Surviving Social Distancing: How to handle another month of online classes
Don't know how you'll make it to the finish line this semester? Try out these online learning tips
April 11, 2020
Raise your hand if you’ve already started skipping Zoom classes.
Yeah, me too. Immediately afterwards, I felt the guilt and panic set in, which I think we can all agree does not scream “wellness.” So what can you do to stay on top of your online classes when all you want to do is hibernate?
As it became clear that what I was doing wasn’t sustainable, I did what I encourage all of you to do when you’re struggling: I turned to the Center for Student Wellbeing (CSW). They already have their own list of tips for navigating online classes, have scheduled workshops for study skills and coping with the coronavirus situation and are still offering coaching appointments by phone. If you’re itching for another online class, one of the CSW’s hidden gems is their self-enroll Brightspace course, which is full of helpful tips for studying and time management. If it’s content you’re struggling with, tutoring services have gone online as well.
Learning about Learning
The single best thing I ever did for doing well in school was take an educational psychology class. We’re all struggling to adjust to the less structured, more independent nature of online classes, and learning about what your brain is up to can help you navigate our new class situation.
One of my favorite theories of motivation (everyone has one, right?) is the ARCS theory. ARCS stands for attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction. Although it was originally created for instructional design, I’ve found it helpful to think of each aspect when struggling to complete online coursework. If attention is the problem, see if you can incorporate videos on the content or add humor to your notes. Think about the relevance of an assignment to your career, or even just your grade. If low confidence is holding you back, think back on times you’ve succeeded at similar tasks, and of course, make sure you’re keeping up in the class; insufficient background knowledge leads to lower motivation to complete assignments or study for tests. As for satisfaction, remember that there is nothing wrong with extrinsic motivation. The way I reward myself is with TV shows if I stay focused for a certain amount of time; choose the amount of work and the reward that works for you. Understanding what goes into motivation can help you cultivate some motivation of your own.
Let’s move to a less conventional theory of motivation: the four tendencies. According to author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, people fit into four tendencies: upholders, questioners, obligers and rebels. That tendency explains why we act and why we don’t act. For example, my tendency is to be a questioner: I only act when I’m convinced it makes sense to. Take the quiz and read more about the tendencies to figure out how to “hack” your behavior to make you more productive.
A theory of learning I also find helpful is the information-processing model. The model likens the human brain to a computer. The brain first receives information from stimuli in something called sensory memory. Then, if you choose to attend to a stimulus, it moves into your working memory, where you can rehearse the information, which is then either forgotten or stored in your long-term memory. The stored information can be retrieved from the long-term memory and attended to by the working memory. The more often you retrieve and rehearse the information, the more likely it is to stick. Learning about the IP model changed the way I approached studying, which is even more important now that we’re going it alone.
And, if that isn’t enough, here are ten more tips to help you scrape by
- Work during your best time of day. The flexibility that online classes afford makes my late night study sessions much more feasible. Do this without guilt. Live your best night owl (or early bird!) life.
- Do work for the same class at the same time every day. This doesn’t have to be your normal class time (Unless it does. Then let this tip Zoom right on by).
- Set reminders for ongoing assignments that might slip your mind, like discussion posts.
- Get dressed. Pajamas do not equal productivity. I’ve also heard that wearing shoes will tell your brain it’s go time.
- Have a set time to check your email every day. We’re getting more emails than ever now, but why bother stressing yourself out fifty separate times a day?
- Make a masterlist of assignments from now until the end of the semester. You can use the app MyStudyLife for this, or just a regular document. You’ll thank yourself.
- Have two sets of to-do lists: one of due dates, and one of do dates.
- Use the app Xodo for reading and highlighting PDFs on your phone in the middle of the chaos that is your living room.
- Set a physical routine to do before synchronous classes. Just like walking to Peabody tells my brain and body that it’s time for an education class and gives me time to mentally prepare, making a cup of coffee or walking up and down the stairs helps signal that it’s time for an online class.
- Be kind to yourself. At the end of the day, if you’re staying home and social distancing, you’re doing your job.