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Tips for Learning from Home

Helping Everyone Live & Learn Online #HELLOvikings

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Quick Tips for Learning from Home

1. Stick to a regular daily schedule of working on your classes just like when you came to campus; “show up” to class. 

Get up, take a shower, get dressed, put on shoes, and eat breakfast at the same time as before. Consider a short walk outside before you sit down to work (you used to get this walking to class). 

You will likely have changed due dates and assignments so start by checking Blackboard and updating/adding those to your personal calendar. If you are using a digital calendar such as Google Calendar, set up automatic reminders. If you are not already using an online calendar, consider using Google as some college activities will load into it automatically. You can also use Google Tasks to create your to do lists. 

Create weekly goals and start each day with a task list. All of your classes will have required learning activities each week.  These may be synchronous (at the same time as before the switch to remote learning) or may be asynchronous which means you will have a window of time to complete the activity. Even if your class is not meeting synchronously, you should block out that time in addition to the time you previously spent working outside of class meetings. Note that learning remotely may require more time so you may want to plan some extra study time in your schedule.

Eat That Frog! Try tackling your least favorite or most challenging task first.  If this is a big project that can’t be completed in 20 minutes, then break it down into smaller chunks. 

2. Set up a dedicated work space as free from distraction as possible. 

Create a dedicated physical space to be your workspace. Table/desk and chair are usually better than your sofa, bed, or floor. Keep this space organized and ideally only use it for work/school to help you keep work-life balance.  If your space must serve other purposes (such as the kitchen table), then put away your work for the part of the day when you are “off” to help you set boundaries.  

Organize your computer’s desktop to give you quick access to important applications and folders. Organize your files into folders that automatically sync to the cloud. Consider using Google “Back Up and Sync” to sync school files to your account. Avoid having distracting applications/notifications open when working.  There are even applications that can do this for you

Headphones can be helpful if you’re working around other people. If there are a lot of distractions during synchronous meetings and your wifi reaches, sitting in your car can provide a short escape. 

If you have children around, set them up with their own activity and switch their activities throughout the day to avoid boredom.  Kids like routine so find a pattern of activities such as tower building - then PBS kids show - then walk around the block - then snack - etc. that matches their age.  For older kids, have them create their own schedule at the start of each day with their tasks to get done and when they plan to do them.  Use different types of music to mark different types of activities to help with transitions.  

If you have children at home it is especially important to keep your wake up times and bedtimes the same every day. Many schools have sent home daily art projects and suggested exercises, in addition to academic assignments, so when making up your regular schedule, be sure to include creative time, quiet time, playtime (outside or inside), and free time as well as physical exercise. Don't forget to include life lessons that are age-appropriate such as cooking, baking, sewing, balancing a checkbook, gardening, laundry, and other similar activities. Change up the daily activities to help with boredom from having the same routine, and once you have a routine set, be flexible, and allow room for adjustments.

3. Access to a computer and the internet at home is ideal.

Now is a good time to make sure your software is up-to-date, including anti-virus and anti-malware. All functions of Blackboard work on a computer.  Mobile devices are useful for seeing communication and accessing some course content but don’t work for everything in Blackboard. Smart TVs or gaming systems (with a camera and mic) may allow you to view or participate in video meetings.

Google Meetings have the option for joining via video through your computer or mobile device.  If you have the technology to join a meeting with video, do so. With audio you may miss out on something displayed on the screen and you will miss facial expressions.  Avoid multitasking during meetings (taking a quiz in one class while viewing another class’s Google Meet), you will miss the benefit of active participation which helps with learning and memory. 

If you do not currently have internet access at home, Spectrum/Charter Communications is offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

If these options do not work for you, consider alternative points of connectivity (i.e.; cell phone data, family member’s house; public access available in the parking lot at public libraries, Home Depot, McDonalds, Panera, Starbucks, etc.). Please stay in your car and access wifi from the parking lot. Note that you are unlikely to have access to power outlets for your devices or restroom facilities so plan ahead. While it is unlikely, if you use a public space outside your own car to access Wi-Fi, disinfect the space/equipment before you use it and wash your hands once you are done.  

