How to Boost Student-Teacher Engagement During Remote Learning


Giving students a personal desk-chair setup at home can improve focus, and that benefits everyone – learners, teachers, school districts and parents.


Most school administrators know the role quality classroom furniture has on improving learning engagement. Now, during a global pandemic that has forced remote learning, it’s no surprise that replicating a similar desk-chair setup for students in their homes may bring similar results.
Schools districts are paying attention. Some have begun using emergency funds to give every hybrid learner or distance learner in the district a new school desk and chair for keeps. The goal: To create a dedicated physical space – beyond the cluttered kitchen table or too-comfy family couch – that fosters the most engaging distance-learning experience.
To meet the need, K–12 furniture leader Smith System is offering schools special desk and seating packages for their virtual-learning students. (More on that in a bit.)  Here’s why it makes sense for students, teachers, schools and parents.


How Students Benefit

• Improves Learning

A more focused and engaged student is a better learner. Right now, students need every ounce of extra support to prevent COVID-19 slide.
The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Urban Education Institute offers a snapshot of what that challenge looks like for districts today. According to the institute’s survey of participating San Antonio schools, 54% of high school students said their lessons were less engaging during remote learning. Meanwhile, 64% of high school students and parents of younger students reported that less learning occurred compared with pre-pandemic schooling.
Creating a specific routine and spot for distance learning can help, reports, an early education nonprofit. Where kids do their virtual learning matters, not just the square footage limitations of a home or apartment.
“At the end of the day, it is most important to show your child that you value learning enough to give it a consistent place in your home.”


• Kick-Starts the School Day

Kids and teens often work best in a separate area they associate with school time. That’s because our brains associate spaces (a classroom, a desk or table) and sensory feedback (the sound of a morning bell, the rush of students streaming in) with certain activities. Without those, kids can feel rudderless.
Creating a classroom space at home is a close second to having a reliable school-issued laptop and WiFi access. The very act of sitting down to a desk and tucking in a chair is the “moment” when school begins; it activates the learning mindset and establishes some normalcy.


• Encourages Owning (and Organizing) the Learning Space

This is good time for students to own their individual learning style. They must confront their distractions, from toys to texting. They must figure out where and how they learn best, separate from siblings or family members chatting in their own virtual classrooms or meetings.
Having a personalized desk and chair, whether in a bedroom corner or hallway closet, is a great way for students to stake out their learning territory. That doesn’t mean they can’t move around. Many experts recommend having different spots for learning at home – a desk for focused work, the dining room table for projects, and a quiet nook for reading. Yet, that’s all the more reason for a personal desk. It becomes a home base to keep free-range learning organized.


• Safeguards Ergonomics, Increases Comfort

Students need a comfortable seat if they’re going to sit still and focus for extended periods. While it may be cozy to take notes in bed or login from a cool fort, an ergonomic desk-chair setup is crucial for posture and to instill good habits, said Sari Ockner, a pediatric occupational therapist in Los Angeles. For example, “If [kids] don’t have proper body position when writing, [they] have to work harder.”
To fit growing bodies, right-sized, adjustable desk-chair setups are best. Ideally, the products will grow with the student through the years. The desk should be at or slightly below resting elbow height. Chair height should keep feet firmly planted on the floor.


How Teachers Benefit

• Reduces real-life challenges

Computers freeze. The Internet crashes. Background noise sabotages a lesson. Distance learning has intensified the challenges teachers face connecting with students and getting them to participate – while supporting parents and guardians, too.
Having more focused, engaged students goes a long way to lighten a teacher’s load. According to a recent New York Times opinion article, the pandemic has underscored that “Teachers are among the most vital, hardest-working, passionate and selfless members of the workforce.”


• Conserves limited time

Remote learning can be exhausting for teachers. A student who is more focused, organized and comfortable (at an “official” desk and chair) enables teachers to work more effectively and efficiently in the virtual classroom and in one-on-one sessions


 How School Districts Benefit

Equitizes Learning

The pandemic is exacerbating the huge gaps in learning equity. Giving all students the same tools, including school furniture, can make a massive difference in helping at-risk kids keep pace with their classmates in the future.


Protects Devices

Schools practicing remote learning have shifted from carts of devices kept inside schools to 1-to-1 computing. Likewise, school districts rushed to give millions of students laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks to take home. But that created a new problem.
“Buying devices is the easy part,” said William Fritz, the technology director for Sycamore Community Schools outside Cincinnati, Ohio. “The hard part is the day-to-day management of the devices and keeping track of where they are.” The Greenville County, S.C., school system made headlines when it revealed that it had been trying to recover nearly 5,000 of the more than 58,000 Chromebooks that officials there distributed when the pandemic closed schools.
It could be that something as basic as a personal student desk can help kids and teens take pride in storing and protecting their devices.


How Parents Benefit

Reduces financial strain

Families are under a lot of pressures, including financial. School-issued devices and shoring up WiFi is great. But students still need a physical space at home to park their laptop, focus and get to work. Schools that can give students a new desk and chair ease the financial strain on struggling families.

Localizes learning

It’s hard for busy parents, many who are trying to work from home themselves, to supervise one or more kids doing remote learning. Giving students a centralized spot makes it easier for parents to keep on eye things.


Smith System’s Virtual Learning Package

Giving students a personal desk and chair won’t solve every pandemic-learning woe. But Smith System believes it’s a start.
Our virtual-learning package includes one desk and two chair options. The Silhouette Student desk has an elegant design, durability and functionality. It’s stable and strong, with two backpack pegs and three color options (linen, boardwalk oak and high rise).
Smith’s three seating options include the popular Flavors and Groove stack chairs (in five colors: cerulean, Persian blue, apple, charcoal and black) and the Oodle stool (in three colors: cerulean, charcoal and gray).
Flavors is a four-position classroom chair that offers maximum flexibility in seating options and movement. Students can face front, back, or either side. Torsional flex in the seatback and a flat seat pan lets learners freely adjust their posture  with less restriction.
Oodle is a fun stool made of stackable cylinders and an inventive rocker base that allows the student to add or remove wobble. Students just flip the base over to switch between sitting flat and sitting with movement (great for fidgeters). It supports therapist Sari Ockner’s recommendation to have a child sit on a “wiggle seat” if they have trouble staying still and focused.


We’re Here to Help Schools Boost Engagement

Though students may not have brick-and-mortar learning for a while, they can benefit from having school desk and seating at home. So can teachers, schools and parents. After all, it takes a village to maximize remote learning in these socially distanced times. Smith System is here to help furnish the village. No matter where it is.