Unanticipated situations such as viral outbreaks or weather-related cancellations can necessitate abruptly shifting face-to-face courses to remote learning environments. This resource provides a number of tips for students to effectively continue learning in a remote environment.
Preparing for Learning
- As feasible, identify a dedicated remote workspace – Having a space that you use when connecting with your classes during live class sessions as well as when working on class assignments can be very helpful. If possible, include all needed materials in the space (e.g. laptop, course textbooks, etc.). Optimally, the space should be quiet and have minimal distractions. However, finding a space may pose a challenge given various home situations. A set of inexpensive headphones coupled with a white noise app or music may help in less ideal settings, as well as keeping a notebook to log time spent on learning activities to get actual time spent. You may also consider placing a sign on your door or near the space that indicates you are in a class session or other meeting. Contact your professor to make them aware if you are facing obstacles with finding a dedicated workspace.
- Prepare for live sessions and asynchronous discussions – To get ready for live class sessions using Google Meet or Zoom, please see the following resource: Remote Learning & Collaboration. Do the best that you can to use good practices for video conferencing such as testing out software and equipment in advance, having good lighting, and muting your microphone upon entry. Exhibit student presence and use the Core Rules of Netiquette when engaging with others in an online environment.
- Camera On/Off. In courses that meet over platforms such as Zoom, students have the option to keep their camera on or off. While having your camera on is a great way to feel more connected to the class, your instructor, and your peers, in some cases, this isn’t feasible. If your internet connection isn’t reliable enough, the device you use to connect to Zoom does not have a webcam (such as a gaming machine), or you feel uncomfortable keeping your camera on, consider uploading a picture to display as your profile picture. You can choose to set a picture of yourself, a pet, your favorite character, etc. as your profile picture. Consider talking to your instructor about your reason for keeping your camera off during Zoom sessions.
- Zoom Backgrounds. Zoom has options for posting an alternative image as a background, which is a good way to display something other than your real background image. Zoom with Pard pride using these images provided by the college. However, please note that not all devices can support Zoom background capabilities and that this feature requires more broadband compared to a video image with no background or keeping your camera off.
- Cell phone usage. Unless your cell phone is needed to complete course activities, keep it on vibrate and store it outside of your learning space to ensure a focused learning mode.
- Create a routine with embedded markers – Each day, set up a schedule as best as you can and that works for you so that course work becomes a routine. You may have to negotiate this with family members. You can try to emulate what you might do on campus. For example, wake up, eat breakfast, shower, start course work, do something enjoyable, etc. Once you get a routine down, each task you complete becomes an embedded marker that leads you to your next task.
- Use one simple tool to keep track of assignments – As much as possible, take the time to document what each class requires over the course of a semester before the class begins. Write or type out the tasks using whatever works for you. This could mean using a big desk calendar, a paper planner, google calendar or an application. Whatever you choose, make sure that it makes sense for you and try to keep it as simple as possible. As the semester continues, take the time at the beginning of each week to address what is coming up so that you can manage your time effectively.
- Do the hardest work at your most productive time – It may be that the mornings are your best time for writing or doing more intensive work like problem solving or class projects. The afternoon may be a better time to watch lectures, take notes or read. Depending on your preference, and the limitations you may have in your own household, consider mapping out the day so that you do your most difficult tasks when you have the most energy.
- Be realistic about the time it takes to do a task – It can be easy to say that you will get something done in a quick one-night session. However, this may leave you with an unfinished task. Try to be as realistic as possible with the time it will take to get your coursework finished and divide up the time across the week accordingly. Give yourself a buffer as much as you can.
- Use the Lafayette’s Counseling Center resources – Lafayette’s counseling center has an excellent Healthy Behaviors page that lists ways to ensure that you are giving yourself self-care. You can also call the counseling center for remote appointments or look for a provider in your area.
- Think about your course load before the semester begins – As much as possible, talk with your advisor, dean and professors to consider how your current courses relate to your overall goals. Try as best as you can to balance your courses so that you are not taking all your hardest courses at once.
- Celebrate your accomplishments – Remote learning is difficult, after you finish a task, be sure to celebrate your accomplishment by doing something that nourishes you.
- Take breaks and get fresh air – As much as possible, take breaks that soothe your mind and that actually feel like breaks. This may mean limiting screens or doing something passive like watching a show. If you have access to the outside, take a walk or get some fresh air to refuel your body.
- Take a short nap to recharge – Getting rest can support productivity.
- Make connections with peers, family and friends – As much as possible, find ways to connect with people safely. That may mean virtual meetings, talking on the phone or outdoor activities.
- Utilize virtual opportunities through Lafayette College – Stay connected to campus by finding an extracurricular group that has virtual meetings or utilizing the Lafayette College Recreational Services’ virtual opportunities.
- Release frustrations – It is totally normal to feel more frustrated by situations. To help you cope, find a positive outlet to release some of the tension. Whether it be going for a run, blasting virtual aliens, or cooking a favorite meal, make sure it is something that you enjoy without feelings of pressure.
Communicating with Professors and Advocating Needs
Effective and professional communication between students and professors is incredibly important.
- Professors will provide their preferred method of communication. This is typically email and/or meetings via Zoom or Google.
- Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to the professor during the first class or first offered virtual office hour. You do not need to have anything prepared, just a simple introduction and possible reasoning behind your interest in taking their class is sufficient. This will help during the semester as you build that relationship and find yourself seeking advice or assistance as the class progresses.
- Office hours are a great way to build a relationship with your professors. Many students are under the misconception that you have to be over prepared to attend a professor’s office hours. While this is definitely an option, it is not necessary. Office hours are meant to assist the student in a number of different ways. For example, review a recent exam, request help with a current assignment or clarify a writing prompt, or check in about a topic.
- In general please contact your professor to make them aware if you are facing any obstacles in your courses.
Tips from Other Students
Below are several tips gathered from students who learned remotely during the Spring 2020 semester that complement much of what is presented above.
- Have a study space, a place to focus and get work done, that, if feasible, is separate from the casual spaces that you use.
- Set boundaries with family and manage other commitments that come up when learning remotely.
- Establish a daily routine such as when you wake up and set work hours. Ensure that you are getting enough rest.
- Advocate for the resources that you need from your professors. You can use the learning management system/email/apps that professors utilize to communicate. You can download any calendars off of Moodle and sync to your Google Calendar or use your Google Calendar in general to keep track of work. There are apps such as MyHomework app that sync to computers and mobile phones.
- Stay on top of the work so that you do not fall behind. You can do this by setting self-imposed deadlines and using the deadlines from the professor for rough drafts, outlines before a final paper is due and utilizing office hours for feedback.
- Connect with other students through Facetime or other apps while studying to simulate a study group. If you are part of an extracurricular activity, linking up online may be a way to find community.
- Self-care is important. Consider group fitness programs, counseling center programs, and others.