4. Check your course Blackboard page and college email on a regular basis to stay up to date. See your syllabus for any other communication tools used by your instructor.

Make sure to confirm due dates and times for assignments. Online assignments are often open for a period of time so make sure you know when assignments open and close. Plan to complete assignments BEFORE the due date/time. Blackboard will mark items late if they are submitted at or after the due date/time and sometimes the assignment disappears after the due date/time.

Sign up for the Viking Text Messaging Service (see your MyJeffco Home tab applications) to stay informed about what is going out with Jefferson College. 

5. Communicate with your instructor and recognize that they are also doing their best to adjust so may not get back to you as quickly as they did before. Take advantage of any question and answer discussion boards available through your course Blackboard page or open office hours.

Let your instructor know if you have any unique challenges during this time.  This was not something any of us planned for. Your instructor won’t know what you are dealing with at home unless you reach out. 

Your instructor will do their best to keep you informed about changes to the class.  Keep in mind that normally well-designed fully online classes take about a year to develop.  Your instructor is making this emergency transition to remote instruction/learning in just a few short weeks while also personally experiencing the rapid changes to society. Expect changes as your instructor and the college respond to this situation and learn what works best for each specific class under these circumstances. 

Anna Borray (an experienced remote worker) advises: “Ask questions, and don't assume. Because all communication is now happening virtually and not face-to-face, you will often miss immediate reactions. In addition, your words, tone, and message may be read by others in different ways—ways you did not intend. Learning to ask clarifying questions is a must. If you are confused, ask for clarification soon and as often as needed. Don't assume that information was already shared and you simply forgot it. Finally, if the communication is via email and confusion remains after numerous back-and-forth emails, get on a phone/video call to clarify.”

6. Good study/learning habits are still important! Consider setting up informal study groups with your classmates using videoconferencing or other tools.

Organized notes written in your own words will keep you focused and help you learn.  Continue to take notes using your textbook and course reading materials, videos that may be posted by your instructor, and during any synchronous sessions. Each course/instructor will share material with you differently and may be changing your assignments/exams.  If your class used to take multiple choice exams made up of the same set of items for each student in the campus classroom, then you may now have exams made up of a pool of items, more short/answer essay questions, or other assignments in place of this type of exam.  

Study and review by quizzing yourself and discussing course material with others.  Discussions may occur with Blackboard as part of the remote learning or you can set up your own study group. This can be especially helpful if your class does not have much synchronous time. Create a regular group meeting time once a week for your group of 3-4 people.  Use a Google Chat to share documents and start video meetings. Designate a group leader for each session that will help keep the study session focused. Group members should work together to make a plan for each study session ahead of time. Consider using study groups to cover the basic concepts, unit learning guides, and practice problems covered that week.  Assign each group member specific concepts to be responsible for helping the others learn. This member should develop a summary or outline that can be shared with the group. The session can focus on each member reviewing their part and answering questions for the group.

If you can’t study with classmates, study with anyone to include an imaginary study buddy.  Tell your cat all about it or imagine Einstein dropping in to see how you are doing. Speaking about the material aloud can help you hear where you need to put in some more work.  This is also handy for helping you proof your own writing. 

7. Make time for breaks during your day.

Spacing out your learning and studying and not spending too much time on any one topic at a time has been shown to be superior to cramming big chunks of material. Breaks don't have to be long. Even just a few seconds to stretch, take a deep breath and look away from the computer or book will make a big difference in your memory. 

Research shows that you need mini-breaks every 15 to 20 minutes to have the best possible memory. Get up and walk around for at least 5 minutes every hour or two. If possible go outside during your break. These breaks help you focus and be more productive.  They are also better for your eyesight, metabolism, and prevent developing blood clots.

8. Try to eat well and drink plenty of fluids. Plan time for leisure activities, exercise, and sleep.

Use your saved commute time to experiment with quick healthy breakfast/lunch options that you can continue once campus learning resumes.  Avoid too much sugar so that you don't get a "sugar crash". During the day, make time for snack and meal breaks away from the computer and stay hydrated.

