Seven Ways to Be an Effective Online Learner

Friday, April 24, 2020

By Sara Keenan, learning strategies coordinator, Aylward-Dunn Learning Center

COMMUNICATE/PARTICIPATE

In this virtual learning environment, communication and active participation are more important than ever. 

  • Check your email daily: Read updates from Rockhurst, messages from your professors, and respond in a timely manner.
  • Login to Canvas throughout the day.
  • Read and follow instructions carefully.   
  • Attend all scheduled classes and SI sessions live if possible, as attending live allows you to participate and ask questions.  
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructor with questions and don’t wait until after you’ve missed a deadline.  
  • Choose to participate in optional Zoom sessions for class or social groups!

MAKE A SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT

The switch to online learning may have left you with a lot of unstructured time to fill.  It might be tempting to sleep in until noon and then just “figure it out” for the rest of the day.  You will find it’s much more effective to try to stick to a schedule. 

  • Make a daily schedule for yourself and stick to it. 
  • Include a set wake-up time, live class time, study time, physical activity, meals, breaks, and downtime.  
  • When it’s study or class time, hold yourself to it. 
  • Once you’ve mastered the daily schedule, work on a weekly schedule to keep track of when assignments are due, or exams are approaching.  
  • Plot out the rest of the semester to make sure you are staying on track; especially in courses that may have a large project due at the end of the semester. 

CREATE AND MANAGE A PRODUCTIVE STUDY SPACE

Online learners are more effective if their study space is organized and conducive to work.

  • It is not ideal to plan to work in your bed or in a room with a lot of traffic. 
  • If you can, set up a workstation separate from your living area where you can go to concentrate. 
  • Try to find a place that has all the supplies you will need nearby (textbooks, writing utensils, notebooks, calculator, computer and charger, etc.) and that is quiet. If you are home with a large family this can be a challenge but do your best to find a nook that you can claim as your own. 
  • Be sure that the space you select has good Wi-Fi connectivity and an appropriate/non-distracting background for virtual sessions.  
  • If your Wi-Fi or internet access is limited, use internet time strategically to download materials that you can work with offline.

BE PRESENT: ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS
Learning from home means dealing with many distractions that weren’t there when you were sitting in a classroom.  Netflix. Siblings. A fridge full of food. Social media. Avoiding distractions like these while trying to learn is a whole new challenge. 

  • Make an effort to be present in your studies, which will lead to being more efficient, allow you to retain more from your learning activities, and also make it easier for you to actively participate in online classes. 
  • Don’t try to multitask.  Focus on one thing at a time in order to complete your studies effectively.
  • Turn off your phone and preferably keep it in another room during class and study time. 
  • If you are in a home full of family, it may be best to wear headphones while you study with white noise or soft music. 
  • If possible, find a space where you can focus that is away from everything that is fighting for your attention. 

SET GOALS AND MOTIVATE YOURSELF
We are all dealing with unprecedented disruption. The typical structures that help us stay organized and motivated are out the window.  Students need to be self-disciplined and find motivation to complete tasks in a timely manner. 

  • Start with big picture goals.  Why is it important for you to finish the semester strong?  What are you working toward? 
  • Then, drill down to weekly and daily goals.  What do you need to do this week to complete each course successfully?  What can you do today that will lead toward those goals? 
  • Goals should be specific, attainable, and timed.  For example, instead of telling yourself, “I need to work on my research paper sometime.”  Set a goal like, “I will finish my bibliography by Friday and write the first two pages by Monday morning.” 

USE YOUR RESOURCES
You are not alone!  While it might feel that way when you are sitting in front of your computer, there are many people at Rockhurst who are here to help you navigate the online and remote learning environment in order to succeed in your studies. Even if you have not had to “ask for help” in the past, now is the time to do it!  Here is a partial list of resources available for Rockhurst students:

  • The Aylward-Dunn Learning Center:  Sign up for online tutoring (one-on-one) and find out about virtual supplemental instruction (group study sessions) as well as individualized study skills help.
  • Love in Action: Apply for grants to help you with academic needs (textbooks, computers, etc.)
  • eLearning: Email for help with Canvas or Zoom.
  • Help Desk: Contact for assistance with any technology issues.
  • The Greenlease Library: Access virtual librarians and staff for help on research for class projects or papers.
  • The Counseling Center: Get in touch with counselors if you are struggling with mental health issues, anxiety, or depression.

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR DOWN TIME
Make room in your daily schedule for downtime and relaxation. It is hard to be an effective learner if you are overwhelmed, stressed out, or exhausted.  So, it’s okay to schedule an hour to watch that Netflix show or go for a run to clear your mind. 

Spend time connecting with your family, roommates or friends in whatever way you can. 
Try to choose activities that relieve stress and fill your soul rather than activities that can be draining or stressful. 
Avoid too much news or negative social media. 
Whether you sprinkle your downtime throughout the day as quick study breaks or save it up for one long binge-watching session in the evening, be sure to add free time to your daily schedule. 
Self-care is so important, make it a priority!