The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we learn in unimaginable ways. As a professor of Political Science, I felt this impact in the way I taught my classes and interacted with students this semester. Overnight, I had gone from teaching in a traditional classroom lecture setting to teaching online. My students had to make the adjustment to online learning, too.
When I reached out to the students, I found many were quite nervous about the transition. “Will I see my teacher? How will I ask questions? How do I take a test? What if I need help? How do I study?” These are understandable concerns. To make the most of a digital classroom, here’s some advice that can help anyone become a better online learner.
Take breaks and reward yourself
In past conversations, some of my students have told me that they often shy away from online classes because they require a lot of discipline and time-management. Sometimes, taking four or five online classes at one time can get overwhelming. I’ve seen class fatigue take a toll on my students. There are some simple steps you can take to avoid this.
First, you can set a timetable of how you want to work on each week’s assignment, using your phone to set up daily and weekly alarms or calendar notifications. If you prefer writing, then get a daily planner or simply make one in a notebook. Setting up a timetable allows you to also schedule break times (just like recess in school!). Try to take frequent breaks from your computer and classwork and go for a walk or run or work on a hobby.
When you have finished your work and studying, do something that makes you feel happy and rewarded. Treat yourself to your favorite snack or play your favorite video game. This might make your work online more enjoyable and give you something to look forward to. It also relieves the stress and pressures associated with online learning.
Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor for help
Sometimes what makes complete sense to me when I post an assignment might be confusing to my students reading it. Many times, students tell me that they don’t ask questions because they’re afraid of offending me or that I might think badly of them. My daughter, a junior in college, refused to ask her instructor about the page limit of an essay that her teacher wanted her to write. I urged her to email her teacher, and when she finally did, her teacher apologized for not including these instructions in the assignment.
Personally, I encourage students to ask questions and to reach out to me via email or phone. I feel that if I can provide clarity on an assignment, then it makes students’ lives easier and they can give me what I am expecting of them. Just avoid waiting until the day before the assignment is due to ask for help! Last-minute inquiries usually don’t work out.
Make social connections with those in your online classes
Every semester after the first exam, I always have a discussion with my students on how they can learn and study better. We all exchange personal stories during this time. It was during one of these discussions that a few students informed me that they maintain social connections with each other through the messaging platforms of these learning systems. My online students reach out to others in the class to form study groups and create group messages to remind one another of upcoming assignments and exams. These connections serve as a much-needed support system for my students, and they can help you as well.
You are not alone in your online classes. Most college campuses use Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Moodle, Canvas, or Blackboard to upload their online classes. These platforms have features where you can send emails or messages to other students in your classes. Moreover, you can interact with one another without sharing your personal phone number or email. This allows you to reach out to others while maintaining your privacy.
Try to adopt these tips as you see fit for your online classes. I hope you have fun with your online classes and enjoy the experience!