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online classes good or bad

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I’ve always felt that education should be an in-person experience. There’s something about being in the classroom, on a campus, with the teacher standing in front of you, and the other eager students around you, that’s just energizing and inspires focus. Certainly having a teacher be able to see if you look down at your phone or draw a doodle also helps keep you on track. And then there is that wonderful immediacy of simply raising your hand if you have a question, or going up to the teacher after class if something was unclear to you. Classes that take place in a physical location also remove you from distractions. You’re in a learning environment. You aren’t in your bedroom or kitchen, where something can easily steal your attention. IRL classes require a tight schedule as well. You must show up at this exact time, and be present for the duration of the class. You can’t wander off somewhere. You can’t just log in and then walk away to do something else. Now, everything is moving online. More and more colleges are choosing to move classes onto platforms like Zoom or Google meetings to keep students safe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students of all ages and levels are going to have to rapidly learn how to get just as much out of the online education system as they would out of the IRL one because the IRL one is out of commission…for now. Here are tips for getting the most out of your online classes.

online classes good or bad

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“Arrive” a little early

You can usually log into the online class a few minutes before it actually begins, just as you would arrive early to a physical class. This allows a little time for you to have some banter with the teacher before he dives into the discussion, and quickly clarify any topics about which you were confused after the last lecture.

online classes good or bad

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Attend virtual office hours

The important thing is to develop a relationship with your teacher, even though you may never meet in person. He may offer virtual office hours, and if that is the case, attend these. Jot down a few questions or conversation topics. This is partially about getting real answers to your questions, but also about developing that relationship with a professor, with actually helps you feel motivated to do well in class.

online classes good or bad

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Record the classes

Record your classes. That’s the beauty of online classes, is that you can easily record them, and review them – fast forwarding, rewinding, pausing to zoom in on something written on the board – whenever you want. If it’s hard for you to absorb everything the first time around, just record these sessions and re-watch them.

online classes good or bad

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Ask questions in the chat bar

Even though you can’t exactly raise your hand as you would in class because it’s hard for your teacher to see that over Zoom, you can use the chat bar provided to type your question. Ideally, your teacher will get to these questions one a time when he can. Don’t be shy. Use the chat bar.

online classes good or bad

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Create a “classroom”

Create a dedicated study space at home. You can set up dividers or temporary walls – like a changing room area – around a desk to eliminate visual distractions. Put everything you need there like a notepad, pen, and paper, and nothing you don’t, like magazines or your phone.

online classes good or bad

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Take plenty of notes

Take lots of notes. It can feel funny doing this in an online class, as you feel you can always just look up the information later. But physically taking notes actually helps our brains better absorb information, as it’s coming to us.

online classes good or bad

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Treat class like a real appointment

Maybe you have options, like you can take the 1pm, 2pm, or 3pm lecture. Or, it’s all pre-recorded, and you can watch it any time you want. You’ll need to develop self-discipline here. Choose the lecture you’ll attend. Or choose a time you will watch the recorded one. And don’t stray from that. Don’t skip it because something fun comes up. Treat this like a real appointment, with somebody who is depending on you to show up.

online classes good or bad

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Notify housemates when you’re in class

If you live with others, let them know when you’ll be in your online class or when you’ll be studying, and ask that they do not disturb you during that time. If they want to ask you what you want for dinner or if the Amazon package that arrived is for you, they can ask you when you’re out of class as interrupting you breaks your focus.

online classes good or bad

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Create regular study times

You’ll need to set aside time not just to attend class but also to study. Most students know that going to class is only a portion of the time commitment. For each one-hour class there is often three hours or more of studying to be done. So set aside study blocks every day, or a few times a week, and treat yourself as busy during those times, if something else comes up.

online classes good or bad

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And regular study breaks

You should also take regular study breaks. If you’re going to school online, it’s easy to just study constantly, especially now during a pandemic when there’s not much else to do. But you need to give your brain breaks so it can recharge and get some energy. And knowing that a break is coming up in 30 minutes can stop you from looking at your phone right now, during class.

online classes good or bad

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Have online study groups

If you attended an in-person class on a campus, you would form study groups. You would get together at dedicated times, help each other clarify concepts, quiz each other, and share supplemental materials that you’ve found helpful. Form these study groups online – it’ll keep you in that collegiate mindset.

online classes good or bad

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Attend other online teacher-suggested events

If your teacher suggests other online events to watch and attend like web series or lectures, attend them. It takes so little to do so. It’s not like when college was normal, and attending these events meant driving somewhere and finding parking and waiting in line. These online events can enrich your learning experience.

online classes good or bad

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Maintain a regular schedule

If you’re going to school online, it’s easy to fall into a strange schedule – or really no schedule at all. But keep a normal one. Get up at the same time each day. Exercise at the same time. Have your lunch break. Have your time each night when you put studying aside to relax.

online classes good or bad

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Read supplemental materials

Find supplemental materials to enhance your learning experience. If your teacher or a classmate suggests something that will help get you ahead of the game or make some concepts easier to grasp, read them. Immerse yourself in the concepts you’re learning, just as you would if you attended a brick and mortar campus.

online classes good or bad

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Participate in online forums

Find online forums about the classes you’re taking and participate in them. The idea is to make school your main focus, even when you don’t have to show up to an IRL class. Let this be a big part of your life right now, rather than something you squeeze in between FaceTime calls with friends and board games at home.

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