpose of the essay?

  • Give students a chance to share their story
  • Allow colleges to get to know a student beyond the numbers of SATs and GPA

If the student has a learning disability should they write about it?

Students are not required to disclose their learning disability in their college application. However, for many students their learning disability is a significant part of their story. If students want to write about their educational journey, support them in this process. Encourage students to focus on what they have learned about themselves and the tools they have gained to help them succeed in the future. Facing and persevering with a learning disability demonstrates a level of resilience that colleges want to see.

What are the parameters of the essay?

The Common Application essay is the most widely used by students. This essay must be at least 350 words but no more than 650. Be sure to look at the Common Application essay prompts. In 2017, an "essay of your choice" has been added so there is flexibility on what a student can write.

How can I help my student get started?

A great activity will to be read some sample essays and critique them.

    • Discuss what works and what does not work.
    • How did the writer introduce the essay?
    • What anecdotes were used?
    • How did the anecdote connect to the theme of the essay?
    • How did the writer show versus tell?
    • What did you learn about the writer?

The following websites offer a variety of sample essays. Each site includes critiques from admissions professionals. Select a few of these to review prior to writing.

Some general suggestions for writing the essay

    • Think about the story you want to share with colleges. You can’t share your entire life story, so narrow your focus.
    • Find an opening that works well.  
    • Include one detailed personal anecdote and connect that to your larger theme.  
    • Be authentic, be honest, be don’t have to be perfect!
    • Unlike a formal academic essay, this is one of those times that you can have more flexibility with the structure.
    • Unlike a research paper, you can use “I.”  This is a personal essay.
    • Plan to write at least four drafts of the essay.
    • While length will be important, don’t focus too much on that during the draft phase. Get your ideas down. It is easier to shorten a long essay than to expand a short one!
    • Proofread, proofread, proofread!
    • Once you have proofread your essay, put it aside for a few weeks and then come back to it with fresh eyes. You will see changes you want to make that don’t appear when you look at it every day.
    • This should NOT be a narrative of your résumé. You will have other places to share that information. 

The Process

Step 1: Review the prompts

  • Think about them. Make sure you understand what they are asking. Talk about them.  

Step 2:  Do some free-writing

  • Try writing on several of the prompts and journal your ideas. See what comes to mind. Think about what topics you'd like to write about.

Step 3:  Select the prompt and outline your ideas.   

  • Decide what your theme will be.
  • Think about one specific anecdote/story you can use to highlight your theme.

Step 4: Write a first draft

Step 5: First proof

  • Focus on structure
    • Does your essay respond to the prompt?
    • Is there a clear theme that you communicate?
    • Do you have a strong introduction and conclusion?
    • Do you have appropriate transitions?
    • Do your paragraphs support your theme?
    • Do you have examples?
    • Did you show and not tell?
    • Is the tone appropriate to the setting?

Step 6: Second draft/proof

  • Focus on paragraphs
    • Is there any repetition or extraneous details that need to be eliminated?
    • Are your sentences strong and specific?
    • Do you include detail?

Step 7 Third draft/proof

  • Focus on sentences
    • Is the word choice appropriate?
    • Is the language strong?
    • Do you use a variety of sentences?
    • Are the sentences complete?

Step 8: Final Draft and Proof

  • Focus on grammar, spelling and punctuation
    • Double check word count (no more than 650!)
    • Double check spelling. DO NOT rely solely on spell check
    • Read the essay backwards to check sentence structure


​About the Author:

Suzanne Crossman

​ Suzanne Crossman is head of the Guidance Department at Landmark School.

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Making the Most of Your Summer

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Tuesday, May 16, 2017 Byline:  By Kerri Coen

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities. 

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Tips for Rising Seniors & Their Parents

Rising seniors will be busy this fall exploring many different post-secondary options. Students and parents can work together over the summer to prepare for this process—and make it less stressful once school starts. Take a look at these tips that will give your student a jump-start on post-graduation planning.

"Post-secondary education and transition should be a conversation, but not the only conversation!"


