Waking up in panic 4 minutes before class has begun is a less than ideal situation. Nor is wrapping your blanket around you like a cloak and falling asleep on your keyboard to find that your memory foam pillow has unmuted you and exposed your obstructive sleep apnea to the entire class.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Sticking to the following tips is sure to make you a distance learning expert.
I can barely get up, and if I do, the class puts me to sleep.
Remember being ten and going to bed the day before a field trip? No one needed an alarm to wake themselves up. The trick to wanting to get out of bed is having something worth getting up. It’s highly unlikely that you’re in love with your course material, so find something else to fit into your morning routine. No matter how silly or elaborate, if it works, it’s okay. Whether it’s waking up to a favourite song or the perfect breakfast, it’ll soften the blow to hours of upcoming classes and make mornings more bearable for even sworn night owls.
Plan and prepare like your life depends on it.
It’s a common issue to take academics a little too casually, especially now that there’s so much going on in the world. Fifteen minutes per class scheduled the following day can change this. The course plan is your best friend; it details every lecture’s outcome and, in some cases, even the chapters from the prescribed textbooks. Taking a few moments to skim through these chapters will renew your interest in the class, and you’ll be familiar with the content being discussed. If you missed a few lessons- skim the course plan, skim the textbook. Now you’re a little better equipped to pay attention to what’s in front of you.
Even the smallest things make the most significant difference, like putting your devices to charge before you go to bed, or getting coffee or food before you start class. It’s more fulfilling to sit through two hours of lectures when your laptop is fully charged, and your stomach is not grumbling.
Online classes mean that you have access to your lectures even after class hours. Promising yourself that you will rewatch the lecture is tempting, leading to you falling behind, having no clue or interest in your material, and ultimately, bad grades. It’s a vicious cycle.
Watching the lectures again is drab, time-consuming, and redundant. Make the most out of class hours. It seems like a lot of time gets wasted during technical issues and countless rallies of “am I audible.” Use this time to your advantage. Update your notes, collect your thoughts, and fill in the missing gaps in your knowledge.
A couple of hours of keeping painfully detailed notes will eliminate the need to spend another few rewatching and understanding the material. Bonus points if you rewrite them neatly in a separate book, reconsolidating that information. It may not be immediately gratifying but will pay off in the long run.
Am I audible?
At times, it may seem like class is just a massive chunk of copy-pasted information being readout. It’s natural to convince yourself that this could be accomplished independently and you switch to Instagram to scroll for over an hour mindlessly. You procrastinate on the reading, and the night before a test, retention and understanding is nowhere to be found. Credit your professors’ experience. On some level, they are aware of common pitfalls that students face and do take extra effort to communicate their course material. Attending class also increases the probability of knowing what type of problems will be on the test.
What about Instagram?
Lack of accountability in online learning is every student’s bane. A single notification is enough to pick up the phone and begin scrolling. To instil a sense of motivation that comes from within yourself, you have to know what your goals are for this semester. What GPA you want, if you’re going to be pulling all-nighters before the end-semester, if you love the entire process of learning and exploring, and if you have a dream job in mind. Write down these things and put them in a place you can see them. A habit tracker with big boxes next to that, and you’re all set having an internal motivation system. If you’re the kind of person who can’t function without external motivation, ask your family, which inevitably barges in every 15 minutes, to keep a check on your notes or the screen time.
Home is where the distractions are!
There is no designated study space; there is definitely no peace and quiet. If you’ve been a victim to someone sweeping under your feet while struggling to understand something difficult, you’re not alone. MAHE has gigantic libraries and air-conditioned classrooms. The standard of a functional study space drastically increases once you’re used to the individual study hall’s pin-drop silence. It may be time to adapt to the existing conditions. Stop looking for perfection when you pick a spot; if you see a surface and a chair, it’s a contender. The most important thing is to not attend class from the bed you’ve just woken up from. If it’s a beautiful morning, attend class outdoors. A notepad and a data connection go a long way with some good weather.
Excuse me, Ma’am, how do I ask doubts?
Asking doubts in the middle of the class can be daunting. Unmuting yourself and facing the Big Bad Computer Screen, filled with dozens of faceless classmates is nothing short of a Herculean task. What you need to realize, though, is that absolutely no one is going to judge you for doing this. Think of it this way—half the class is either going to be asleep or not paying attention. The other half will be happy to learn something new. Worst case scenario, they’ll get jealous of the fact that you’re able to pay attention in the entirety of the class.
And isn’t that the most beautiful thing ever?
Finally, time to relax!
Don’t be so eager to start the next episode of whatever TV show you’re watching once the class is over. It can wait, Netflix is nice that way. A small, fifteen-minute revision of the notes you so painstakingly made goes a long way in terms of long-term retention of concepts. Your professor might have given a couple of questions for homework as well; now is the best time to solve them. Two birds with one stone—you’ll finish both revision and your workload. Tough it out during these few minutes. It will be difficult, but you will thank yourself later on before the dreaded exams start.
Rewatching is such a drag.
Sometimes, rewatching the recording of a certain class is the best way to brush up on a particular topic. However, there’s no escaping the fact that sitting through another hour or two of a lecture that you’ve already sat through is, to put it lightly, extremely tedious. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that long! A large part of online classes involves uncomfortable silence—whether it be connection issues, asking doubts, or the time given to solve a particular question. These are all parts of the recording that you can easily skip. If your professor teaches at an especially leisurely pace, there are options to increase the playback speed up to 2x on Microsoft Stream.
A close-knit circle goes a long way.
Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and those who maintain good notes closest. Make a group of people to share notes and discuss doubts with. Sharing something you spent a lot of time and effort on seems counter-intuitive, but you’ll have access to a whole set of different notes to study from. Now, you have the best notes for every topic, even for the ones you ignored.
Before the exams
The cheating conundrum.
In an online, non-proctored environment, cheating is bound to occur. This is a fact everyone has to accept. Is it fair to the ones who have put in the effort to study? No. However, you’re not forced to do it. Rely on the effort that you have put in, and your results will be more fulfilling. If you get good grades, that is. If not, you always have the comfort of knowing that your result is yours alone and that you have the best shot at redemption in the next test.
Open-book exam or closed-casket funeral?
The internet is your best friend. It is also your worst enemy. Hours of switching between the same three apps and mindlessly scrolling might be put to better use by opening your class Drive folder and familiarizing yourself with the study material. The worst thing that can happen during exams is you not being able to find where the notes for a particular question are. You have the luxury of open-book exams right now, and it’s only fitting that you take full advantage. There may never be a better opportunity to get good grades.
Read through the textbooks and the PowerPoint slides. You’ll be all the better for it.
So there you have it! Results are never guaranteed; it takes more than just reading through an article online for change to occur. However, following these steps will provide you with the best platform to maximize your chances of success.
All the best, and may the Force be with you!
Written by Pahal Duggal and Rushil Dalal for MTTN
Edited by Sanjana Bharadwaj for MTTN
Featured Image by Manan Agarwal for MTTN