Now, let’s be honest: when we embark on a higher education journey we expect to be able to experience all the quirks of student life – travel to College or University, meet fellow students and the lecturers, socialise, make connections, build relationships in real life, and so on. However, for the students that have started their course in April and September 2020, all the face-to-face interaction has been postponed indefinitely.
Many of the students have not signed up for this, and, as a matter of fact, neither have the educational institutions. So, how do we all negotiate this online or blended learning until it’s safe to resume face-to-face interactions? After searching a few sources for reliable advice, we have managed to put together a list of things you might like to try out for yourselves, and transform this study-from-home situation into a more enjoyable one, or at least one less frustrating.
Select your learning space wisely
When is your course start date? Next week? In 2 weeks? Tomorrow?
If you haven’t done so yet, you need to choose a space to study and attend classes. Now, don’t make the mistake of underestimating the importance of a well-chosen space. So, what should you take into consideration when setting up?
- Peace and quiet – if possible, set up your space in a room with little or no foot traffic, to minimise distraction and noise. This will enable you to better concentrate during lectures and while studying or writing your assignments. A spare room or your bedroom would work just fine but stay clear of the living room, kitchen and garden.
- Lighting – if you are required to have your camera on while attending classes, make sure you have a decent amount of natural light in the room. This will not only help you focus and be more active, but also provide your colleagues and lecturers with a clear view of your face, which will enable you all to communicate and connect more effectively. If you are attending evening classes, having an extra desk light behind your computer/laptop will reduce the shadows on your face.
- Don’t get too comfortable – use a desk or a table to sit at – do not repurpose your bed! Same goes for the sofa. The more comfortable you are, the less focused you will be during the classes. The best approach to the seating arrangement is to keep it as close to a classroom setting as possible.
- Positioning – you now have a room to sit in, with plenty of natural light, a desk and a chair. The next thing to consider is your background. You might think a virtual background will take care of anything going on behind you, but they are actually frowned upon and unprofessional. Instead of using the virtual version, you could just position yourself with your back to the wall. This way, you minimise distraction for your lecturer and classmates, who will concentrate on the lecture instead of your room’s layout and décor.
Be Tech ready
Your computer or laptop will become an indispensable item during your online learning stint, so you should make sure it is running at the right parameters.
- Chargers and cables are safe to use (check if they are not frayed or overheating) – replace them or get an electrician to check them before you start your course. Remember, safety first!
- Latest Software updates are installed
- Keyboard, speakers, microphone and camera are working well
- Meeting software is installed and running fine. You might also want to familiarise yourself with the basic features before the lectures start.
Etiquette – does it apply to virtual interactions?
As we follow a certain conduit while we attend classes on campus, we are also expected to be aware of the online etiquette while studying remotely. What should you be aware of before you start attending online classes?
- Microphone and camera should be turned off while joining the online class
- Try not to speak over someone else – instead, wait for a pause before interjecting, or use the chat function to submit comments
- Mute microphone and switch off camera if you need to be AFK (away from keyboard)
- Dress as if you were attending on campus lectures – just because you are at home, it doesn’t mean you can attend lectures in your PJs.
- Always use a headset – echoes and static can cause discomfort to the other participants
- Do not play on your phone – if you need to take a call, or reply to a text message, ensure you switch off your camera and microphone not to distract everyone else from the lecture.
Some students will take to remote learning like fish to water, and some will not enjoy it at all, and that is absolutely normal. The important thing to remember is to adapt as fast as you can, make the best of the present situation, and do not get frustrated if things are not running as smooth as you imagined they would be. After all, adaptability and flexibility are skills well sought after and we will all get a chance to exercise and enhance them during these unprecedented times.