How to Not Fall Behind During Distance Learning

By now, many college campuses have been shut down due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This throws a wrench in the plans of a lot of college students, especially those with labs, studios, or performance classes, or students planning to graduate. Luckily, technology has made it possible for most (not all) of our classes to be taken remotely so that we can prevent the spread of the disease while still working towards our degrees. While this is a good fix for allowing college students to practice social distancing, online classes can seem daunting, confusing, or even frustrating if you, like me, aren't already pretty tech-savvy. But don't give up! Like anything else, understanding online learning requires skills that can be practiced and developed. These skills might even be helpful to your academic life after the pandemic is over! If you take it step by step, you can master or even lean into the advantages of online learning. 

There's no way to make a plan that fits everyone, but there are some solid basics to online learning:

  1. 1. Establish a Routine

    Structure is the most important part of any academic endeavor. While it might seem easy to sleep until noon every day or leave major assignments until the last minute because we don't have to get up and go to class, this will ultimately have a negative impact on your grades. You don't have to set an alarm clock. You don't even have to change out of pajamas. It's as simple as saying, "After I wake up (whenever that may be), I'll give myself twenty minutes for breakfast, and then I'll work on [class] for an hour." By slicing up your time this way, you remain flexible, but still carve out that designated work time every day. Make lists, use a planner, or just keep it all in your head, but establishing a routine will help you stay focused on your work, and you'll actually understand the content better if you revisit your classes on a regular basis. 

  2. 2. Take Breaks

    This is another way that a routine can be helpful. When you make your routine, be sure to give yourself regular breaks, whether it's just a few minutes away from your screen or an hour dedicated to chores or exercise. Of course, if you give yourself a set time limit for a break, try to stick to it. In that vein, be wary of social media, especially apps that obscure your clock (Such as TikTok and Tumblr). Set a timer or choose a different activity if you are worried you might use social media to procrastinate your work. 

  3. 3. Check Every Class Every Day

    This doesn't mean that you're doing everything all at once. In fact, I would discourage an overachiever from sitting down on Monday and trying to complete assignments for the whole week. This is just a strategy to keep you aware of your other classes, even if you don't have a lecture or Zoom scheduled. You'll be able to keep up with upcoming homework, and projects this way, and you could even study ahead for anticipated quizzes and tests. 

  4. 4. Take Advantage

    There are a lot of benefits to online courses. You can work whenever you want, wherever you want. Most tests and quizzes are being altered to be open notes (check with your professors). You can rewatch or listen to lectures, take notes the way you want to. You can even attend office hours and discussions from the comfort of your home. This is way more flexible than the normal classroom setting. Take advantage of it! If you're a night owl, start your studying at 6 pm. Organize your notes so that you can quickly and easily locate it for the quiz. Don't just watch a lecture once and then go on about your day, use all of these resources and create a learning experience that really works for you!

Remember, we are doing this in order to help make our world a safer, healthier place. While it seems like a lot of what is happening right now is out of our control, we can stay calm by focusing on what we can control. Use your classes and your online learning experience to make your social distancing productive and rewarding. 

Good luck and stay well!