Online School 101

Nobody expected 2020 to be a rollercoaster.

Who could have predicted our decade-end plans and resolutions would circle down the drain? Did it cross anyone’s mind how, after a few weeks into the year, all our interactions would be done via computers and mobile screens? Nah. We doubt it. We’re still trying to come to terms with it ourselves.

Following the quarantine measures implemented across the globe, the Department of Education (DepEd) announced the resumption of in-person school will be put on hold in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Online school is now the way to go.

It’s normal to have hesitations whenever we’re faced with something new. Cartoons of the future often depict flying cars and living in outer space, but people from 2010 probably thought the idea of online shopping (hi, Lazada and Shopee!) and getting food delivered straight to your doorstep (see: Grab Food, FoodPanda) was absurd – yet here we are.

The Philippine government proposed a blended learning curriculum, a system that combines studying-from-home and learning from printed materials. And while there’s been varied feedback on the new education setup, it seems online school is the reality we need to adjust to (if we haven’t yet). At least for the next few months.

But how exactly does it work? Is online school just like ‘normal’ school, or more difficult? What can I do to prepare for online school? I never did excel in the ‘traditional’ method, does this mean I have little chance of surviving online school?

Are you currently attending online school? Or are you thinking about enrolling in online classes, or an online course, next semester? We’ve listed down a few pointers for those with pre-online school jitters and tips on how to survive the next few weeks of classes for those who are in the middle of their programs.

Get your study space online-school ready.

If the year taught us a great lesson, it’s that things can drastically change in the blink of an eye. Preparations for online school shouldn’t be any different from ‘normal’ school – if anything, we should be even more prepared than usual.

  1. Find a space that works for you and make it your own. If your house can accommodate it, choose a (relatively) private spot and make it your own, preferably away from common areas like the living and dining room. Online school is hard enough as it is – try to create an atmosphere as conducive as possible to learning. Avoiding noise-prone areas will (hopefully) keep the distractions to a minimum. After all, a little peace and quiet never hurt anyone.
  2. Technically speaking, you’re all set once you have your gadget and a Wi-Fi connection. Now that classes are held via your screens, it can be easy to overlook the basics – we’re here to warn you against making that mistake. Even though online school can run perfectly fine with just your laptop, it would be great if your notebooks, pens, and markers are ready for use, giving you an instant ~back-to-school~ feels.
  3. If and when you can, make sure to check on your Internet connection. And no, you don’t have to be on that 100mbps train to attend online school, but it will help to see if your service is capable of loading your reading materials. Nobody likes a choppy Zoom audio.

A heads up would be great, thank you!

We understand the first few weeks of online school can be a struggle, so let others know how they can help out. If your designated desk is inside your room, inform your family ahead of time about your schedule. This will help them become familiar with your now at-home routine and avoid any disturbances while you’re in class – can you imagine your mom asking you to take out your dirty underwear on laundry day when you’re in the middle of a graded recitation? Let’s steer clear of the oopsies!

In the immortal words of Troy Bolton, getcha head in the game.

Getting your workspace online school-ready is only one part of the new learning set up. No, really! Because let’s be honest, how many of us have *actually* taken an online course before? Courses at that.

When a lecture slowly ~gets~ to you, you can comfort yourself with a silent countdown to lunch break and spend time with your friends over your go-to meal. Or look forward to being together with your orgmates when the bell rings. And for the student athletes out there, we’re pretty sure you can’t help but miss your coach running drills and a good ol’ training session with your teammates to help you decompress after a long day.

Not a lot of students out there may care to admit (or even be aware!) but the thought of online school can be intimidating. The feeling is completely normal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. A first step you can take is to prepare yourself mentally and get into the zone. This can include setting your personal goals as well as managing your expectations when it comes to blended learning.

We’ll be upfront about it: online school will require a self-starter attitude and too-many-to-count moments where you need to push yourself and keep going. Although you’ll find yourself in an online classroom with your peers, it’s just not the same – the lack of face-to-face interaction can get disheartening and may, at some point demotivate you. Or make you feel alone.

But we swear, you’re not! This list of pointers isn’t only a guide on how you can survive online school, it’s a way for you to know others are going through the same thing too – and we’re here for you. It’s not all bad.

Minimize distractions. Eliminate them completely if you can.

Remember the time when phones and laptops weren’t allowed during class hours? Well, you can’t exactly stay off your gadgets for online school, but you can apply a similar principle by staying away from anything and everything that can easily divide your attention during class hours.

