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Communication & Collaboration for Families

“Education is a shared commitment between dedicated teachers, motivated students, and enthusiastic parents with high expectations.”

Bob Beauprez

Hear tips for communication and collaboration during online learning from Iowa students


Online learning can provide flexibility and access to high quality courses. There are some unique features of online learning that require attention in order to be a positive experience for students, families, and teachers.

  • Online learning is a shared commitment between students, families, and teachers.
  • Online learning works best when there are clear expectations, timelines, and opportunities to collaborate.
  • Screen time and independent work time require an intentional focus on building strong social-emotional skills and, especially in the case of full-time online learning, self-care.
  • Each district, school, and teacher will outline local expectations in addition to these guidelines.

The guide below offers some general tips for families. It is important to understand that these tips are not intended to address specific accommodations or modifications for individual students or to replace local expectations.

Feedback about online learning was gathered from a broad base of students, families, teachers, and administrators. The topics in each guide were identified as needs during a series of virtual forums and a statewide survey conducted by the Iowa Department of Education. 

Communication and Collaboration Guides

The guide below is organized by the following topics:

  • Communication,
  • Feedback,
  • Connecting/Collaborating, and 
  • Seeking Support.

It may be helpful to use an online readiness checklist to see what areas each student will need for support. “Readiness” should not be used to exclude participation in online learning; the checklist may be used to enhance areas of support or instruction during the online learning experience.

Tips for Families


  • Ask the teacher what to use (phone, text, email) if you need help asap. Teachers might give multiple ways to contact them and knowing the one they check most often would be helpful.
  • Likewise, let the teacher know how you prefer to be contacted- text, phone, email.
  • Find out if there is a login or website the teacher wants parents/families to use. Ask for a video meeting to set that up, if you want. 


  • Find out how often you should check on your student’s assignments. If there is a place online, ask for help getting to that place.
  • Ask where your student is supposed to look up what is missing, what is turned in, and what is graded. Does the teacher encourage them to ask their friends or classmates for help?
  • Ask the teacher how you will be notified if there are academic or other concerns.

Connecting/Collaborating- with the Teacher

  • Ask for expectations for the class in writing or by email; things like meeting times, due dates for work, and how much time the student should schedule outside of meetings.
  • If you have concerns about the content or timeliness of a teacher’s response to your questions, keep trying. Reach out and include another person at the school if possible, like the secretary. Without face-to-face interaction, it is hard to know if technology is the problem (messages went missing) or if the message feels differently than it was intended.
  • Reach out to the teacher if the same things keep coming up for your student (something is hard, they seem unmotivated, the work is taking a really long time, etc).

Connecting/Collaborating- with Your Student

  • Create a comfortable work space if possible with easy access to the things the student needs (like plug-ins for tech). 
  • Try to minimize distractions and noise during online time. Headphones while online or quiet background music during schoolwork time can help, if available. 
  • Take a quick break or walk away from schoolwork if things are getting tense while interacting with your student. Try to make a plan for coming back- just doing one thing at a time, or starting with something easy. 
  • If you are good with calendars, schedules, or to-do lists- create some with your student for online time and schoolwork when not online. (Don’t forget breaks and time with friends or other social activities).

Seeking Support

  • Find out what technology or computer stuff your student needs to use- slide decks, video cameras, recording tools- etc. Who should you contact if those are not working?
  • If your student seems to be arguing more than usual, it’s ok to step away. It’s also a good idea to point to the things the teacher expects- so it isn’t just coming from you.
  • Provide support for your student but don’t give the answers. If it feels ok, praise the effort not the results- for example, “I can see you have been working hard” instead of “They all look right (or wrong).”
  • Also, instead of giving the answer, ask questions like, “Where would you go to find that answer?”
  • Give yourself credit for doing your best job. If you know other families taking online classes, it’s ok to ask how they handle things and vent if needed.

Helpful Outside Resources

Iowa Core Parent Guides: The Iowa Core Parent Guides, in English and Spanish, were developed to provide an overview of what students will learn by the end of each grade level as directed by the Iowa Core, our statewide academic standards. A guide was developed for each grade level kindergarten through grade 8 and one for high school students. Guides include a brief overview of what will be learned in each subject area of the Iowa Core, examples of what your child's work at school may look like, and examples of how you can help your child at home.


These tips are not meant to address specific accommodations or modifications for individual students and they are not intended to replace specific information from local schools.