5 skills that can help students successfully navigate distance learning

Machele Kilgore knows a thing or two about distance learning.

Along with leading OCDE’s Community Home Education Program, which provides resources for parents who choose to educate younger children at home, she’s also principal of the department’s accredited Pacific Coast High School, which offers a blend of online courses and on-campus options for students.

Students in front of Pacific Coast High School
Established by OCDE in 1996, OCDE’s Pacific Coast High School operates like a community college, offering online courses and on-campus options in a variety of academic tracks for students who want something beyond the traditional high school experience.

So what advice does she have for families gearing up for round two of remote learning?

She encourages her PCHS students to focus on five key skills — time management, accountability, responsibility, communication and perseverance.

“These are some of the skills students should have experiences with,” says Kilgore, who launched PCHS in 1996 after teaching for several years at CHEP.

“Understanding that we learn just as much from a positive experience as we do from a challenging or unsuccessful experience,” she says. “Allowing for both opportunities, again with a growth mindset, is crucial.”

Here are her quick takes on each of these skills.

Time management

“Time management is a real-world experience with teenagers who may over-exaggerate time or underestimate time. Knowing how long projects may actually take, even the length of errands, is a very important skill. And a skill learned most often through personal experiences, both positive and negative.”


“Accountability comes before responsibility for me because I think one needs to understand what commitments are — and what the expectations are — in order to meet them.”


“Responsibility is understanding what is expected and carrying out those expectations with integrity. And owning the consequences of not meeting the expectations. Both are valuable learning experiences for the future — with an emphasis on ‘learning experiences.’ Not meeting expectations is not a permanent label.”


“Communication is crucial and is a skill we need to continually review. How one asks the right questions in the right way, how one communicates needs, or what a correct and/or complete response entails, are all important in successful communication.”


“Perseverance is what we learn when we are willing to take on a new challenge or difficult task. I always put this last in my explanation because if one has some time management abilities and good communication skills, then perseverance will generally pay off because the prior skills can often support the concept of perseverance. Having a growth mindset and a sense of perseverance sets the stage for how one pursues new learning experiences and challenges.”

With online and in-person instruction, and a range of academic tracks, Pacific Coast High is a WASC-accredited school that serves students throughout Orange County, offering A-G courses that meet UC and CSU requirements along with NCAA-approved courses for student-athletes. For information, visit pchs.k12.ca.us, or call 714-245-6500. For more information about OCDE’s Community Home Education Program, visit the CHEP website.