Log off your Facebook and Instagram accounts for the time being and take your eyes off those cute dog videos on YouTube for now. It can be so easy to say “oh no, it’s just a 45-minute session, I’m sure I can stay away for that long,” but having it open will tempt you to scroll aimlessly through your feed.

If you find keeping yourself from your social media platforms a little tricky, adjust the screen time settings or use a third party app on your phone to keep you ‘locked out.’ And if this doesn’t work, try placing your phone in a spot far away from your desk – or a different room, if necessary – to erase any temptation. This helps create a more conducive environment for online school and learning too. You’ll thank us later!

Well, okay. This might be stating the obvious but we’re taking a gamble here and guessing online school requires you to log into your classes – as often as every session. Needless to say, it’s pretty important to know when they are so you can attend them. Unless you’ve given your professors a heads up about your absence, your teachers might be taking note of your attendance.

Don’t fall into the trap of logging in only on days when there’s something major going. Like ‘normal classes,’ online school can have impromptu activities too. Your teacher might decide to give a pop quiz right after their lecture or hold a bonus activity just for the heck of it – you wouldn’t want to miss out on either.

You don’t have to memorize everything, but it helps if you’re generally aware of how your day might look. If it helps, set an alarm 10-15 minutes before your next class to remind you. Or print out a schedule you can keep going back to. Never underestimate the power of a visual reminder!

Don’t procrastinate (too much).

The tendency to procrastinate is one of mankind’s greatest weaknesses. But as long as you’re willing to work on it (i.e. try not to procrastinate too often), you’ll come out a winner on the other side. One of the ways you can combat procrastination is to write a to-do list.

There’s no one size fits all for to-do lists. It’s different for everyone and depends on which learning style works best for you. Are you the type to group them according to category or are you the kind who arranges tasks in order of priority? In any case, getting started on your to-do list for online school might be more important than accomplishing everything you’re about to write down.

Look, we’re not saying you shouldn’t do them – or that you should create lists for show – but the act of writing it down makes it more concrete. It helps you keep track of everything you need to, and the process of creating it might even jog your memory regarding what other tasks you need to accomplish.

And the fulfillment that comes with checking off an item? Priceless.

Unglue your eyes from your screens and take a well-deserved break. Or several.

One of the pitfalls of online school is blurred boundaries. When your home transforms into your workspace and your sanctuary, it can be hard to shift from learning mode to relaxing mode, but part of online school – and traditional school! – are breaks. At least two per day. Whether they’re 10 minutes you spend walking around your house, or hour-long breaks enjoying meals and a snack or two, rest is important.

You can only learn so much, especially when you’ve been staring at the screen for hours. Online school is a completely different ballgame, so the rules are quite different too. Things tend to get a little repetitive when you’re fixed on your laptop for quite some time. Switch things up and recharge by stepping away – you’re doing yourself a favor when you do!

Try going out for a breath of fresh air, maybe some sun (don’t forget your mask!) or play a game of fetch with your doggo. Online school can get boring at times (let’s not lie, traditional school can be too) so engaging in short, physical activities can boost your mood and re-energize you for another round of learning.

If you’re still not convinced physical activities have a direct impact on your overall well-being, many studies have shown screen breaks actually improve your attention span and increase your productivity rate. Why do you think everyone feels a little better after PE class?

And finally, the Internet was groundbreaking for a reason. Take advantage of the resources within your reach.

Not only can we now access virtually anything with a few taps on the keyboard, it also provides a vast pool of information you can utilize to supplement your online school curriculum. Today’s students have a relatively easy time when it comes to gathering reading material and helpful articles relevant to their classes.

And it’s not just about resource material. If you’re struggling with a particular subject, say Geometry or Physics, there’s plenty of online platforms which provide interactive and easy-to-digest education videos, like Khan Academy.

There’s also a wide array of productivity tools you can download and use to help you keep track of all your requirements for online school. Evernote is highly conducive for note-taking and collaborative platforms, such as Trello and Google Suite (yes, Google docs and slides are so helpful!), allow you to work seamlessly as a team. Getting a little sick of Zoom? Try using a different platform to stay in touch with your classmates and friends, like Discord. Don’t use it for games though – save it for when online school is done for the day!

The digital era has ushered in the age of connectivity. Thanks to the Internet, students can now learn – and teachers can teach – from wherever they are, so long as they have a Wi-Fi connection. At a time when we have to be physically distant from each other, online school has found a way of keeping us together, even when we’re apart.

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