“You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” GalileoIn 2020, COVID-19 has forced everyone to adapt and create new habits. The problem is, the only way to create a new habit is through deliberate practice. Being told overnight you cannot attend school and instead have to learn online means nobody has had the chance to build up their skills.
And the truth is you are not going to always feel like learning online. It’s a new challenge and a new approach which you may not be feeling up to right now. However, it’s important not to be led or directed by your emotions. Instead, let yourself be led by your values and goals.
Here’s another truth bomb: Engaging with these new online study platforms will sometimes require you to grit your teeth and carry on.
However, you are stronger than you think and capable of more than you could imagine. You may have already sensed this unexpressed potential inside you… this untapped greatness. Now is the time to draw it out. The reality is we do not get to decide what our future will be. Instead, we get to choose our habits. From there, our habits will decide our future for us. Below are 13 successful online learning strategies, including helpful habits and ideas which will propel you into the future you desire and help you get through the challenge of learning from home.
1. Wake up an hour before you have to be online
We need to take the time to mentally prepare for the day so don’t roll out of bed in your pyjamas for online roll call. Wake-up at least an hour before you need to be at your desk. Have a quick shower, eat a nutritious breakfast and get dressed. Some schools have asked students to dress in their school uniform during online learning and this is a great approach. Whilst this might not be necessary for everyone, dressing for success is vital. The right attire affects your thinking and can re-frame your posture towards learning. Also, when you wake up, spend some time with your family. The in-person face to face interaction is beneficial before you spend six hours looking at a screen.
2. Make your bed
Why is making the bed one of my successful online learning strategies? Well, doing this is a daily ritual which can steady your psychology. Control what can be controlled before you face the uncertainty of the day. Completing the chore of making your bed in the morning gives you a sense of accomplishment. Accomplishments can lift us up, fortify our spirit and empower us to be greater. Any task completed can helix you into an optimal state and enthuse you for the next challenge. Each accomplishment, no matter how small, requires skill and determination to see it through to completion. This alone builds self-worth and boosts wellbeing.
3. Spend one minute exercising before you start your day
“Exercise boosts brain power”. This is rule number 1 in John Medina’s New York Times bestseller, Brain Rules. Our mind is most alert after exercise and getting moving early will light up your nervous system. Choose an activity you would like to perfect like push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, skipping, squats, lunges, plank, wall sits, handstands, arm circles or bear crawls. Or mix it up. Start with 25 seconds, have a 10-second break, then do another 25 seconds. The goal is to build a habit before you try to improve your abilities.
4. Be early
Be at your desk 10 minutes before you have to start. Being punctual is a virtue we can all attain. Punctually demonstrates to you and everyone else you are professional, dependable, and organised. It also creates the practice of showing attention to detail. This one capacity develops positive attributes that will enable you to thrive in every environment. Being early will give you the opportunity to check you have everything you need and get in the zone for a productive day of learning. By building a routine, you’ll minimise stress and anxiety and put yourself in a great mood.
5. Keep your room clean and tidy
If your online learning occurs in your bedroom, make a commitment to no longer feed the floordrobe! Mess creates stress. When our rooms are in disarray, it assaults our minds with excessive stimuli, causing our senses to work strenuously on things that are unimportant. Declutter your room and only keep the essentials necessary to learning on your desk. Be minimal in your approach: you’ll find it’s a successful online learning strategy.
6. Create a pleasant environment
Small items like an inviting scented candle can add sparkle to any study space. An indoor plant which you take the time to water and care for will freshen up your space. If you’re looking for successful online learning strategies, keep a water bottle handy to keep you hydrated. The reason why many people become fatigued whilst studying is because they are dehydrated. An updated vision board with motivating quotes, visions and goals for future ambitions aids in keeping your purpose alive.
7. Have a dedicated study space
A well-designed space to study in will help you think with clarity and inspire creativity. World records in sport are broken when the conditions are perfect. In the same way, the right conditions will boost your learning performance. If you can’t find a quiet space for reflective thought and deep learning, try using headphones to block out the surrounding noise. Adequate lighting is also a successful online learning strategy. Investing in a desk lamp or studying near a window to let in natural light are easy ways to enhance concentration. The temperature of your room is another gigantic influence on your productively. If the room is too warm, you will become drained quickly. Use a fan or an open window to create airflow. If it’s too cold, you will find it hard to settle into a rhythm so find a blanket, heater or warm clothes to adjust the temperature to a point where you’re comfortable. Your study space will always be a work in progress but do all you can to facilitate the perfect conditions for optimal performance. Another bonus tip is to try sitting on an exercise ball to switch the monotony of sitting still.
8. Create a socially intelligent study team
Set up a group on Facebook, Messenger or WhatsApp for the specific purpose of collaborative study. The most important aspect of this group is not who is in it but that everyone feels ‘psychologically safe’. This is the term Google’s ‘Project Aristotle’ discovered when it was crunching the data in its quest to build the perfect team. Psychological safety means no one is embarrassed, rejected or feels judged. If you can form a group like this the collective genius rises and everyone learns more. This kind of group will always outperform a team of superstars who have no empathy for each other. You don’t have to be the best learner to benefit from such a group. You just have to be kind and willing to learn.
9. Be fully present
When you are online in class on Microsoft Team, Zoom or any other platform, be present. Don’t fiddle, look out the window or allow yourself to be distracted with the plethora of items in your room. Train yourself to focus. Become calm, cancel out all the noise and listen for the salient point which will amplify your learning. Too often, we miss the big idea because we allow ourselves to be side-tracked. Make a promise to yourself to stay focused: you’ll find it to be another successful online learning strategy.
10. Find meaning
Is succeeding at school a meaningful pursuit for you? If not, why? Meaning is to be found everywhere. The great astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”. Live your life with the sense that your life is a choose your own adventure book and you are the central character. Don’t become jaded. Transcend that the ‘been there done that’ attitude of toxic adulthood and live with a sense of wonder. Let the light in.
11. Go outside for morning recess and lunch breaks
A break is not a break unless you are doing something different. If you were sitting down inside studying on a laptop, a break is not sitting down inside on social media. A break means walking around outside device-free. As humans, fresh air is fundamental to our vitality. Without it, we become fatigued, drowsy and our mind will become dull. So get outside, recharge on energy from the sun and boost your vitamin D levels.
12. Create a COVID-19 Playlist
Play music before school to get you in the mood, during breaks to relieve tension and to unwind and after school to celebrate the tough grind. Music is like food for the soul. One song can bring back a kaleidoscope of memories and transport you to distant lands. Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Music is the language of feeling and of passion as words are the language of reason.” After any large cognitive load, it is important to allow yourself to be carried on the wind of whimsical melody or the latest Tik-Tok beat!
13. Take notes
A dull pencil is better than the sharpest mind. David Allen, the world’s number one productivity expert said, “Our mind is meant for having ideas, not holding them.” Research has said we can only hold up to four ideas in our head at any one time. With our minds so full, it is hard to be creative. Take notes during every online class. It will help keep you focussed and attentive. As I write this, we are at the start of term two of 2020 and while things feel a lot calmer than they did a few weeks ago it will probably be a few more weeks before we see a full return to normal. It will take a lot of focus and hard work to get to the end of the tunnel but right now there is light starting to shine on us. It’s up to you to decide how you will handle one of the most challenging learning environments any students have faced. But I know you can do it.
Take a look at my Open Letter to Year 12 Students for insights on how the crisis presents a unique opportunity for senior students.
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