Samantha Curiale-Feinman, Director, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about online learning.
What do you see as the biggest differences in online vs. traditional learning?
When it comes to the teaching and learning process, online learning requires different levels and modes of communication as compared to a traditional learning format. When students are in a traditional classroom setting, learning is dynamic and miscommunications and clarifications can happen in the moment. If students do not understand an expectation, concept or assignment, they can communicate with the teacher in the moment to receive clarification. With online learning, the amount of dynamic instruction may be limited or absent altogether. Because there is a lack of that “in the moment” access to teachers, students need to have more independent levels of help-seeking and self-advocacy skills in a delayed context, such as through email communication. This can lead to a lack of clarification, with important information “falling through the cracks”.
What are some major dos and don’ts for new online students?
Understand the logistics of the necessary online technology, platforms, etc., in advance of classes starting and due dates and responsibilities approaching. Understand the deadlines of when assignments are due, how to hand those assignments in properly, if there is a requirement to be online live to meet the responsibilities of the class, and make sure technology works (audio/visual equipment, wifi, etc.). Do not wait until the last minute to figure these things out. The pace and expectations of participation during online learning can ramp up pretty quickly, and once they begin, you do not want to worry about falling behind because of logistical or technological issues.
How can students learn to manage their time effectively when not in a physical classroom?
When students do not have to be in a physical learning environment, it can be difficult to identify when an online class “begins” and “ends,” and whether the student has spent an efficient enough amount of time on the course materials. Making a daily checklist to organize and scaffold responsibilities based on due dates can help to manage how much time is being spent on the material.
Pro-tip: Break down assignments into smaller tasks and then set goals for what should be completed each day. Then, monitor progress on those goals to complete responsibilities in a timely and efficient manner.
What would you suggest for creating an effective learning space at home?
Structure the learning space at home to replicate a classroom space to make it as conducive to learning as possible, and commit to using that space consistently to complete work. The space should include a chair with a desk or table in a distraction reduced area with a window or two to get the natural light and air flowing. Further, get dressed and ready as if you were leaving to go to an in person class so that you are “learning ready”.
What are some helpful things students can do when they feel distracted/unfocused?
To get ready for “class” each day, preview what you are going to be learning and what needs to be accomplished. Incorporate structured breaks into your schedule for the day, and hold yourself accountable for beginning and ending those breaks on time. Always focus on “what is important now”, or what needs to be accomplished today to set up for success tomorrow and the long term. Further, be an active and social e-learner: Create and organize virtual study groups with classmates to review content material and to test each other. The added bonus is that such activities keep students socially engaged in a virtual learning environment!
What tips would you give for effectively structuring a day of online learning?
Getting into a routine with online leaning and setting both structure and boundaries will minimize the stress that comes along with this novel experience. Routines can help us take control and resolve confusion. Remember to review all of your expectations for the day and then plan out when to do what. Always remember to evaluate whether your expectations for the day were too high, too low, or right on target. And reward yourself each day for even the smallest of successes.