5 Online-Only Study Strategies for Teachers
As a growing number of learners are forced to engage with online classes — many for the first time — we wanted to provide some guidance for online studying and learning strategies.
Time, Place, and Space
Learning online gives us so much freedom, it can be overwhelming. Attend class while laying on the couch? Sure. Why not? Listen to a lecture while your favorite movie plays in the background? Okay. Who would know?
But to learn well, you have to exercise discipline and self-restraint. Which, admittedly, doesn't sound like nearly as much fun as attending class from your treehouse, but it is probably the wiser course. Be intentional about creating a specific time, a specific place, and a real space for learning.
- Time: Habits are powerful. So, the sooner you can connect your learning to a designated time (say, between breakfast and lunch, for example), the more powerful your learning can be.
- Bonus tip on time: Use time blocking to help you focus. (For example: Work through these Quizlet flashcards for 25 minutes, then take a break.) There are lots of timer tools out there (Mariana, Pomodoro, Tomato Timer, and Productivity Timer), so find one you like and put it to good use.
- Place: Though online learning can allow you to learn anywhere… we humbly suggest that you create a specific place (say, at your desk in your bedroom, in your home office, or if necessary, at the dining room table) where all your learning happens. Make that place special. Do not let other activities happen in that place.
- Space: Make space for learning. That means creating the mental space to focus on learning, removing distractions from your place of learning — yes, even your mobile phone.
When you have designated time, place, and space for learning, you're setting yourself up for success.
Practice Makes Perfect
Everybody loves getting their hands a little dirty, right? Online learning is no different. To really learn and deeply understand the material, practice. No matter what subject, practicing what you're learning helps to solidify your new knowledge and make it real. Learning about American history? Cool. Go teach someone else what you've learned. Learning a new language? Challenge yourself to speak only in that language for the next 30 minutes. Learning to configure a router? Dare to configure your home router. Make your learning real.
We all work better when we work together. Online learning is no different. Find a friend, family member, or another learner who can help hold you accountable to achieving your learning goals. Give that person permission to hold your feet to the fire — and push you to learn well.
The convenience of online learning gives you the flexibility and opportunity to learn any time, anywhere, under nearly any circumstances. But just because you can, doesn't necessarily mean you should.
Minimize any distractions that will get in the way of your learning. That means turning your mobile phone OFF. Don't just silence it. Turn it OFF. Choose a place to study that will allow you to focus easily. Close the door. Turn off the TV. Shut down your email.
Multitasking is a lie. Less is more. Fewer distractions mean more learning.
Find a way to make learning your singular focus, if only for short bursts of time.
Online learning is convenient. But don't let that convenience lull you into procrastination or manic learning blitzes. Effective learning is well-paced. Set a schedule that you can maintain for the long haul. It is inevitable that there will be bumps in the learning road, but don't allow these to disrupt your learning schedule twice. Respond to the challenge, adjust, and keep learning. Stay on track, and if you struggle to stay on track, find someone who can help hold you accountable to your learning goals.
Manage Energy, Not Time
Your brain uses a lot of energy. So, it stands to reason then, that learning demands a lot of energy too. Pay attention to when you feel most energized by your learning, and when you feel least energized. Build your learning schedule around your energy peaks and avoid slogging through learning through your energy valleys. If you're a morning person, learn in the morning.
But what if your online classes meet at designated times, that just happen to coincide with your energy valleys? That can happen. It's hard, but it is certainly not an insurmountable challenge. Here are a few tips that might help:
- Do something that boosts your energy just before class so that you enter your learning experience piqued and ready to learn.
- Before you go to class, commit to teaching whatever you learn that day to a friend, family member, or another student. Knowing you have to teach the material will help you concentrate.
- Take notes. Handwrite or type notes to help keep you focused on the material being taught. Ask questions for clarity to help keep you laser-focused.
Leverage Your Resources
Learning online demands that you take command of and responsibility for learning well. Often, passively watching a video or lecture simply isn't enough to help you truly and deeply understand the content. Consider leveraging myriad resources to assist you in your learning! Here are some of our favorites:
Quizlet, Cram, and Studyblue are excellent resources for building flashcards to help you learn more deeply. But they are so much more than just flashcards. Quizzes, games, and other interactive activities abound. Explore them all and use them well!
GoConqr gives you resources to create flashcards, mind maps, create presentations and flowcharts, and it includes a staggering amount of learning content – sorted by subject – that learners can use to aid in their learning.
Now, more than ever, building an online community that shares your learning goals is critical to your success. Find other learners who are working to master the same (or similar) material, engage in live online discussions of topics, ask questions, answer questions, and generally work to interact.
Since you can't be in a classroom right now, create your own virtual classroom experience where learning can be more effective. There are lots of services out there that can help facilitate community learning such as Studyblue, GoConqr, and Quizlet. But don't limit your communities to these three! Explore the other options and choose the one that best fits your needs.
Teach.gg Support for Teachers
If you're new to online teaching, resources like this can make a big impact on your students. Join the CBT Nuggets Discord community, designed for educators in response to the Coronavirus global pandemic. We're gathering resources and tools to help teachers ensure that learners get the most out of their educational experiences during this challenging time.