How to Succeed in an Online Learning Environment
--By The Orange Staff
At WPHS, like many high schools across the country, we are living through an unprecedented experience that has altered our lives personally and academically. Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Westchester county, we have not entered our school buildings since March 13. Quickly and without preparation, administrators, teachers, students and parents have had to learn how to adapt to distance learning. Since students are the ones who have to actually learn, the challenge for them is perhaps the most overwhelming.
While online learning is a new and uncertain territory, if you find a way to navigate it that suits your learning style, it can have its benefits. One benefit is being able to make my own schedule and do things on my own time. We recommend that before you start your work for the day you make a list of each class and what you have to do that day for it. This will keep you organized and will help you stay on track, as you can cross things off when you’re done with them.
It’s also good to set breaks for yourself. For example, a good motivator to get through your work would be that after you finish this essay you will go for a walk. Now that it’s been a few weeks, you should start to get a sense of how you like managing your day, and find a routine to stick to.
Many students enjoy the greater control that we now have over our day in terms of school work, and once you find a schedule that works for you, you’ll see the upside to being able to have class from your bed.
Some other suggestions to help you manage online learning:
One cannot learn online without the proper equipment. If you need devices, reach out to your administrator right away. The high school has been providing iPads to students who need them, and Wifi should be accessible throughout the city. Again, if a student is having trouble with the nuts and bolts of online learning, a school administrator should be notified right away.
Reaching out to Teachers
At WPHS most teachers are using Schoology to communicate with students. Many students were already familiar with Schoology, so that has been helpful. Nevertheless, the shift to learning exclusively through Schoology has been sudden and, for some, confusing. If you are a student struggling with Schoology, you should reach out to your teacher as soon as possible via email or the Remind app. Teachers want to help.
One of the immense challenges that students are now facing is managing their time. Many students are taking advantage of the extra time to sleep in the mornings, which can only be a benefit since teens’ body clocks are not usually aligned with the demands of a typical school day. But once students are awake and ready to work, what needs to happen? Once students sign into Schoology and see numerous assignments posted, what should they do? Scheduling is the answer. Students: take time to review your assignments and due dates. Create a calendar or list and write due dates down, so you can prioritize your work. As you complete a task, check it off on your calendar or list. According to The Guardian, “Studies have shown that people perform better when they have written down what they need to do” (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/10/the-psychology-of-the-to-do-list-why-your-brain-loves-ordered-tasks). Checking off each task will give you a sense of accomplishment and help fight the overwhelm you may be feeling.
Dedicate Study Blocks
If it is possible for you to do, set aside some time for schoolwork each day. Choose a time of day when you know you are usually very productive and try to stick to the schedule as long as your situation at home allows for it.
Limit Phone Use
We all know that our phones can draw our attention away from tasks that require concentration. According to an article in Psychology Today, “We know from several really well conducted studies into human psychology and brain science that we don’t actually multitask” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-leadership/201811/why-you-can-t-multi-task). So, turn off the sound on your phone and put it aside for a while. If your mind doesn’t have to keep switching tasks from homework to phone to Schoology to social media and back agian, you will get your work done more quickly and efficiently.
Some students are finding that distance learning is requiring them to sit in front of their screen for too many hours straight. Take breaks when you have been sitting and working for too long. Each student’s threshold for concentrated work differs. Some students may be able to work uninterrupted for an hour while others may need to get up and move around every 15 minutes. To be successful at online learning, you have to know how you work best. If breaks, snacks, or fresh air are needed to make your body and brain perform optimally, then you must work them into your “school day.”
Connect with Classmates
Students who are used to learning with their classmates by working in groups or studying together may find distance learning terribly isolating. So, if possible, set up a study group chat with classmates. This way, you can share questions, frustrations, and tips with each other. You will all benefit from the camaraderie.
Finally, be patient with yourself; there is a steep learning curve here for everyone involved. And remember, Tigers: although we are all physically apart from one another right now, we are in this together!