Test one’s mettle: this centuries-old idiom means ‘to see what a person is made of’. It features in plays by Shakespeare, in modern prose by Dean Koontz and Neal Boortz and in politicians’ speeches.
COVID is testing our mettle in more ways than one.
We’ve had to stay home when we wanted to go out, safeguard our health lest we infect those we love and adapt to online learning while our schools stand empty.
Despite all that we’ve given up and the many ways we’ve changed our lives, the coronavirus rages unabated. Our mettle continues to be tested and, if we students want to never be bested, we have to get good at learning online.
These tips will help you do that.
Keep Your Devices up to Date
Now that universities have moved the bulk of their classes online, you must have a computer that will keep up with them. One that allows you to see and hear everything without interruptions. You should make sure to have the latest software versions for every application you use, too.
The same goes for how you connect. Whether you use broadband or WIFI, make sure your router and all other components are in no danger of failing. Nothing could disrupt your lessons more than a spotty connection or a failing device.
Create a Dedicated Learning Space
We students like to get comfortable when we study. Curling up in bed, sprawling on the sofa and draping ourselves across benches are all student-favorite study poses. They won’t help you much while attending classes online because they don’t trigger a ‘learn’ response. They don’t help to keep you focused on your lessons, either.
Beds are for sleeping, sofas are for relaxing and socializing and benches are too narrow – in their shape and their purpose to afford you an expansive study space. You need a rigid surface to write on and room to place your books and other study materials so they’ll be within reach.
Take a look around your room and/or your home. Is there a quiet place for you to sit with your books, notepads and computer? A place with a desk or table that will signal ‘it’s learning time’ as soon as you sit down?
Marking off a space exclusively for online learning is one of the best ways to maintain focus on your lessons. It works in about the same ways as sitting in class does; your ‘learn’ response kicks in and you become more attentive.
You had to turn your phone off in class so you should turn it off while taking lessons at home, too.
Also consider that any platforms you’re logged into on your computer may ping messages at you, disrupting your focus. Muting your speakers won’t work because you have to hear your professor and trying to ignore your social media feeds might not work well enough.
Like Steve Jobs said: focus is about saying No.
The best way to say ‘No’ is to log out. Let everyone know that you’ll be in class during certain hours so they won’t send you any messages. If you have any notifications or alerts set up, disable them while in class.
Set Your Schedule
One of the many pluses of online learning is flexibility: you can take lessons at any time you’re ready. Tempting as it might be to watch a recording of your lectures whenever you feel like it, do your best to attend – the same as you would if the class had taken place at school.
One of the most destabilizing effects of this pandemic is the utter disruption of normal life. Humans need routine to give them a sense of purpose and achievement. Anything you can do to establish a sense of priority in your doings will help you stay focused on your studies.
As much as possible, maintain regular class routines – log in at the scheduled time, take notes and ask questions, if possible. Be present for the whole lecture. Follow other routines: eat right and sleep at regular intervals, get some exercise and limit television/gaming time. Connect with family and friends.
Even though you would have been in school all day had normal life not been interrupted, you don’t have to sit in your learning space, on the computer all day long. Incorporate study breaks into your learning. Take a rest after each class – they usually last only an hour or, at most 90 minutes. And, once the lecture is over, don’t hammer the books for hours on end.
During your breaks, you might reward yourself by checking your social media feeds and grab a snack to fuel you for the next hour of study.
Maintain Your Learning and Support Networks
For a while, all the news could talk about was ‘the new normal’. Sounding alternately puzzled, disgusted and horrified, news anchors wondered if mask-wearing is the new normal, if isolation is the new normal, if schools being closed is the new normal.
Suddenly, that phrase dropped out of anchors’ lexica. Perhaps it’s because they finally reasoned that defining our current life as separate from the life we enjoyed before the pandemic wasn’t helping people find ‘normal’.
Now and forever, you get to decide what represents ‘normal’ for you.
If you had a close relationship with your family before the virus, maintain those ties throughout the corona era even if you live apart from them. If you were a fitness fanatic, nothing gave you license to stop working out or taking care of yourself. If you benefited from online tutoring, continue to meet with your tutor online.
Your college years are meant to help you figure out who you are and where you want to go in life. Nothing about that has changed, even though everything has. Once you get into the habit of learning online and you develop the focus to do it well, you’ll find that learning will be just as challenging and rewarding as before.