The Virus: Live Online Courses
The world has shifted from the physical to the virtual. There are some who have returned to work in the office and others who continue to work at home. The COVID-19 crisis has been quite the roller coaster with good weeks and bad ones. I'd like to pay my respects to those individuals who have lost their jobs and loved ones. I can sympathize with your suffering. I'm thankful to all those who are aware of others and are taking the precautions recommended for the safety of the public by following CDC guidelines.
Many universities across the nation have taken the necessary steps to insure their student body, and faculty, are protected from the COVID-19 virus. Some universities have gone as far as to move courses completely online to avoid the continued spread COVID-19. Others, such as the University of Arizona, have created hybrid situations which allow professors to decide whether or not they would like to teach in person, giving students the opportunity to choose whether to study remotely or be physically present. Our university offers four kinds of learning environments:
I'd like to offer a few tips for a more wholesome live online learning experience by addressing the obstacles of being present, planning, and communicating.
Tip: be honestly present
We find ourselves falling into a vicious cycle because we translate virtual class into time to multitask. We enter zoom meetings and set out to work on assignments or run errands while doing our best to "listen"to the lecture. Unfortunately, we take advantage of the zoom interface by turning off our cameras and leaving the platform with only a picture of our name, creating a sense of distance between ourselves, the professor and the content presented. We may be present in zoom but truly we are not "present" in person, ultimately affecting our performance in the course. Although, many of us get away with being "present", at the end of the day the knowledge we don't retain reveals the lack there of. I'm guilty of having my camera off so I can take a nap because I stayed up late or I work on other tasks with a looming deadline. There are those who have their camera off for better internet service but let's be honest, sometimes we take advantage of this as an excuse. There's no shame in admitting the truth. This is the first step to change. I've learned the best way to honestly be present in class is by having my camera on at all appropriate times in each of my zoom meetings. Doing this has helped me to have a better chance of retaining content. This also gives me the opportunity to ask questions whether by speaking up or typing them into the chat box. Honestly, the chat box is my preferred method because I'm not fond of interrupting the flow of class. I also find my presence in class crucial because some of my professors have decided to no longer record lectures as a way of making us accountable for our presence. To those of you who find yourself "exempt" from this because you are disciplined, suit yourself.
Tip: structure your time with a planner and don't succumb to distractions
This is a big one and the thing I fight with time and time again. With the pandemic came government orders to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. This was especially hard for me because I love spending time with friends and visiting family. Prior to the pandemic, I was in the habit of inviting friends over for social interactions or to complete assignments together. As the summer of 2020 approached I was one of the many who lost their internship because of the pandemic. I found myself burning time job hunting, practicing my violin, writing (the creation of this blog came about because of the pandemic), cooking (I hate cooking but all the time inside brought me to do even this), and lots and lots of late night tv binging. As mandates loosened I went on nature adventures with a select few of friends who also lived alone to avoid encouraging the spread of the virus. When school started fall of 2020 I kept up my hobbies and pushed my assignments to the back burner. I felt by doing this I would keep myself sane. However, the lack of focus on school brought me tons of stress because I was not meeting the quality of work expected by my professors. I learned the stress build up came from a lack of balance between school and personal time to myself. The more I worked with no time to relax the greater the stress. Or vice versa, the more I relaxed with no time for school the greater the stress. I found myself pondering how I had survived previous semesters when classes required a physical presence. I realized I used to have a digital planner to structure my days and balance my life. I decided to pick up the forgotten habit and finished the semester stronger and with less stress than I'd expected.
The pandemic has caused many of us to lose our touch with people, including our family and friends. I myself didn't experience the lack of communication for very long because I become noticeably depressed over time when I don't have human interactions. I continued the habit of face timing my family and friends to spend time together virtually. The beauty of technology really manifested itself through this pandemic because even though I was physically alone most of the time I didn't ever feel alone. The contact I kept with my loved ones played a huge role in keeping me motivated and staying out of the dark abyss which has consumed many in the pandemic. During the semester I've made sure to be in close contact with my professors. This allowed me to trust and have greater confidence in them as they sought to support me throughout the year. My professors have been very understanding as I've shared the struggle of learning virtually. Although professors aren't therapists, they are human and 9 out 10 times they will be more than willing to meet with you virtually outside of class hours to help you with school work and beyond. So shoot them your professor an email and give a friend a call.
If you have any more tips you'd like to share or have need of some advice I'd be happy to help by addressing the issue on another blog post (i.e how to write an email to your professor, how to use a planner or plan, developing a balanced schedule).