Keep your sleep schedule close to normal and avoid upsetting activities before bed such as watching media coverage. Getting up at the same time everyday with breakfast, movement, and sunshine will help keep your circadian rhythm running smoothly.  Avoid long late day naps and caffeine in the evening.  Create a relaxing before sleep routine to help you wind down before going to bed.

Keep in mind that you will no longer have exercise built into your day from walking to class and up and down hills/stairs. If possible, get outside to exercise.  Spending time outside improves sleep and helps you stay mentally strong. It is a good idea to be physically active at least 20-30 minutes a day. It can be easy activities such as walking around the neighborhood or going up and down the stairs for short intervals of time. If you don’t have access to a gym at home, you can go on YouTube and watch short workout videos that can teach you how to stretch and workout your body properly.

Keep your work-life balance so that you are not endlessly working since your home is also now your office/school.  Focus on leisure activities not in front of a screen.  Get outside as often as you can, play board games/cards, bake treats, play with your pet, etc. 

9. Stay connected to your friends and family via the variety of different media options you have available today. Even if you can’t be physically together, it is important to stay connected.

Set up regular meetings with friends and family, especially older or more isolated family members.  You can even have regular video dinners together such as Taco Tuesdays. If connecting via video is not possible a phone call or letter is awesome.  

Plan a game night with your friends and get creative with playing when you are not in the same physical space.  Apps like Houseparty can help with this. Challenge everyone to a TikTok dance off wearing the silliest possible combination of clothes (note you may need to teach some what TikTok is).  This will get everyone moving and laughing. If you live in an apartment, play a game that allows you to maintain social distancing in the hall/walkay. In a neighborhood, play games from across the street. 

10. Focus on healthy ways of coping with stress such as Ÿmeditation. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to help cope.

Much about this situation with an unfamiliar and invisible threat is outside your control which can increase your stress level.  Focus on things that are in your control. One great way to cope is through doing something nice for others.  Offer to buy supplies for a neighbor or family member at high risk or someone with young children that has a harder time getting out.  Contact your local Red Cross to donate blood which is in critical short supply with many blood drives cancelled.

Consider a daily personal journal or picture log that includes gratitude each day. Creative projects such as painting, sculpting, knitting etc can also be a great source of stress relief.  Spiritual practices can also be stress relievers and are associated with improved mental and physical health. 

Limit your news consumption to help manage your anxiety.  Choose 1-2 reliable sources of media, TV news, or newspaper and then schedule time in your day (not close to bedtime) to check in with those sources.  Social media reports about the pandemic can make you more anxious; avoid notifications and endless scrolling.  

If you begin to feel overwhelmed, angry, fearful, or depressed, reach out for support.  This situation is trying and is not something you have to go through alone.  12 step support programs such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) are working to set up virtual meetings and support. 

Mental Health Services are available! Students may also contact counseling services anonymously through the use of the Interactive Screening Program found at Faculty and staff can contact Personal Assistance Services (PAS), Jefferson College's Employee Assistance Program. 

Just do your best under these unusual circumstances. Be patient with yourself and others. Learning to learn online is useful and you may even discover that you prefer it.  If you don’t, then we will see you back on campus soon. We love you, we miss your faces, and we will get through this together. #HELLOvikings

Other Habits of Successful Students include:

  • Distributed or spaced study time broken up across multiple sessions with breaks (no cramming or procrastinating)
    • Preview material before class/online participation
    • ENGAGE online
    • Review right after class/online participation
    • Study and Assess learning repeatedly over time before exams

  • Plan for use of study time (know what needs to be done when) 

  • Study Session Plan

1. Set a Goal (1-2 min) • Decide what you want to accomplish in your study session
Study with Focus (30-50 min) • Use effective learning strategies
Reward Yourself (5-10 min) • Take a break– call a friend, play a short game, get a snack, but keep it short.
Review (5 min) • Go over what you just studied using recall without looking at notes/book

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