In a March 2020 education paper printed in the Harvard Business Review, Vijay Govindarajan and Anup Srivastava, both renowned international business professors, stated the following: “Tectonic shifts in society and business occur when unexpected events force widespread experimentation around a new idea.” The Covid-19 pandemic represents such a tectonic shift and has deeply impacted education from kindergarten to the highest levels of higher education. Everyone now has to experiment with alternate ways of learning, we are questioning traditional teaching methods, and we are taking on the processes by which knowledge is delivered. So, assuming that your fall semester will be either 100% online or a hybrid form of online and in-person classes, how can you make the very best of this new system?
Get good equipment and know how to use it. You’ll need a strong signal, a fast speed, lots of storage, and a printer. Make sure you have the most updated software; learn how to navigate whichever writing platform your teachers utilize; become familiar with videoconferencing options; understand how to turn the webcam and microphone on and off, and know where to turn for tech help.
Create a positive workspace and equip it with paper, pens/pencils, notebooks, thumb drives, and folders. Learn how to create online e-folders for your coursework, maintain an online calendar, and contact list. This space should be in a quiet spot, away from the distractions of kitchen noise or living room TV. Turn off your phone when in a class and put it where you can’t see it.
Start this new academic year with a good attitude and maintain that good attitude. Be open to new ways of learning, be positive, and don’t forget your faculty are also straining under the weight of so much ‘new’ in their teaching practice. Remember, Plato, said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Never were truer words spoken vis-à-vis the fall semester of online learning.
Online learning is an excellent opportunity for small group interactions or one-on-one sessions with teachers. Don’t underestimate the real intimacy possible with online courses, an option for even the shyest to ask questions, and the strong team bonds that come from the creation of online study groups. Your generation has been building social relationships online for most of your lives, take advantage of those skills, and enjoy the benefits of creative group projects and peer review opportunities.
Build structure into your online learning. Be consistent and create a schedule you adhere to daily. If you are a procrastinator, be aware of that and plan accordingly. Set reminders on your computer, keep up your calendar, print your syllabus, tape it above your monitor where you see it daily, and schedule prompts on your phone. Keep up, attend class, and stay on track.
Be open to the new directions that an online course can take. Think of these as adventures within a medium that allows for the insertion of new video resources and even Flipboard magazines to aid in the educational experience of virtual learning.
Get to know your teachers. Send an email at the beginning of the semester, introduce yourself, and share your thoughts about the course ahead. Keep those lines open and keep talking. Remember that these are still the individuals who will write your letters of recommendation for jobs, internships, and college.
Take advantage of the extra help offered. Try to schedule time to meet your teacher outside of class when possible. Build on both the knowledge you are gleaning from your coursework and your relationship with your instructor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; there’s always help available, but you must be the one to ask. Make sure you are clear on what constitutes plagiarism. Being online all the time may muddy the waters for you.
Becoming a more self-directed learner will be of enormous benefit to you in your future. You’ll be more flexible, creative, tech-savvy, and independent. You’ll know how to handle challenges, and you’ll take responsibility for both your successes and failures. You will hold yourself accountable, and employers will love what you are presenting.
Don’t expect online learning to be easier. For some, it can be harder to focus and stay on track. Just work hard, expect the unexpected, and show up every day!
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