How to Get the Most out of Your Online Classes

Student Life

A sudden change in the situation due to the Coronavirus pandemic has forced our lives to take a sudden turn to online methods. Classes are held online and new problems in studying are always arising. It's no secret that this pandemic is impacting our education worldwide- switching to online methods is certainly not easy! Here are some tips to help you to make the best out of this new, unconventional way of teaching so that your education doesn't have to suffer. 

1. Have a designated area to do your work.

It's so easy just to stay in bed and do attend your class there. After all, who's going to know? But, trust me, this will have detrimental effects on your work ethic. Have a specific, suitable, quiet space in which you attend your classes and do any studying. This area could be a desk or a dining room table- as long as it is separate from your leisure area. That means, no working on your bed, or anywhere else you just go to chill. This will make sure that you are always in the right mentality, whether it's for working hard or relaxing. 

It's important to make sure that your area is tidy and organized. The last thing you want to be doing is balancing your laptop on a pile of worksheets because there's isn't any proper space on your desk. Only have the essentials on your desk: only keep what you would usually have in school and your laptop (as well as anything extra your teacher might have asked you to bring) around you. Find some sort of organization system for other things you'd need later for different classes: like a substitute for your locker or school bag. Ultimately, you should have a clutter-free desk but also have easy access to other subject material. You may not realize it, but something as small as a messy desk will cause you unnecessary stress!

2. Stay disciplined.

Now is the time where you need to take responsibility for your learning. If you stay on your phone the whole time and don't listen to your teacher, nobody's going to stop you. It's completely up to you to make sure you stay focused. The best way you can do this is by knowing yourself- and by being honest with yourself. If you know you're going to end up on your phone the entire time, switch it off and put it in another room. It's probably best that you do so even if you think you can resist the temptation- don't take unnecessary chances. Switch the TV off and basically get rid of anything that could distract you. 

Another thing you can do is tell a parent or family member when you're working, and ask them to keep an eye on you. This is a substitute for your teacher's presence. That way, you probably won't stop working when you're supposed to be, because they will know that you're supposed to be working and they will hold you accountable. Someone else knowing your schedule is motivation in itself. Even if you do stop working, at least you'll have someone there to encourage you or remind you that you should still be working. It sounds horrible, but it does work! 

Above all, try staying optimistic. Generally, when you see the silver lining in situations, you're more motivated and probably won't go astray. Remind yourself that we're all in the same boat: and you can either let your education suffer because of these difficult circumstances OR you can be the person who doesn't let this situation get the better of them, and show resilience. It's cheesy, but you will thank yourself for it whenever we go back to school and you're not completely behind! 

3. Engage with the class.

If you're just sitting there while the teacher is explaining the subject, nothing is going to go in. You're not learning anything. So, when the teacher is talking, take notes. Link your notes and ideas to other topics you have studied in the past. Try to make sure that you fully understand what's going on- which means, if you don't understand something, ask your teacher for clarification. Discuss the answers to questions your teacher asks with them or your classmates and don't just stay quiet! Answering these questions benefits both you and the teacher as you are gaining a better understanding of the work and your teacher isn't made to feel awkward when no one answers them. 

Also, do all the classwork and homework! The teacher assigned it to you because it will help your understanding of the topic, so it's important to do it even if it isn't mandatory. 

This tip is especially important as you don't want to be passively learning. The whole point of online school is to try to compensate for the days missed in an actual school. You would usually be learning the material in a classroom, which is much more engaging. Therefore, we need to come up with ways to ensure that you're able to learn effectively at home- which is impossible to do if you're not properly engaged. 

4. Stay organized. 

If you have one, use a planner to keep track of the assignments you need to do. If you don't have one, simply make a list with all your assignments and their due dates. At the end of every lesson, write down what exactly you need to do before your next class: whether that's a homework assignment, finishing classwork or simply consolidating your knowledge. This will help you make sure that you're not forgetting to do anything. 

