College While Quarantined: Best Practices for Learning Online

Due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the majority of U.S. colleges and universities have shifted, or will shift, to primarily online instruction. Many of them are doing so for the rest of the semester. Even more K-12 schools are doing some kind of modified online instruction for a few weeks (at minimum). Students are being asked to remain home while professors and administration figure out how to shift their teaching to an online space. There’s a lot of confusion, and miscommunication, and yes, even grief over the loss of structure and normalcy. Sorry. You’re now in college while quarantined.

Becoming a good and productive online student takes some time, and unfortunately, students don’t have a lot of that right now. It’s almost like a switch is being flipped, and you’re now an online student. We know this is a hard time, and we’re very sympathetic… but we also want you to succeed.

If you do a Google search for “best practices” for learning online, you don’t find much. You find a lot about best practices for being an online teacher. Being an online learner, especially when it’s new, sudden, and frankly unwanted, is just as difficult.

college while quarantined

RELATED: Quarantined Teenager? 8 Things to Do for College Now

I’ve worked online for almost 10 years, and I’ve taken a few classes too. Here are some of my best suggestions for shifting your learning and organizational style. Students, work with your parents. Parents, do what you can to help!

Set a specific schedule, just like you have “on campus.”

Classes are still going to meet, just online. With luck, you should be able to use the class period you’re already used to to read new materials or watch video lectures. You’re already “in the groove” to receive information from that topic at that time. Keep it. Some professors may still hold online classes, in a Zoom or other conferencing room, “live.” They’ll be explaining how they’ll be teaching as they go along — give them some respect and patience! They’re also not happy and worried for you.

Prepare a schedule for what you do before and after those online conference calls. Do you usually have some downtime? Get coffee? Parallel those things at home. Do you find a quiet space to review notes or catch up with friends? Call or text them! Facetime them. Do that remotely too. Your college friends are just as freaked out as you are!

Use technology to stay informed and become an email junkie.

Ask questions in emails or chats. Be as in touch with your professors as you can be. Additionally, students might not be used to checking email a couple of times a day, but in a remote learning environment, it’s a necessity. Professors and university officials will be keeping you informed via email, for the most part.

RELATED: Campuses Close Due to COVID-19; Visits Move Online

Set up a specific work, and therefore, head, space.

Students, if you used your “old” bedroom for high school homework, try and find another room or corner to create a new “college” work space. Mentally, it provides a “different” head space too. Yes, sometimes finding “extra” space is not feasible, especially if everyone is at home, but do what you can, and ask your parents to help you. Even a cozy basement spot can do wonders to make you feel more organized and prepared. It can be an “off-limits” place for other family members too. Think of it as the “College While Quarantined” sub-quarantined area.

Double up on the screens.

I highly recommend a second screen for online learning: One screen for the streaming lecture/conference/virtual study group window, and the second for notes or research or other needed information. You don’t need to waste time switching between tabs and windows. Use your laptop with the camera as your “conference” screen and your other monitor for your “work.”

Screen time is no longer just entertainment time.

We’re used to using our computers, phones, and tablets as “down time” or as a secondary screen for “extras.” Shifting to the mindset that the screen is now the primary tool for learning can take some practice. It can also cause some eyestrain. Be aware of headaches and take breaks as needed. Maybe bingewatching Netflix post-online lectures isn’t the best idea.

RELATED: Telemedicine and How It Can Help A Sick Student

You didn’t sign up to be in college while quarantined. But with some planning and organization, and a new headspace, you can be successful,

Finally, we’re sharing one of the many posts going around on Facebook now, but we think this one gives some great advice too.

Borrowed from the Drexel parent’s group and I know many of you can use thisThis is great advice from a Pitt…

Posted by Kim Elise Simpson on Sunday, March 15, 2020
Visit our special coronavirus article page.

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