American schools abruptly closed their doors in March 2020 to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. Although some primary and secondary schools have since reopened for in-person instruction, some remain fully remote while others have opted for a hybrid method.
Even with the support of administrators and personal experience from the last year, high school students may still be struggling to adapt to an entirely remote or hybrid learning format while staying focused during these trying times. Here are six things students can do to stay on top of learn-from-home coursework:
— Limit distractions.
— Keep a routine and a planner.
— Use printed resources sometimes.
— Fill knowledge gaps.
— Be patient with yourself.
— Use a mixture of techniques.
The distractions associated with being at home for much of the day are different than those that you would likely encounter at school. For instance, you may find yourself distracted by siblings who are playing video games or the temptation of snacks in the kitchen. Add these disruptions to the lure of social media, and the task of concentrating on schoolwork can seem nearly impossible.
For these reasons, limiting distractions is the single most effective way to ensure your academic success if you are learning online or in a hybrid format.
To start, communicate and set boundaries with your family so that you can work in peace. For instance, try putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your bedroom door or going to a less-frequented corner of the house. To prevent excessive phone use that can keep you from your schoolwork, download an app that limits your connectivity during key hours.
Keep a Routine and a Planner
Psychologists believe that having a daily routine is key to maintaining your mental health. It can be easy to fall out of your routine when all your days feel the same, but keeping a personal planner can help prevent this outcome. Use your planner to note upcoming deadlines and exams, as well as to find time for important nonacademic matters like exercise and chatting with friends.
In addition, spend some time outside each day, whether you do so in your yard, on your balcony or porch, or socially distanced in a public space like a park. Sunlight provides vitamin D, which is critical to your physical and mental health. Just remember to take advantage of these opportunities safely.
Use Printed Resources Sometimes
Despite the abundance of high-quality online resources, some students prefer to work with hard copies of their study materials. Printed copies tend to be less harsh on your eyes and can also be easily manipulated with highlighters and other writing utensils.
Interactive reading processes promote learning and recall, so students who benefit most from hands-on learning are encouraged to work with hard copies of study materials when possible by printing them out or creating handwritten flashcards.
Fill Knowledge Gaps
Due to the nature of remote learning — whether all or some of the time — combined with the emotional stress of the pandemic, you may feel like you have only a partial understanding of course content or did not absorb it as well as you could have in a normal year. In such cases, you can fill your knowledge gaps by enrolling in MOOCs, or online courses that are typically self-paced and have no live instructor but many attendees.
MOOCs, which are sometimes free, are also an excellent way to stay sharp over the summer when your school may not be offering classes. You can also watch YouTube videos from subject matter experts to address specific skill gaps.
Be Patient With Yourself
For students who are not so tech savvy, there was a considerable learning curve associated with the class format change caused by the novel coronavirus. Even a year after this transition, some students still struggle to adjust completely.
This is understandable given the relatively few hours of online instruction some schools offer, which may not provide enough time to get comfortable with the learning software. Reach out to your instructors if you have specific questions about how to use your school’s platform because there may be a tutorial you can take to get more familiar with its features.
Use a Mixture of Techniques
If your school has switched to hybrid learning — that is, a combination of in-person and online instruction — a hybrid approach to studying may also be in line. In other words, you may benefit from using certain techniques for in-person classes and others for online instruction.
For instance, if you tend to get distracted at home, you may need to listen to recorded lectures a second time or revamp your approach to note-taking by trying a strategy like the Cornell Note Taking System. What helps you learn in one environment may not help you in another, so be willing to switch up your methods based on the conditions of where you are.
Staying positive and focused on your academics is feasible this year as long as you make the right modifications. If you are uncertain about where to begin, start with these suggestions.
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Update 04/19/21: This article has been updated with new information.