Learning online offers advantages to many students – for example: flexible schedule, no commute, and the ability to revisit lecture recordings. Even with these benefits, online learning can also surface new challenges. As we all settle in to remote learning this semester, here are a few tips that will help you feel more “in-sync” with your “asynch” classes!
Challenge: Lack of Schedule
Without a set schedule to watch lecture recordings and complete assignments, it is easy for asynchronous classes to get pushed to the bottom of your ‘to-do’ list. Synchronous classes will likely *feel* more pressing since there is a weekly class component.
Strategy: Block out time in your week specifically for your asynchronous class. Treat this time block like a mandatory class where attendance is taken. Even better – schedule the time with a classmate so you can hold each other accountable. Frequent engagement with the course will help, even if it is for short amounts of time.
Challenge: Feeling Disconnected
Without some of the ‘ritual’ of attending class, it is easy to feel disconnected from the professor, the content, and even the course expectations and learning objectives.
Strategies: Carefully review the syllabus to understand the professor’s expectations and learning objectives. Read course assignment descriptions thoroughly. Add due dates to your calendar, so you are not surprised by deadlines.
Attend office hours or set up an appointment with the professor to build a relationship and make the person behind the content seem more human.
Challenge: Low Motivation
Without the built-in accountability that comes with regular class meetings, motivation can feel hard to find.
Strategy: Boost your motivation by teaming up with a classmate or two to form a study group or to complete the classwork at the same time each week – simulating a class meeting. It is more fun to work alongside someone than alone.
Building a relationship with the professor through office hours can also help increase your motivation, as it helps put a name/face/personality to the coursework.
Challenge: Passive learning
Without the discipline of class meetings and regular due dates, we tend to push off work until right before it is due, cramming to get everything done at once.
Strategies: We learn best by engaging actively with content regularly and often. Take advantage of any way to activate your learning for your asynchronous classes. Discussion boards, forum posts, reflection papers, homework sets – these things may feel tedious – but they are a perfect opportunity to force your brain to RECALL content and make it your own. This is the process of learning.
Form a study group with classmates and alternate quizzing each other and teaching various concepts. Or talk about the readings and how the material relates to you or challenges or surprises you.
Make your notes more interactive by summarizing, posing questions, re-writing, or condensing. Think of your notes more like repeated iterations, constantly evolving instead of a one-time thing that you later passively review.
Challenge: Dense, Long Lecture Recordings
Passively watching a long lecture recording is difficult to do and it is easy to find yourself zoning out and distracted.
Strategy: Work in focused chunks of time. Take short breaks where you change your position to get your blood flowing. During each break, test your recall – what was just covered? What were the main points? How does it fit into the bigger pictures? Could you draw a concept or mind map? What questions do you still have?
Resist the urge to press pause constantly – this will add significant time to your studying. Treat the lecture recording as though it is live and do your best to keep up. If you notice a topic that is particularly confusing, note the time in the lecture. You can always return to just that portion to get some clarity.
Challenge: Increased Distractions
Not only do asynchronous courses demand a certain amount of self-discipline to engage with the course work, they also present an increased temptation to disengage and float away in distractions.
Strategy: If distractions are truly threatening your focus, productivity, or performance, be ruthless with eliminating them. Leave your phone in another room or ask a family member or friend to ‘guard’ it while you complete your work. Alternatively, consider using an app or a website blocker to help you enforce the limits you need. Resist the urge to multitask.
Challenge: Zoom/Computer Fatigue
Due to social distancing requirements and more, everything these days is online.
Strategy: Do anything you can to get away from the computer. Grab a stack of flashcards or a study guide and study while you walk. Call a friend and quiz each other with nothing but a notebook in front of you. Use your breaks to run up and down your stairs, walk around the block, or sit outside and breathe fresh air. Maybe it feels small or silly, but these little breaks away from the computer REALLY help you maintain your stamina for the rest of the semester.
You are living through unique and unprecedented times! Asynchronous learning may have added some new challenges, but with some forethought and consideration of your rhythms, routines, and choices, you can demonstrate to yourself your resilience and persistence – important traits to hone for yourself and you future.