Set aside time to talk:

  • Make a plan to talk more in depth about the post-secondary planning process each week to make sure everyone is on the same page. Try to avoid discussing the topic up on a daily basis. Post-secondary education and transition should be a conversation, but not the only conversation!
  • Talk openly about your student’s interests, wants, and needs after high school. 

Set parameters that will help narrow the search:

  • ​​​​Is there a distance that the student and family are comfortable with?
  • Does the student prefer an urban, suburban, or rural environment?
  • How will school be financed? Does this influence the options?

Visit a variety of schools (size, geography):

  • Together, come up with a list of questions that are important for the student.
  • Make sure to visit the office of disability services. Most likely, this will not be a stop on the official tour. Students should arrange to visit or set up a separate meeting with the office.

Encourage your student to work on a draft of a personal essay if they have not yet started one:

  • Look at the Common Application prompts and see what one seems to fit. Try to return to school with a draft done so that you can begin the editing process.

Decide if ACT or SAT prep is right for the summer:

  • Are you applying to mostly test-optional schools?
  • Will test prep get in the way of other important opportunities?
  • Khan Academy is a great online resource that you can use for test prep on your own time.

Think about scheduling cognitive and achievement testing:

  • This needs to be done within three years of post-secondary enrollment in order for students to get accommodations in higher education.

Students should reach out to non-school personnel to ask for letters of recommendations. 

  • Summer Program teacher or a former supervisor are options. The letters will be easier to get now as opposed to waiting until the fall.

Make sure to have a summer activity:

  • Whether it's taking an art class, playing a sport, working, or traveling, students should spend some of their time in an activity that allows them to gain more independence and real-world experience.

Support your students through the process, but let them take the driver's seat.  This is great practice for the transition from high school to post-secondary education.

The world of college admissions

Looking to make your application stand out in a creative way? Check out Zeemee. Students can create their own personal profiles with pictures, videos, and bios. Some colleges will allow students to turn in their profiles with their applications.  


Check out Raise Me: Students can earn micro-scholarships to certain schools based on their everyday activities. These are optional components to applying to schools and are not for everyone.  If students want to pursue these options it will be up to them to manage them. For more resources, please check out Landmark School’s Office of Guidance and Transition’s page on the Landmark website.


About the Author:

kerri coen

Kerri Coen is a guidance counselor at Landmark High School.

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Executive Function 101: Information

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This is the third post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time. The second addresses managing materials, the fourth achieving independence, and the fifth finding balance between school and extra-curricular activities.

Teaching students how to organize class content and assignments will help them manage their workload, reduce stress, and achieve academic success.

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Download these templates.

Managing the flow of incoming and outgoing information is at the root of why study skills are so valuable and effective. Students benefit immensely when teachers show students how to:

  • Pre-read using headings and subheadings in textbooks, write two-column notes to identify the main idea or topic, and take time to include supporting details.
  • Actively read by highlighting, using sticky notes, and jotting notes in the margins.
  • Learn to write a summary and follow a structured template for the five-step writing process. (Download the template.)
  • Predict test questions and employ a variety of test-taking strategies to teach students how to manage the large volume of information related to their academics.

Two-Column Note-taking

Two-column notes are a way for students to extract the main ideas from the supporting details of a selection or lesson. Students are often asked to fold their piece of paper in half down the length of the sheet to create a useable format for note-taking. When done correctly, these notes are helpful in studying for tests and writing papers.



“In all of our classes we teach content but never without first teaching the skills necessary to access this content.” — Robin Day-Laporte, Director of the Landmark High School Study Skills Department


  • Use two-column notetaking.
  • Utilize templates.
  • Pre-read text to become familiar with the content.
  • Set up well-marked electronic and paper filing systems.
  • Clean and sort files and folders regularly.


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Executive Function 101: Materials

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Materials for school

This is the second post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time, the third addresses managing information, the fourth achieving independence, and the fifth finding balance between school and extra-curricular activities.

Managing the countless print and digital materials for school and work can be overwhelming, but a simple process and plan will help.

