Students across the country — and the world — are dipping their toes into the virtual learning environment. Whether they like it or not, this is the reality of learning [safely] in 2020. As scary and as stressful as it can be to adjust to a completely digital world, virtual learning doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, we think it has way more advantages than the traditional classroom setting.
We’ve been running our virtual school (The Income Tax School) for 31 years. For those who are leery about online learning, here are our top tips to help you get ready.
Set up a dedicated space
You should have a dedicated space to learn that is free of distractions, just like you would have for a remote job. Setting up your desk signifies a clear separation between where you work/learn and where you live. It’s a barrier that helps your brain leave the work space and enter the living space and a way to help minimize distractions.
When setting up your space, consider lighting to make video calls easier. You should also bring nature into your work area. Since you’re not walking from class to class, put yourself near natural light and add some plants to workspace. Studies show that bringing nature into your workspace can reduce stress and increase creativity.
You should also make sure your study space is neat and organized. Add a planner so you can see upcoming assignments and key dates, create shelving or put a file cabinet near you to keep your desk clear of papers and clutter.
Set a Schedule
Set a school schedule for yourself like you would have if you had to attend classes in person. Your learning schedule should go beyond the time already allotted for live instruction and include time for completing assignments and studying for tests. If time management is hard, try using the time blocking technique. When setting your schedule, make a note of your most productive times of the day to ensure you are working during those hours when your brain is active and engaged. You could also invest a tool like the Slice Planner or the Pomodoro Timer if time blocking isn’t your thing.
Start an online study group
If there’s one thing we’re missing these days it’s real life connections. Being in a space by yourself is much different than experiencing the live classroom dynamic. Starting a study group is a great way to learn from others and help keep each other accountable. You could start an online group using Google Meetup or Zoom, or go the “Quaranteam” route and choose a select few people to study with in person from a safe social distance.
Keep other tabs closed
Don’t read your email. Don’t check your social media. In fact, close those tabs completely. Despite what we’ve all been taught growing up, our brains can’t handle multitasking. We are not fully present for any of the one million things we’re trying to do at once and we end up doing none of them well. Be present and fully engaged in learning. Listen. Take notes. Ask questions. When we force our brains to do more than one thing at a time, we end up with mental fatigue and we don’t fully process any of things we were taking in.
Whether you’re learning at your own pace or from a specific curriculum with a timeline, set goals for what you hope to accomplish when. You can set daily goals, semester goals, or career goals. Put those goals up in your work area to remind you of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Don’t glue yourself to your chair the entire day. Get up, move around, take mental breaks. Your brain can’t handle focusing for extended periods of time and your eyes don’t like staring at screens all day. You need to give every part of you breaks frequently. Believe it or not, studies show that people who take breaks are more productive. Taking breaks refreshes the mind and replenishes mental resources.
You should also get up and move your body. Being sedentary is also not good for you. Opt to work from a standing desk for part of the day or build in breaks to stretch, go for a work, and move your body.
Virtual learning doesn’t have to be hard, it just takes some time to adapt. Whether you’re going back to school or looking into virtual options for career advancement or learning something new, now is a great time to expand your knowledge and acquire new skills.