5 tips for successful virtual learning, according to a local academic

Virtual learning can be exhausting

Virtual learning.
Virtual learning. (Concordia University Ann Arbor)

ANN ARBOR – If you were already a virtual student or had experience working remotely, moving the majority of your activities online has likely been challenging.

Here are five tips for virtual learning:

Prepare your mind for virtual learning

Dr. Erin Laverick is the Assistant Vice President of Academics at Concordia University Ann Arbor, and she’s also a professor in the School of Arts & Sciences.

“Have the same mindset as you would in virtual class or meeting that you have when meeting in a physical setting. Dress nicely, turn your camera on, have pen and paper ready, and sit up straight,” Laverick suggests.

If you do what you can to feel prepared before attending class, you will probably have an easier time engaging in your virtual class.

Decompress from virtual learning

“Zoom fatigue” is a real thing. Psychiatric Times posted about this on November 17, 2020, in an article written by Dr. Jena Lee. This post explores how things like audio delays and the lack of direct eye contact, for example, are not as rewarding to our brains as having face-to-face contact with professors and classmates.

Additionally, attending virtual classes and meetings often means more sitting. Lee stated that physical activity leads to a 40% reduced risk of fatigue. Even before fatigue sets in, you can do small things to care for yourself in the long run. Get up, walk around, drink some water, and grab a snack.

Start a reviewing routine

Dr. Laverick suggests building a daily habit of reading through your notes from class.

“This strategy will help keep information fresh,” she says. She also suggests returning to your learning management system and reviewing upcoming assignments and projects to keep you from forgetting anything.

Take good notes

Reviewing your notes is helpful only if you took good notes in the first place. When it comes to notetaking, you probably have your own way of doing it. Even if you’re comfortable with what you already do, it might be helpful to tweak your method to improve your learning experience. Check out this post that explores different notetaking methods for you to try out.

If thinking about notetaking is new for you, start by trying each method listed in the post, and stick with the one that fits you the best. Remember, too, that it might not make sense to take notes the same way for every class. Lectures and labs are very different from each other.

If you’re indifferent to the notetaking method you use, sometimes switching up your method can help you stay more engaged in the content. Another suggestion is to find the method that works and stick with it until your retention starts to lag. Then, you can use a new method to keep your mind focused on learning.

Protect your eyes

Has virtual learning bothered your eyes? Blue-light blocking glasses sales were up 116% in May and June of 2020, compared with numbers in 2019, according to The Business Journal’s site BizWomen. Sporting glasses can be fun. But, there effective ways to care for your eyes that don’t cost hundreds of dollars.

Ayesha Malik, OD, is a pediatric optometrist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She suggests using the 20-20-20 rule.

When focusing on a “near task” (reading, writing, staring at a screen), take a break every 20 minutes to focus on an object 20 feet away, and then blink 20 times.

This allows your eyes to reset and resume their natural baseline settings. When you’re focused on something up-close, it increases the demand on your eyes’ focusing system. Lastly, taking breaks to blink helps prevent dryness, which contributes to eye strain.

Finally, do your best.

Whether your learning is 100% virtual or a hybrid model, remembering these tips will set you up to do your best, even when the circumstances are not ideal. Remember to communicate with your teacher/professor and to make yourself aware of the services available to you at your school. You got this!