Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

6 ways distance learners can stay connected to their school (and show school spirit)

Distance learning has plenty of benefits, such as cost savings, flexibility, and the ability to learn just about anywhere, to name a few. But if you’re a distance learner, one challenge you may be facing is feeling like you belong at your college or university. 

“School spirit” may seem like a foreign term as a distance learner. Since you’re not attending in-person, is it possible to feel connected to it?

The answer: It can be. But it will take some initiative on your part. 

Let’s take a look at six ways you can foster school spirit and feel more connected to your school.

1. Get to know your classmates virtually

Building a community of fellow students is perhaps the best way to feel like you belong to a college or university. 

So, if your professor posts a discussion thread, be sure to contribute. And be sure to engage in each class. Asking relevant questions or answering questions where appropriate will help others view you as an academic resource, and they may be more likely to contact you directly. 

Group projects are also a great way to get to know others. When you meet, be sure to take advantage of any icebreaker questions that may come up. That way, you can find fellow students with similar experiences or interests.

2. Find classmates in your area

Use social media to find classmates who live in your area. If you feel comfortable, shoot them a message to see if they’d like to connect virtually. (Hint: Doing this will also give you experience in using sales techniques, since a big part of sales is reaching out to people you may not know).

Aside from social media, you can email your college counselor to see if your school has ways to connect you to other students where you live. Or you can peruse your school’s website to see if you can find any info on connecting with local students. 

Finding classmates in your area may take a little digging, but it could be worth it to feel attached to your school.

3. Watch events and games online

Whether or not you’re able to connect with fellow students in your area, you can still feel like you’re part of the school community by watching live lectures and sporting events online. 

Certainly, these events may be more enjoyable to watch with other students, but if you can’t get people together in-person, maybe get fellow students who aren’t in your area together to watch the events along with you. Then, text them throughout the lecture or game about the event. 

4. Occasionally visit the campus 

Many schools have a welcome week where they invite distance learners to explore the campus, meet their teachers, and get to know other students. Throughout the year, you may want to attend a few in-person lectures, travel to a game, or visit to hear a guest speaker. 

Take a look at your school’s calendar for the year. If possible, make plans to attend at least once a semester. And if you can’t attend in-person, be sure to attend these events virtually. 

5. Wear school apparel

This is a simple, but effective way to show your school spirit. What you wear can change how you feel about yourself, and that includes feeling connected to your school. Going out and about while displaying your school spirit can give you a sense of pride in your college or university.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll see someone else wearing your school’s logo, in which case you may want to strike up a conversation. 

6. Plan to go to your graduation

Make plans to attend your graduation in-person. It can be nice to know that one day you will likely meet many of your classmates whom you may have only met virtually. 

Wrapping up

Fostering school spirit as a distance learner is doable with a little effort. I hope these tips will help you do that.

Career Colleges Exams General Interest Online learning

7 ways to help distance learners focus for extended periods of time

Technology is a blessing to distance learners everywhere. But it’s also a curse. 

For instance, does your phone go off frequently throughout the day with calls, texts, and other notifications? And are you bombarded by pop-up windows and video ads when doing basic research for school? All these distractions make it difficult to focus on your studies.

On top of all that, the Internet has trained our brains to scan instead of read. An estimated 16% of Internet users actually read each word on a page. 

The bottom line is that technology has made it easier than ever for distance learners to be distracted. But there are some practices that will help you to stay on track academically.

1. Avoid multitasking

You’ve heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I think the same concept applies to where we divide our attention, so that the saying could read, “Doer of all tasks, master of none.”

To help you prevent doing tasks half-way, focus on one task at a time. One way to do this is by prioritizing your tasks at the start of each day or week. 

It can be tempting to think that you’re being more productive by bouncing from task to task. But maintaining focus on each task will ensure you do it correctly.

2. Listen to music or white noise

Loud, unexpected noises can break your focus, which is especially frustrating if you’re taking a test. 

Block out any unwanted noise by downloading a white noise app, buying a box fan, or listening to music. 

I would avoid listening to podcasts during this time, as those tend to require more of your attention than, say, listening to classical music.

3. Figure out your optimal time of day to work

Nearly everyone has a time of day that works best for them to be productive. And once you find yours, stick with doing your most intense work during those hours. A routine can help your brain know when it’s time to work on school, and when it can take a break.

I think you’ll be surprised at how much you accomplish with your classes by operating primarily during these optimal hours. 

4. Take brain breaks

College is often mentally strenuous. It can be helpful to allow your brain to rest periodically. 

Exercising is always a healthy way to do this, such as by going for a brisk walk or doing some weightlifting. 

But if you want to lounge while you take a break, watch an episode of your favorite TV show. If you do this, try to avoid the temptation of binge-watching. So, maybe stick with half-hour sitcoms rather than dramatic hour-long shows.

5. Don’t drink too much caffeine

As I write this piece, I’m having trouble focusing. I believe it has something to do with being on my third cup of coffee today (my normal intake is one to two cups each day). 

Caffeine can make it difficult to focus, so limit your intake in a way that makes sense for you. 

Also, being hopped-up on caffeine may make it difficult to focus during a class, which may result in you missing important information.

6. Set your phone to Do Not Disturb

This one is pretty straightforward. You can set the hours when you don’t want to be bothered, such as during your prime working hours. 

In addition, many phones allow you to activate a Silence Unknown Callers (or equivalent) feature. This can help you concentrate on your studies without being distracted by spam callers.

7. Allow yourself to not be perfect at focusing

Sometimes, you may find yourself focusing on the fact that you aren’t focusing enough. You may beat yourself up over this, which just shifts your focus from schoolwork to yourself. Plus, beating yourself up erodes your confidence. 

And whenever you approach a test or assignment, you want to have a certain level of confidence in your abilities. Don’t jeopardize that by making yourself feel insecure over having trouble focusing.