In a relatively short time-span, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed education in ways that we could not have imagined possible in such a time frame. From preschoolers to undergraduates, students of all ages have had to get used to seeing their teachers on a screen – attending virtual classrooms, submitting projects online and even taking tests online.
Online classes have been a part of our reality for roughly three decades now, making learning accessible to a greater number of people than ever before. With improvements in technology and connectivity, the market for online learning has grown phenomenally in the last few years. No longer limited only to higher education, it was gradually being incorporated into curriculum universally. As advances in online learning techniques made online feedback and assessments a reality, online learning became a two-way dialogue rather than a static, didactic method of teaching; and when the pandemic struck, it became a necessity almost instantly.
Teachers and students have had to adapt and quickly learn to take online classes effectively and efficiently. The learning curve has been steep for everyone involved, but the upside is too great to ignore – education would be at a standstill if technology had not progressed enough to enable online classes.
There are some challenging aspects of learning online; and here we have compiled is a list of things to help improve your experience.
- Maintain a routine, as you would for regular classes – wake up on time, have breakfast and shower before you settle down to attend your classes. Treat your online class as any regular in-person class, as far as possible.
- Be on time, or preferably early – Plan ahead and familiarize yourself with the software tools that will be used for your online classes beforehand. Learn how to mute your audio and control your camera, how to raise your hand or signal to indicate you wish to speak, how to send a private message; these are part of basic etiquette for online sessions of any kind.
- Be mindful of what others can see and hear – ensure that the background is appropriate in case your camera is switched on during the class. Make sure that others in the vicinity are aware that you are attending a live class.
- Create a dedicated study area – This can help you focus on your studies when it’s time for class and help disconnect when it’s not. Try to choose a quiet spot with minimum external distractions. Make sure it’s not too comfortable (like a bed or cushy sofa). Keep your books and stationary at hand; stay organized to avoid wasting time while the class is on.
- Take notes – You may think that all the information is available online and you can skip this; however, the purpose of taking notes is not merely to record the class, but to put the material in your own words, thereby boosting retention and comprehension.
- Avoid multi-tasking – distractions and switching between tasks can cause mistakes, it tires you out and hampers proper retention. It can be tempting to get some other work done while listening to your lecture, but that’s likely to backfire. Research shows that focusing on one activity at a time increases productivity.
- Make a note of deadlines and test dates; check your email regularly to stay aware of any possible changes in the schedule for classes, projects or tests. It’s easy to miss things when you are at home if you do not have a daily reminder to check your messages.
- Be prepared for connectivity issues – Try to optimize your internet connection; hard wiring to your router is the best option. If you are on WiFi, sit as close to the router as possible. Do not panic if you lose your internet connection. You can also keep your smartphone as a backup.
- Have realistic expectations – With everyone thrust into this situation with no advance notice, teachers and students alike have had to learn on the job. Remember that teaching this way is most likely a new experience for your instructors as well. Be patient, and don’t panic at minor setbacks.
- Get to know your teachers – If possible, introduce yourself via email. It’s nice to have a personal connection with your instructors, and if there are no in-person classes, it may be difficult for them to see you as anything but a name on a screen. Making an effort to connect with them can only be an advantage. Ask questions and speak up in class when it is appropriate to do so. In case you fall behind or need help, ask for it. Asking for help shows a genuine interest in learning, rather than simply attending and passing a class.
- Connect with your fellow classmates – Get to know the other students in your class. Exchanging notes can be helpful to let you know whether others are on the same track or facing similar issues as you. Creating an online study group with other interested classmates can be useful to resolve queries and keep track of deadlines. Being in sync with classmates can prevent you from slacking off. Connecting with others also helps break monotony and reduce stress.
The world is waiting to go back to ‘normal’ and to see the end of this pandemic. But, in the meantime, there’s a lot to be thankful for in terms of technology and innovation that has allowed life and education to continue unabated.
The article was originally published in Career Ahead January 2021 issue.