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7 tips for transitioning from in-classroom learning to distance learning

Distance learning has become increasingly popular in the past decade—especially for college students—and that trend has caught even more momentum in the age of COVID-19. But if you’re preparing to switch from learning inside a classroom to learning online, the change can be a little jolting. 

For one thing, you’re not interacting with people in-person. Human beings were not made to socialize via screens. So while using screens to communicate is better than nothing, screens and Wi-Fi will never be as effective as in-person communication.

It can also be tough to adjust to distance learning after getting used to someone else playing a big role in your schedule. Now, class times and professors will likely not dictate your schedule—you will. And where are you supposed to view lectures if you’re not in a classroom? These are all things you’ll have to address when you transition to distance learning.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate any issues that might come from the change.

1. Stick to a schedule

Having a general schedule will provide some structure and stability to your day, which can help you focus. It doesn’t have to be incredibly rigid, but you will likely want to have something in place so that you know you can get everything done.

Here are some tips:

  • Have regular sleep/wake times
  • Set aside time to view lectures and take notes
  • Set aside time to do your homework/study
  • Have a set lunch period in your day
  • Have a general cutoff date to each day, though this will likely need to be adjusted depending on your workload
  • Set aside time for rest and relaxation so that you can mentally prepare for the next day

2. Be willing to be flexible

While it’s good to stick to a structured schedule, it’s also helpful to be flexible. For instance, if you need to spend more time on one class than another or you want to take a longer lunch with a friend, be willing to do that. The beauty of distance learning is that it allows for the flexibility that traditional classrooms do not.

3. Set aside a space just for learning

By setting aside a space that you only use for schoolwork, you can make it somewhere your mind associates with learning. This can help you think clearly and focus on what you’re doing when you’re in that space. If you have a small home, you may want to have a certain chair that you only sit in when doing schoolwork.

If you can’t be at home, consider going to a local library, coffee shop, or even a park (if you can get Wi-Fi out there). Again, the point is to have a place where learning can occur effectively.

4. Get organized

Once you have established your learning space, it’s time to get organized. Note-taking is an art of sorts, and organization is the key to making it beautiful (and useful). 

Sites like Trello allow you to make to-do lists that you can use for every class. Of course, you can go with traditional organizing tools such as Microsoft Excel, but Google offers a free alternative in Google Sheets.

5. Get outside

Vitamin D can be great for lifting a person’s spirits. And by going for a walk or doing any other form of exercise, you’ll get your heart pumping and your blood flowing. This can reinvigorate your body so that you can learn better. 

Side note: Be sure to wear sunscreen if you think you might get sunburned. Having to rub aloe on your sunburnt nose will likely distract you from learning.

6. Take mental breaks

Even if you don’t go outside, you should still take mental breaks throughout the day. Often stepping away from the thing you are working on will allow you to more effectively tackle it once you get back to it. That can include doing something mindless (like watching a sitcom on TV) to working on your favorite hobby (like building ceramic penguins).

7. Socialize with people in person

There’s a lot of social interaction that happens with in-person learning, which can teach you valuable social skills like teamwork and listening. Setting aside time during the week to socialize is especially important for extroverts who love the face-to-face interactions that come from being in a classroom.

Even if you’re someone who generally prefers being alone, consider getting out with family or friends each week. If you’ve been wanting to try out a new restaurant with your friends, you can use the excuse that going out is helping you refine your social skills and acclimate to distance learning.

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