Have a schedule! Write down what classes you have each day, and their times, and then schedule in when you're going to do the things on your list and when you're going to have a break. Set alarms on your phone to make sure that you wake up on time and that you don't miss a class- it's all too easy to just sleep through them. However, don't make these schedules too uptight and forgive yourself if you take more breaks than you scheduled for. The 'bare minimum' is attending your classes so, if you're having a bad day, feel free to take the rest of the day off. This isn't your study leave period where you're supposed to be revising for your exams: these are precautionary measures, so don't push yourself too hard. 

Organise your notes and topics. As I've said before, have a system that substitutes for your locker or school bag, and make sure it works for you. Personally, I organise my exercise books, textbooks and notes into separate folders for separate subjects: for example, my maths books go in one folder, and my chemistry books go in another folder. I then put these folders into 2 drawers: sciences and maths folders go in one drawer and humanities and languages folders go into another drawer. That way, whenever I need my French material, I simply go into the languages and humanities drawer and take out the correct folder. This is how I keep things organised, but you may have another system that works better for you.

5. Consolidate your knowledge after the class.

Soon after the lesson, do something to ensure that you've consolidated what you've learned. Try doing any homework as soon possible, so that you know where your weak spots are. Also, write up your notes neatly and do some more research. There are probably plenty of websites and YouTube videos that will be based on your topic. Read and watch these to make sure you fully understand what was covered in class and so that you can add to your notes.

Another way to consolidate your knowledge is by doing worksheets or practice exam-style questions based on the topic that you've just covered. If you get questions wrong in a particular subtopic, you know that that is where you have gaps in your knowledge and that is what you need to work on.

6. Contact your classmates and teachers when need be.

If you've just tried consolidating your knowledge, and you've realized that you don't understand something, message your friends and ask them for help. Besides regularly checking on them to make sure they're coping, you should also share your notes and resources with one another. Help each other out! You're all in the same situation and this isn't a competition in any way. Text each other when your lesson is about to start so that you guys don't forget. If they do happen to miss a class, send them what was covered. Send each other your notes, so that you both can check to see if you're missing anything.        

You could also contact your teacher if you're confused or need help. Email them, or wait until the next lesson if you like. Your teachers will be more than happy to help you- it's their job! Take advantage of their wisdom in their subject area and ask them any questions you may have. You could also ask for extra notes or resources to help you really get the hang of the topic: they could send you extra worksheets or recommend useful websites to go onto. 

7. Find alternatives.

Because you're not in school right now, you're probably feeling lost. There are lots of aspects that make school slightly easier, and they have been taken away. Try finding substitutes to make up for these lost aspects. For example, I briefly touched on finding an alternative to your locker: at school, your locker keeps you organized so you need to find a different method to keep you organized when you're at home. I also mentioned finding an alternative to your teacher's presence: something as small as your teacher being in front of you keeps you focused, so try finding an alternative for that, using tip number 2 for help. 

One of the most important aspects of school is socializing. You can't see your friends anymore, so find another way to make sure you're still socializing with them (and other people). Follow the last tip for some more work-focused guidance. Message them frequently, FaceTime them and you can download Netflix Party to have virtual movie nights with them. Also, don't stay holed up in your room! If you're quarantined with your family, talk to them. Play games or watch movies together. Tell them what's going on with you. That being said, don't feel pressured to be extra social online just because we're social distancing (i.e. don't feel the need to FaceTime your friends every night for hours on end just to be more 'social'). It's important to also use this period to have some time to yourself. 

Another important aspect of school is the clubs they offer. This is tricky to find substitutes for but, with some creativity, it is possible. For example, if you're in a debating club, try looking up topics and writing speeches based on those topics. If you and your school are really serious about it, you can even schedule meetings on a video-calling app such as Zoom to debate with each other virtually. If you're on a sports team and you physically cannot play your sport at home (for example, if you swim but don't have a pool, or if you play basketball but don't have a basketball hoop) you could either do home workouts to target the muscles you'd usually be exercising, or you could find another sport or way of exercising that's more home-friendly. These aren't ideal circumstances, but it's better to be creative and keep on top of your skills so that, when we do go back to school, you still have the right technique. 

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Alisha Bilal

Alisha is a 15 year old British girl who lives in the Middle East. She loves reading, writing and learning about new languages and cultures. She also has a blog where she posts about her life as a teen, advice posts and posts relating to productivity.


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