Tips for distance learning

COVID-19 is probably one of the greatest disruptors of our time, compelling every school, college and higher education institution to rethink teaching and learning delivery. Learning through digitally supported means has become the new normal as the outbreak of the virus is fast revolutionising education as we know it. So stay at home, stay safe and enjoy reliable, novel, high-quality methods of teaching.

Here are some helpful tips to help support you while you study from home.

Set up for success

A reliable internet connection is a lifeline between home and the cyber school, college or higher education. Physical classrooms are being replaced by computers and internet access. While the connection does not need to be continuous, it does need to be dependable and sufficient so students can download learning material and exercises, and upload tests and assessments. It is important to choose a place to study. A TV room or play area is likely to be distracting and not ideal for studying.

Get up, get dressed, get going

For some people, the prospect of staying in their pyjamas all day is the most tantalising aspect of studying at home. But bathing and getting dressed for the day improves the state of your mind and prepares you for studying. As they say, plan the work and work the plan. See life during social distancing or lockdown as any other regular day. Do the things you’d usually do when getting ready to go to school, college, university or work. Try to keep to normal hours and set aside time to study and time for breaks.

Don’t start without a plan

A well-thought-out study schedule can help clear the unease for students who are studying via online platforms and for parents who have had to step in as teachers.

Spend some time each day and week to reassess study schedules. Use the school timetable as a guide. Having a daily checklist of what you want to achieve, and a clear outline of when assignments and other important milestones are due, are helpful tools. Draw up a timetable, establish milestones and indicate these in the timetable. It is important (as far as possible) to meet deadlines set. If your initial plan was too optimistic, readjust it. Setting realistic deadlines is key, so you feel a sense of accomplishment once you hit your targets.

Take breaks

It’s good to have a routine when you are studying from home but breaks are just as important. When we are doing face-to-face studies our breaks are already planned for us, but when we are planning our own study schedules, sitting in one place for hours on end can take its toll. Take a 10-minute break every hour. Get up and take a 30-minute break every 3 hours. Have a small snack to remain refreshed and rejuvenated. Also, keep hydrated with water.

Seek support

Human beings are social beings, and learning is often enhanced by being in a group. In online situations, learners can feel as lonely as they miss the social interaction with their peers and teachers. Students and parent-teachers must find new ways of connecting. For instance, WhatsApp groups can be used for support, and emails for extended discussions. Chatrooms can be for informal interaction while discussion boards can be set aside for group exercises.

Ask about institutional support

Schools, colleges and higher education institutions often have support structures available. There are online library resources, student/ parent portals which are rich with support material such as recorded webinars, Powerpoint voice-overs, articles, live webinars, Youtube videos and many more. You can also get counselling support for your emotional needs. Studying from home for extended periods can be overwhelming and can make you feel anxious so reach out to professionals at your institution. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Stay positive, you’ve got this!

Stay positive! Distance and online learners should focus on the joy of learning, rather than worrying about social distancing. If you find that you get tired, demotivated and despondent, take a brain break by stepping away and doing something else. Connecting with nature is great for boosting your energy levels. Open your window to get fresh air, water a plant or grow one, or visit one of the many websites that offer incredible views of nature. Learning doesn’t have to be serious. There are many online games that keep you learning while having fun.

Tips and tricks for success

Being a successful online learner requires discipline and taking control of the situation. Daily structured periods will enhance your success rate. Get outside, get some fresh air and even sit in your garden or porch. A change is as good as a holiday. Do some exercises just to get your heart rate up. Play some quick games as variety will help undo mental blocks. Everyone is different so select times and methods that work for you.

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