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November 19, 2020 Thursday 12:08:41 PM IST

How to Excel as an Online Student

Teacher Insights

The Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning has supported Yale’s remote learning model since March 2020 and has supported Yale’s online learning initiatives on Coursera since 2014. The Center has developed a list of seven strategies any learner can use to succeed in an online classroom.

Students can focus on the following seven strategies to improve their online learning:

1) Communicate with Instructors:

When students build a relationship with their teacher or instructor, they have the opportunity to ask for help and provide meaningful feedback to the instructor. Asking for help and support is a common desire among online students.

2) Engage with Classmates:

Staring into a camera or at a Zoom screen instead of sitting next to classmates does not feel the same. However, peer-to-peer engagement remains important in online classrooms. Researchers have found that a sociable learning environment results in increased learning satisfaction. When fellow students ask a question or share content in a discussion board, try to engage and create a dialogue. Working alone can lead to social isolation. It is important to check in with fellow students and spend time sharing personal news. Consider setting up online study groups outside of class or a group chat with friends.

3) Stay Focused During Class:

During this time of unwelcomed change, people may feel more distracted and less focused on learning. If the mind wanders, students miss essential content. Research indicates that “students do believe that mind wandering can undermine their learning.” If students understand that distractions can lead to negative learning outcomes, they have an opportunity to increase their attentiveness by following a schedule with well-timed breaks. Students might also consider extension browsers to block distracting content or leaving their phones in another room.

4) Set Clear Goals:

Students may feel overwhelmed by online learning. It is vital to set clear goals to stay motivated. The Poorvu Center’s Academic Strategies Program recommends that students “take major assignments and break them into manageable pieces you can address step by step. At the beginning of each week, set clear, measurable goals for what you need to get done each day.” Students might opt to write down what they must do, should do, and could do each day.

5) Practice Using Technology:

Learners of all ages can struggle when they need to use a new tool or software for the first time. Researchers recommend that students and instructors familiarize themselves with online teaching tools and platforms by completing low stakes activities before moving on to more critical work.6 If a course requires the use of a new software or technology, spend time using the tool to practice on a low-stakes assignment or a personal task with fewer learning consequences. Remember, asking for help is normal!

6) Avoid Fatigue and Burn Out:

Zoom fatigue is real; the term describes “the tiredness, anxiety, or worry resulting from overusing virtual platforms.”7 If students feel tired, overwhelmed, or anxious, taking a break can improve focus and task completion.8 Students can try to schedule breaks between classes and consider changing their settings to get fresh air, sunlight, or a drink of water. As Dr. Chagpar said, rest is critical to everyone’s health and learning ability.

7) Reward Yourself:

Rewards can help students maintain motivation and morale. When students are extrinsically motivated, they might engage in an activity to attain a reward, avoid a punishment, or achieve a valued outcome.9 Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, often motivate students by conferring a certificate of completion. Students might opt to challenge themselves and reward themselves after an incredibly difficult assignment, test, or semester.

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