by Rebekah Baughman
Student at Emporia State University
With the recent precautions surrounding COVID-19, dozens of colleges and universities are transitioning from traditional to fully online courses. Many students are taking their first online classes and beginning to learn how to navigate participating in school while staying home. There is no doubt that online learning requires time management and a fair amount of personal discipline. It can be much harder to focus on studying when you are not surrounded by other, focused students or a professor guiding your time. In light of this transition, I wanted to provide you with a guide, by a student and for students, on how to successfully navigate the transition from the classroom to online learning.
Set up your study area
Just like if you were at school, you need to set up a study area. Ideally, this would be a desk, a chair, and a light source, but there are alternatives. If you don’t have a desk, any area you can designate as your own will work. Work spaces can be folded out tray tables, kitchen tables, or even a cleared off kitchen counter. The point is to have an area dedicated to studying.
It may seem easiest to study in a multi-use space, but I’ve had a lot of experience with this method failing. It is very hard to stay focused if you study in an area meant for other things such as sleep. My personal advice would be to not study on your bed. With a dedicated area, textbooks and basic supplies can be right where you are so that you have everything you need to begin working.
Make a daily routine for class
At school, you would normally attend classes at a scheduled time and for a certain amount of time. It is a good idea to continue this at home if you can. Whether you stick with the time that you would normally attend your classes or schedule a different time, make sure you have set times.
This will help you manage your time at home and give you breaks. It’s important to give yourself time to switch topics, and this allows your mind to continue to remain interested. A daily routine can also help you to make sure that all of your classes are getting proper and equal attention. Acknowledge that you might need to spend a longer amount of time studying at home than you did when you attended physical classes. Due to the distractions at home, you will most likely find yourself less focused, and you need to make sure that you are absorbing and understanding the information so that you can succeed.
Some classes just cannot be done online, or at least not in a way that will allow you to learn the topic successfully. Examples of these include clinicals, lab classes, and laboratory research. These experiences are not able to be duplicated, and therefore may be postponed. For those lab classes that will be transitioned to online classes, there is no question that students will lack the hands-on lab experience that they planned on receiving. Obviously, this is not ideal and there is really no online substitute sufficient enough to replace hands on lab experience. Institutions are doing what they can to educate properly, but additional experiences later may be useful for equipping you with the hands-on learning that you may need and were not able to receive during this time.
Get rid of distractions
Different people have different distractions but a major one is our phones. During your study time, like you hopefully do during class, put your phone away and on silent. Dedicate this time to your learning. Distractions may also include social media or checking your email. While you can’t necessarily stay away from access to these things due to working online, you can make sure that you do not have any social media tabs up on your computer during your study time. If you are listening to an audio recorded lecture, it may help for you to turn the screen around and take notes on paper so that you are away from distractions on your screen.
It is important to remain in contact with classmates and possibly even hold online study sessions. Even though you may be physically distant from your classmates, technology allows us to stay in contact. As social creatures, it is important for us to remain in contact with our friends and family (and professors!). Not only will keeping in contact with classmates allow you to study with them, but will also give you some time to socialize which will help you to not feel isolated.
Create a plan for coping
Have a plan for how to cope with anxiety. It is perfectly normal to face anxiety during a time of uncertainty. This anxiety may seem to worsen in certain people due to precautions put in place such as staying home. Acknowledge that you may experience feelings of fear and anxiety during this time. We all cope with anxiety differently and have a variety of ways in which we can help ourselves navigate what we are feeling. For me, I like to participate in relaxation activities such as yoga and meditation. I specifically schedule a time in my day for these activities, and I encourage you to do the same. Exercise, reading, journaling, and staying connected with friends and family are all ways that you can help reduce your anxiety.
Make sure that you are getting enough sleep and enough to eat during this time as well because a lack of these things will also contribute to increased anxiety. If you have overwhelming feelings that are not going away, please reach out to a mental health professional. There are a variety of online counseling options available to you if going to a session is not an option for you. Your mental health is important so make sure to take care of yourself during this time.
Reach out to your professors
They are there to help you through this time of transition. If you are struggling, make sure to let them know. Your professors are also adjusting to this change and you are probably not the only student needing guidance. Let them know your worries and questions because they care about you and want to help guide you through this. For those of you with experience with online learning, you may even be able to help your professors by suggesting ideas or methods that they could implement that you have seen used in other classes. You may also be able to help your fellow students by sharing your personal tips for online learning.
You’re not alone
I once, actually many times, heard a great quote during my childhood, “We’re all in this together” (yes, I’m talking about High School Musical). All laughs aside, it is true. It’s important that during this time of many changes we understand that we are all going through this together and that it is vital to help one another. The transition from your traditional classes to online learning may be stressful and uncomfortable, but we’re all taking it on together. The circumstances are not ideal, but your schools, faculty, and staff are doing the best that they can to successfully guide you through the remainder of the semester.
A word to Seniors
For those of you who are in your last semester, this is not the way that anything was planned to happen, and it honestly just sucks. I hope that you are able to continue the completion of your degree plan in the midst of these circumstances and that you realize that even though this is not the intended outcome, you have still achieved an important accomplishment that is worthy of much celebration.
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