My first semester of my junior year is in the books! This semester was my first one completely online and also my first semester in the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Starting my education in strategic communications online was certainly a process and I am thankful that I got a routine nailed down early into the semester.
My earlier blogs A Student Perspective on Quarantined Learning: Fall 2020 Edition and All Educated Up with No Place to Go – a Student Perspective on Quarantined Learning outlined some of my earlier strategies, but I was able to take a lot of those tips and turn them into a fully-fledged routine during the semester. However, every online situation is bound to have some bumps along the way even with a schedule set in place. Here are some of the common issues that came about and how I combatted them:
Issue #1: Technical Difficulties
This is an obvious one, but there are all sorts of snafus that can occur with everything being constantly online. Apps not responding, cameras or microphones not working for video calls, power cords just not working the way they should. Each issue is more annoying and frustrating than the last. Turns out the solution is simple.
Solution: Take a Deep Breath and Think Logically
Whenever something stops working, I take a breath and think of all the ways I could reset my mind or the actual piece of technology in front of me. Unplug the cord and replug it in, check my audio/video inputs and outputs, closing and restarting. It sounds so logical after the fact but training your brain to think like that in the moment can make you much more patient and forgiving later on.
Issue #2: Trying to Keep Track of All of My Online Tasks
Having everything in-person makes it a lot easier for me to remember all of the assignments and tasks I need to do for each of my classes. I would find myself forgetting a simple assignment or confusing one assignment for another. It can get pretty overwhelming. It’s very easy to forget small things, but there are some things you can try.
Solution: Mix the Hard Copy with the Technology
For me, it can be pretty easy to forget something without writing it down. I always keep a pad and paper near my desk so I can write down a task or a random thought I have for later. I also use spreadsheet apps to organize my assignments by week with little checkmarks — one of the tricks that I took with me from my spring 2020 semester.
Issue #3: Burnout
I feel like all day I look at a screen while working, doing schoolwork or even for fun. It gets pretty tiring day after day to be doing the same thing over and over again. It’s very easy to lose motivation or to not want to do one more thing involving a screen. Burnout is not uncommon during the pandemic. In a Gallup study of 7,500 employees, 23 percent of employees reported feeling burnout often or a lot of the time and 44 percent reported feeling burnout some of the time.
Solution: Take a Break
Again, easier said than done. If you take frequent breaks to do something mindless or enjoyable it makes going through the rest of the day a whole lot easier. What allowed me to get through a lot of school work was using a pomodoro timer, 25 minutes working with five minute breaks. This method encouraged me to work extremely hard for those 25 minutes and then turn my mind off for five. Stand up, get some coffee or drink some water and then pick up where you left off.
Issue #4: At Home all the Time
I am so used to going to coffee shops or the library t,o get into a new mindset for doing schoolwork. Plus who doesn’t love an excuse to go get a latte? Staying in the same rooms all the times and doing repetitive work can make it hard to get out of a learning funk. A change of scenery can make it easy to keep things moving.
Solution: Get Out of the House – Safely
I’m not saying that you should go to a coffee shop or sit at a library, but even just going for a walk can clear your mind. I personally like to walk around downtown Madison for 20 to 30 minutes each day just to get out and “hit the reset button” if you will. Getting out — safely — makes it very easy to refresh your mind and your body.
This is my online learning story. Now, I suggest you take a look at Francine Long’s. I had the chance to chat with Francine, a math teacher at Edgecombe Community College in North Carolina, last fall and was inspired by her creativity. Read the blog.