How to get the most out of online learning

Fall 2020 is a very interesting-looking semester. After all, this is the first time that many of us are experiencing a full semester of online learning! Some might enjoy this format, while others can’t wait to get back to campus. Regardless of where you stand, it’s a new reality that we all have to accept. Here are a few ways that you can stay on top of your learning:

1. Participate as much as possible

I find that asking questions helps to see the course content in new ways, and keeps you engaged. When classes were still in person, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a line of people waiting to speak to the professor before class, after class or during a break. But for some reason, people seem so reluctant to unmute their mics and ask a question. If you are uncomfortable asking a question with the whole class listening, then make a list of your questions and discuss them with your professor over email or during their virtual office hours.

Some of my professors also utilize polls and quizzes during class. Make sure you keep an eye out for these interactive elements, and engage with them as they can be a great tool for keeping focused on the material at hand.

2. Make a designated study space

Person sitting at a table outside typing on their laptop.

So long as you’re able to focus, any place can be a study space, even the outdoors

As an online learner, a good study space is critical since that’s where you’ll be spending the majority of your day. Whether you want to set it up in an office or on your kitchen table is up to you. Just make sure that it’s free from any distractions.

Sometimes circumstances prevent us from completely separating our study spaces from everything else. My bed is quite literally a metre away from my “study space.” To keep myself tempted from crawling into bed in the middle of the day, I have made the act of getting in and out of my bed a sort of “switch” in my brain. The second I get out of bed in the morning, a switch flips in my head that tells me to get into “work mode.” Work mode is allowed to be switched off the moment I lie back down on my bed. I treat this switch as only being able to be activated once a day since we all know how hard it is to get back into a productive mindset after switching off everything in our heads.

3. Use a calendar

A snippet of Jeremy's Google Calendar

Your calendar should include classes, deadlines and any other upcoming events

Log everything in your calendar! Test dates, assignment deadlines, group project meetings—put it all in there. It’s extremely easy for me to forget that I have something to do, when I don’t need to physically go anywhere to do it. I like using my Ryerson Google Calendar since all of my classes are automatically displayed in it, and I can access it from both my laptop and my phone. You may find it beneficial to use an agenda or even a wall planner that you can mark tasks off of once they’ve been completed.

4. Take breaks

Make use of the breaks given in lectures. Take some time to stretch, walk around, grab a snack or whatever else to recharge yourself for the next session.

Within your calendar, you should also account for non-academic activities like exercising, club meetings or personal hobbies. We can’t be expected to stay focused only on school for the entire day, so schedule time to do other activities in between your classes.

5. Learn how to use Zoom

Zoom is a conferencing platform that is used to conduct the majority of your online classes. All students can create a licensed Zoom account, free of charge, with their Ryerson credentials. Features that you might find useful include being able to privately message users in the same meeting and displaying a green screen-esque background behind you, if you want to hide your surroundings. Take some time to explore the settings of the application and learn some of the more hidden features.

Now go out there and make the most out of your online learning! But before you do, check out the video below to see our student ambassadors pros and cons of online learning!

— Jeremy

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