Tiff’s Tips for Online Learning during the COVID-19 Crisis.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many changes in the world. One of the places where they are the most visible is in higher education. Over the past few weeks, dozens of universities have ended face-to-face delivery of courses and moved to distance models.

There has been a lot of support shown to professors and staff with the online transition. However, there has been significant gaps in supporting online learning from the student standpoint. I would think this comes down to the fact that people assume students are tech-savvy (we are) but being tech-savvy does not mean that students understand how to learn online. Hence, this post!

From having taken many online classes, here are eight tips that have helped me in my online learning endeavours combined with recommendations given over the past week.

I hope at least one of these tips can help you succeed as we finish the semester from afar!

1. Treat your online class like a “real class”

This first tip seems to be more obvious than it needs to be, but don’t doubt its importance. If your professor has posted all of your material at once, it is easy to “put work off until later.” Especially if your professors have decided not to do regular class meetings.

Like a regular class, its important to set time to work on the course material. If it’s reading notes, working on assignments, preparing for tests (that may or may not happen?). Keep on top of the work that is coming your way.

2. Communicate with your professors

Your professors should be providing you with information on how your course may change. This information includes course delivery, assignments, unwritten tests and final exams. However, there may be things that you don’t know or understand, new challenges due to something out of your control, and more. It is so important to communicate clearly with your professors.

If you are in a class that will now be delivered using Zoom, but you don’t have adequate internet access to join? Tell your prof.
Do you have questions about things like your thesis defence? Ask your prof.
Are you having troubles with deadlines as a result of added stress? Tell your prof.

Accommodations can’t be made if they are not known.

3. Hold yourself accountable

This goes back to #1. Keep on top of work, readings, assignments. If you can’t for whatever reason, refer back to #2.

4. Create a study space

After taking many online classes, this has been the key to success for me. Find yourself a space that works for you. It will be different for everyone.

This tip may be challenging. I’m a StFX student and decided to stay in my apartment in Antigonish. Why? I can’t do work when I’m at home and around my family. In Antigonish, I have an excellent home workspace which is bright, comfortable, and most importantly, conductive for me to get things done.

A quick tip: your bed is probably a bad spot. I’ll save you the pain of figuring that out for yourself.

5. Eliminate Distractions

Look, we all text in class. (Horrendously sorry to any prof who may be reading this for whatever reason). Try to reduce that when working on your online courses. It’s easy to have Facebook or Twitter open in the tabs of whatever you’re doing, but aim to focus on your work.

I’m not signed in to iMessage on my computer when I do work, and I leave my phone in a different room. Though I admit, I usually have twitter open in my tabs (we all have flaws).

6. Participate!

If your class still requires you to participate actively, do it. If it doesn’t, still try to be as present as possible. If your classes are hosted as online Zoom meetings, attend them as regularly as you possibly can.

7. Be Patient with your Professors and University.

I don’t think I have to say this, but this is a very unusual situation. Universities which were “unable to change” their methods of teaching just four days ago have changed in almost every way possible. Professors are learning how to teach online. Universities are learning how to support their students but also the thousands of employees they have during a time of deep uncertainty. This will not be a flawless transition, by any means. However, try to believe these people are working their hardest to ensure that you continue to receive the highest quality education possible under the circumstances.

8. Keep on working hard!

For most, it’s almost the end of the semester. For some, it’s almost the end of your entire degree. It’s a tough time, but keep working hard over the next period of time. It may not seem like it right now, but it will pay off!

Tiffany MacLennan | x2015lki@stfx.ca | @tiffmaclennan (twitter)

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