February 2, 2021
Read Time: 5 minutes
As an overworked Junior in college, my first reaction to classes moving online was “YES! I get to lay in bed for class!” I quickly realized that this was not all positive, and that I would likely struggle a lot more outside of the classroom due to the lack of formal structure and the inherent disconnect that would come with online learning. However, after a few weeks of online classes, I have come up with a few tips that have helped me immensely:
A planner, a printable schedule template, or Google calendar are absolutely essential. For each class, identify what you need to do and when you’re going to do it. Creating a regular schedule for your coursework will allow you some sense of rhythm and normalcy. It will also ensure that you are on top of all the different learning modalities that are being used. Scheduling out your days ensures that you know when you need to be present for synchronous instruction, to attend online office hours, or do digital group work. All these still exist and matter, even if you’re partaking behind a computer screen.
Research has shown that it’s easier to recall information if you’re in the same place where you first learned it, so it can be a good idea to create a dedicated work space at home. However, being that you are likely to be stuck at home, it’s important to get a little variety in the spaces you are spending large amounts of time in, less you develop cabin fever. In order to find what sort of space is going to work best for you, really do some thinking about how you functioned at school. Did you accomplish different tasks more easily in one environment than another? How can you best recreate that ideal working environment now? Here are a few quick tips to make at home studying more palatable: buy a comfortable work chair, make sure everything is ergonomically fitted (even if it’s DIY), and invest what you can in a solid internet connection!
Online class! Great! That means I can sit back and just listen while I lay in bed!
Wrong. Taking notes on recorded lectures, assigned videos, readings, podcasts, etc is essential to retaining the information. Implementing some formalized note taking strategy can also help bring a little structure to the out-of-classroom learning. You can even use a program like Microsoft One to take notes on different subjects in an organized fashion.
Multitasking seems all well and great, but research has shown that when we multitask, especially in an academic setting, we end up being less productive, pay less attention, and recall less information. When we’re learning online, this is only amplified. Staying focused on one thing allows you to absorb more information and complete assignments more successfully. One well-proven system of accomplishing this is the Pomodoro Method, which postulates that you should focus in 25-40 minute periods with 10 minute breaks.
Your peers are in the same boat as you are, and are likely experiencing the same struggles as you. If you thrive off of the group environment of a classroom, connect with your classmates via Facebook group, WhatsApp, Slack, or another platform to share insights and support each other. And try as much as possible to leverage video conference platforms such as FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or whatever to actually see, not just hear, your peers.
Be sure to ask questions and take advantage of opportunities to connect with your instructors through email, office hours, and class. Ask for help when you need it. Online courses can vary quite a bit. Some may rely largely on the discussion boards to further your learning while others make heavier use of group projects, individually-written papers or collaborative problem sets. Be sure to reach out using any of the methods your professor makes available, just as you would if you were in class. Also, Learning Management Systems (LMS) are being used all across the board during this time, so make sure you feel comfortable with the tools your professor is using whether it be Canvas, Blackboard or another LMS related software. This can help you truly make the most out of the class and the course materials.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it should be able to give you a few pointers to assist you as you navigate studying from home.
If you still find yourself struggling, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Aly Hartman, Santa Clara University ‘21
Communications Director – Write Track Admissions