“With Covid cases rising, the number of schools sending home groups of pupils because of Covid-19 incidents could be on the increase. According to the Children’s Commissioner in September, around one in 20 children in England were out of school due to issues linked to the pandemic. Whilst the Government appears committed to ensuring that schools stay open, the reality is that online learning is likely to stay for the foreseeable future. And that means independent study.
As a past Justin Craig student recently graduated from University, I know how difficult independent study can be. Like many others, I found myself at home in March and, with my gap year on hold, I decided to take an online marketing course. Unlike independent study at university, where I was able to go to the library to break up the day, studying an online course from home was a new challenge to me, as it was for many students this year.
In this article, I will share some of my top tips for getting the most out of online learning.
1) Have a dedicated study space
As many students will know from their experience during lockdown, the school/ home boundary which is so important for both focus and down time, has now been blurred. Home is increasingly the place for online school classes, private study and relaxation, which makes it harder to do any of them effectively. However, finding a good study space massively helped me:
- Try to find a room which isn’t your bedroom, where you can go and focus during school hours. It’s important that it’s not your bedroom; not only are there plenty of distractions there, but you may also find it more difficult to unwind at the end of the day.
- When you want to take a break, it’s important to leave your study room, as you would leave the classroom for break time at school. This helps maintain that school/ home boundary and will allow you to relax at the end of the day as well as focus when you are online learning.
2) Try and maintain a ‘school’ day structure
Routine and organisation are essential for any effective independent study, so try and replicate the normal school day as best you can:
- Although its very appealing to stay in pyjamas all day, getting up on time, showering and getting dressed as you would a normal school day helps get into that learning mind frame.
- Take a break mid-morning and an hour for lunch, to maintain the school day routine.
If homework has been set, make sure to complete it to the same standard as you would normally – its only going to affect you later on.
Sticking to school rules when it comes to time on your phone also really helped me. Most schools ban the use of phones in the classroom, and although its tempting to scroll through Instagram or TikTok whilst listening to a teacher on zoom, studies have shown that those who ‘media multi-task’ are more likely to make mistakes and remember less of the material.
Leave your phone in your ‘downtime’ room and reward yourself with time on it on your break or at lunch.
3) Interact with your teachers and friends about the lessons
Your teachers and peer group at school can be a massive support, even if you are not in class. They understand that these are difficult times, so speaking to them can help alleviate some of the stress.
- If you’re unsure whether you’re on track with the online learning, or are feeling anxious about the material, touch base with your teacher every so often.
- Use the camera when attending a Zoom class. Teachers know that students turn the camera off to use their computer for other purposes. You will get more out of a class if you interact with your instructor and peers.
- Talking through lessons and homework with friends can also help you stay engaged with the course. Swapping tips on what study techniques are working can help you discover new ways of learning.
- It’s comforting to know that everyone is in the same boat as you, so help each other out and discuss what you’re learning together.
4) Take care of yourself
School is a massive part of your social life and in the new normal of online learning, it can be easy to focus on the negatives. There are lots of small self-care rituals that you can practice to help you stay motivated and keep feelings of anxiety away – here are a couple that have helped me:
- Keep in touch with friends by maintaining some sort of socialising, whether it’s a zoom call to discuss homework or a skype coffee break. This will help you in lots of ways but is incredibly important to your studies as it helps keep your brain healthy and motivated.
- Although we’re now getting into the colder months and going outside feels less appealing, stretching your legs whilst on a break helps keep those feelings of cabin fever at bay and keeps you focused.
I hope these tips help you find a good routine that works for you and helps you get the most out of your online learning.”