Many of our children have been thrust into virtual classrooms after schools have shut down. This new way of studying comes with its share of challenges. Here are a few tips to make online learning work, from a high school student.
Set Up a Study Space
Find a study area that prevents distractions. Be sure it’s a comfortable place and you can sit with good posture, but not so comfortable that you’re tempted to take a nap. Your bed is not the ideal study spot. It’s also a good idea to put your cell phone in another room so that it’s out of sight, limiting any temptation to peruse social media.
Make a Study Schedule and Stick With It
Not being in a formal classroom means it’s up to you to stay motivated and self-disciplined. Designate specific parts of your day for studying. Develop a detailed plan, but make sure it’s achievable. Everyone has different attention spans, so assess yours and develop a routine accordingly. The satisfaction of being well-organized and fulfilling your daily agenda can help prevent procrastination in the future. If you follow this schedule 95 percent of the time, it’s also easier to navigate any unexpected changes.
Getting exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and staying hydrated are all important to your success as an online student. I keep a two-liter jug of water next to me while I work, and I have easy snacks ready to go like baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, and apples. I recommend keeping junk food to a minimum. It might sound good at the time, but after the initial sugar rush, the jolt quickly wains and strips your body of energy due to digestive and metabolic exertion. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables helps you retain energy to concentrate. And a good night’s sleep is also essential. Sleep alleviates fatigue and stress, restoring energy and clearing the mind.
Collaborate With Your Peers
One advantage of virtual learning is the flexibility to network and collaborate with others. Online forums, discussion boards, and group chats can help you stay connected with your peers who are taking the same course. You could even consider joining a virtual study group.
Find the Learning Style That Works for You
Most online courses utilize a variety of media to relay information, including videos, audio lectures, infographics, interactive animations, or just plain text. It’s your job to understand what works the best for you. Studying isn’t about simply memorizing information. It’s about recording, organizing, and manipulating it in order to make sense of it. That’s the beauty of online learning. You don’t have to adhere to traditional classroom methods. You can explore techniques tailored to your preferences to retain information most effectively.
Ask for Help
Don’t hesitate to reach out to instructors whenever you feel stuck. Find their officer hours and which platforms they prefer (chat rooms, email, etc.). When you do reach out, maintain a formal, respectful tone, grammatically correct sentences, and courteous language. Even if you are texting, remember that online teachers are professionals.
Remember Why You Chose Online Classes in the First Place
If you’re ever feeling stressed or discouraged, take a break and visualize where you want to be and how the course you are taking will help you get there. Having that mindset will help you to remain positive, stay focused, and on track with your goals.
You don’t want to spend 20 hours a day studying one subject. And you also don’t want to spend one hour a year studying it. Keeping up a regular, but manageable pace can keep you on track. You are solely accountable for your success in online learning. When working out, you can’t expect results unless you are consistent. The same goes for online learning. Although online learning may seem less intense at first, spacing out study blocks too much can actually make it more difficult to retain the information you’ve learned previously. But don’t overdo it either. It’s important to take care of yourself, make time for your hobbies and interests, and allow time with your family and friends. Taking breaks throughout the day to stretch, get some fresh air, grab a snack, and check your texts will keep you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and revitalized.
There truly are many benefits of taking online courses. But it takes time to develop the study skills and balance you need to be successful. Be sure to celebrate your progress and reflect on what’s working and what’s not as you acclimate to this new environment. Most importantly, be patient with yourself and ask for help when you need it.
Ria Sethi, a freshman in high school from Cupertino, began taking an online course earlier this year to support her long-term career goals. She recently received the Jack Rousso Scholarship from Apex Learning Virtual School.