Making the Best of Online Learning

As this strangest of school years begins, you might be uncertain about how this whole distance learning thing is going to play out — and rightly so. What will your schedule be like? Will your teachers even be effective over Zoom? How are you going to cover the same amount of material in less class time? These are all good questions that have at least two things in common: First, you don’t know their answers. And second, you can’t control what those answers end up being. You can expend your energy worrying about them if you like — it’s your energy. *shrug* Or you can focus on what you can control in order to get this school year off to a great start.

But why would you even want to do that?

You might be telling yourself that you coasted through the end of last semester without working too hard, and that worked out just fine. So, why should this semester be any different? You aren’t necessarily wrong, but here are two reasons why you might want to work hard at getting better at distance learning this year.

So, if you want to make your online learning life a little better, read on for a few tips.

Zoom Class Problems and Solutions

There will undoubtedly be some bumps this fall as you and your teachers figure out how to make this new remote learning dynamic work. You might find yourself disappointed, stressed, or even angry. Or maybe all of the above! It’d be easy to “blame” your teachers or your school for this less-than-smooth transition, and you might even loop your friends and family into your outrage. And maybe that’s all okay, but what it doesn’t do is it doesn’t leave you in any better position than you were to begin with. You’ve really only got two options here: you can be part of the solution, or you can choose to not be part of the solution. Is your Zoom session a little boring and one-sided? Dive in and ask a question to liven it up and start some good class discussion. Do you wish your teacher distributed a copy of the notes or slides? Maybe you and your friends can make up a set and socialize them among the class? Or even with your teacher?

You’re all in this together, so working with your teacher to make the best experience for everyone is your best move. You’ll not only learn more about history or math or whatever you’re studying, but you’ll also learn more about how to be collaborative (without being asked to or being graded on it) and make good suggestions — and I’m honestly not sure which will be more valuable to you in the long run!

Engaging with Online Education Requires Long-Term Thinking

When things aren’t going well in school or with a particular class, it’s always helpful to focus on why you’re doing what you’re doing. So, what’s your goal? And I don’t mean getting an A in the class. Or going to Princeton. Or making Mom or Dad happy. What do you want to do with your life? Maybe you want to be a doctor. Or an engineer. Or a poet. Or maybe you don’t know what the plan is yet and just want to learn more about what you’re into.

What does any of that have to do with Distance Learning? Well, whatever you make of it, actually. Doctors and other professionals are currently doing appointments online and likely will continue to do so well into the future. What a great time to practice your “Zoom presence” and how to be an effective communicator online! As a budding engineer, you might consider this to be an information transfer problem and think about what systems you can put in place for yourself to increase the efficiency of this process. Whether you’re in business or the social sciences, you’ll need to be a keen observer of the human condition, so pay attention. You might end up learning as much from your classmates as you do from your teacher. No matter what your goal is, keep it in mind and find a way to always keep working toward it. That’s how you become successful, no matter what endgame you’re looking to.

Learning Means Working, Online or Off

Even with most positive outlook and mentality, you’ll still need to put in the time and do the work. With less time in class, though, you might have more unstructured time to get your work done. You may also experience less transition time, less time being lectured about discipline issues, or less time waiting (for buses, teachers, and so on).

There’s plenty to be said about working efficiently, and we’ll be following up with you every month about ways to be more tactical in your work. From spaced repetition to the Pomodoro Technique to the Cornell Note-Taking method, we’ll have you covered. But, here at the start of the year, what’s most important is that you keep an open mind about how the next few weeks and months are going to go – you might even find that you’re learning more than ever!