Distance Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted on April 1st, 2020 to College transition

This health pandemic has forced educational institutions to use distance learning platforms in a greater capacity. For some this wasn’t a huge ask–namely colleges and universities. Higher education institutions have been using these systems ever since the 2000’s. More recently, many colleges and universities offer full distance learning based degree programs. For public and private K-12 schools, COVID-19 was a catalyst in the use of distance learning. It forced administrators and teachers to quickly implement and use a platform they weren’t fully ready for. On top of all of this, there are the students. While current college and high school students are technology natives, they aren’t necessarily native to the world of remote and distance learning. So what does this mean for everyone involved? First, we need to be patient with one another. We are all figuring this out together. Comforting or not, the reality is that this is uncharted territory for most everyone and we need to remember that. Second, students need to have some strategies to help with success. That’s what I would like to share here. While I would like to think that what I’m about to propose is earth shattering or ground breaking, it really isn’t. What I offer is reinforcement of the tried and true practices you are already using, just with the perspective of distance learning.

 
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Overall, I see three focus areas for you to consider in honing your distance learning strategy: time management, study strategies, and self-care. You are going to need to become an independent learner in order to be successful in this new environment. Since you are no longer surrounded by teachers and peers, this physical distancing and social isolation is going to test your time management. Whether you have a system in place or are figuring one out, you will be required to be even more independent which means staying on task. Being distanced from teachers means you will also need to adjust your study strategies. Again, this situation is going to require you to be a more independent learner and thinker. Newness always brings with it stress and anxiety. Why? Well because it’s new; it’s unknown. So the key to your success will be managing your stress so you can prevent becoming overwhelmed and succumbing to procrastination caused by the increased levels of anxiety.

Time Management 

 

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I think we can all agree that time management is an important life skill to have. More so when the nature of how you are learning has changed completely at a moment’s notice. Moving from a traditional classroom environment to a remote learning platform will be stressful. You will need a process by which you can efficiently sift through the loads of  information thrown at you every day, process the information, prioritize it, and have a plan to deal with it. One of the things I advise students to do during moments of peak stress and anxiety is to lean into their time management strategy. It is the skill that is most likely to carry you through any difficult moment. There are 4 important elements to any successful time management plan: write, review, plan, execute. As long as you are doing those four things, you will be in great shape. With a sound strategy, you need to have the right tool for the job. There is a plethora of time management tools out there, but here is a list of the ones I suggest with highlights about their pros and cons. Take a look at the learning management platform your school is using, see if any of the tools I mention (or similar ones) integrate seamlessly with the system. This might help streamline and simplify your efforts.

 

Study Habits/Strategies

 

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Distance learning is also going to put your study habits and strategies to the test. This whole situation is forcing you outside of your norm, and potentially even outside of your comfort zone. Just as with time management, you may need to lean into your current strategies more. Though you may also need to make some adjustments. Learning from home requires a greater deal of discipline, independence, and responsibility. You can’t just drop by your instructor’s office for extra help sessions or the one-off question. Keep in mind that the foundation of any study strategy will focus on your mindset, proficiency, and academic goals. There are still a considerable number of approaches you can use even while you are learning and studying remotely. The hard part will be maintaining your discipline, so be sure you remain focused on your why!

Self-Care

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The final component to consider is your self-care. If you are feeling higher than normal levels of stress, it is for good reason. You have been forced to approach learning in a  completely different format, you are being bombarded with information about a global pandemic, and of course you have the normal stress load you carry each day. This is a lot for any one. The one positive I have seen is the incredible amount of FREE content being distributed via social media platforms that you can include in any kind of self-care plan. I have seen PE teachers and professional trainers publishing work-out videos, I have seen artists offering free video art classes, I have seen faith groups offering live streamed prayer and spiritual services, I have seen Yoga instructors offering free yoga sessions via video, and I have even seen martial arts instructors offering training videos. Any self-care plan requires some basic elements: physical activity, healthy nutrition, sleep, and emotional/spiritual rejuvenation. While there are a myriad of ways to do all of those things, even if you are social distancing or quarantined, it’s most important you keep in mind to do them.

Without a doubt these are unprecedented times which require us to do unprecedented things. You can do this! I have faith and confidence in you. It may be hard, and that is ok. Anything worth doing requires some element of adversity. Hopefully these suggestions help you to step up and in to the challenge. It’s also important to remember that you are not alone.

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