Setting up systems to manage paper materials (binders, dividers, reserve folders, portfolios, etc.) and electronic materials (naming and storing files and folders, submitting work through course management platforms such as Google Classroom and CANVAS) are skills that should be taught in ALL subject areas to help students tackle academic and extracurricular responsibilities and to learn productively. Not all students can figure this out on their own, so it's important to takePrepared for class the time to teach these habits and reinforce them in all courses.

"We use cueing and guiding to get students to use the tools at their disposal. For example, I might say, ‘Based on our agenda, what materials will we need for class today?’ Relying on Landmark’s Teaching Principles™, we model effective strategies across all academic subjects and provide opportunities for our students to practice skills until they become automatic—second nature."    —Deirdre Mulligan, Elementary Science/Social Studies Department Head/Elementary•Middle School Training Coordinator


  • Set up binders, tabs, and pockets for each class.
  • Write down key words in an assignment notebook, and mark off tasks. Use a clip to identify current day/week.
  • Build time into the day to “clean and sort” these materials.
  • Use color coding.
  • Make daily and weekly checklists and review them throughout the day/week/month.
Ready for school checklist
Download the Ready-for-School Checklist and Reminder List.



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Pending Dyslexia Legislation in Massachusetts

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Monday, March 5, 2018 Byline:  By Nancy Duggan, MA. S.C.

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Decoding Dyslexia Massachusetts (DD-MA) began a campaign in 2012 to raise dyslexia awareness across the state through collaboration with parents, educators, and neuroscience researchers. The effort has made steady progress in building dyslexia awareness in the parent, educator, and policy-maker communities.

Since 2013, dyslexia legislation in Massachusetts has come further along than ever before.

Initiating Legislative Action

One of DD-MA’s goals goals has been to initiate legislative changes that would help students get early services by providing the scientific context for dyslexia and the need for early identification. The legislative process in Massachusetts includes a two-year session. We have worked together to navigate the process. Public Dyslexia Hill Days, private meetings, and multiple public hearings have provided legislators with:

  • an understanding of the challenges that families face,
  • the need for educators and students to get support,
  • the relevant neuroscience research that supports our mission.

Dyslexia legislation has come further along the path than ever before. The 2016–2018 legislative session started with four proposed bills, H.330, H.2872, S.294, and S.313, that can be called “dyslexia legislation” pertaining to education. These bills were supported, in combination, by over 50 different members of the Massachusetts 190th General Court, the official title of the State Legislature. Special thanks goes out to the initial sponsors who drafted this legislation, Rep. Alice Peisch of Wellesley and Rep. Chris Walsh of Framingham, chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Joint Committee on Education; Sen. Bruce Tarr and Sen. Barbara L’Italien; and the legislators who petitioned alongside them. The vibrant team of DD-MA students, parents, educators, and neuroscience researchers are responsible for calling attention to this issue as a passionate, respectful, and informed team of advocates for improved outcomes, and these legislators are working together to take action.

The Legislative Process

The legislative process in Massachusetts requires a hearing, which took place on July 11, 2017.  Families joined a powerful team of experts who explained to the legislators in live testimony and with written testimony the need for dyslexia legislation, particularly the importance of early screening and identification, a clear and accurate understanding in schools of what dyslexia is, and that evidenced-based instruction, teacher training and professional development are needed. DD-MA worked with families across the state and multi-disciplinary experts to ensure that the testimony was scientifically sound, broad-based, including social-emotional outcomes, academic outcomes, and teacher, educator, and administrator support.

Whats Next?

DD-MA is very pleased that the Joint Committee on Education has released legislation favorably that addresses dyslexia and early screening. Both the House and the Senate will consider the same version in each chamber. When the new draft language is public, it will be posted on the Massachusetts State Legislature website. Once the redrafted bills, with new numbers, are made public, the clerk will also post which committee will be next to consider the legislation. For the time being, parents, students, and educators can continue to advocate for dyslexia awareness and the need for the legislation to pass by building a positive and informed relationship with your State Representative, State Senator, and their legislative staff.  Share with them your personal story and express interest in the outcome of dyslexia legislation.

Follow DD-MA on Facebook:

Nancy Duggan is the Executive Director of Decoding Dyslexia Massachusetts.

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