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Tips for Virtual Learning

Quotes in blue from Michele Mannering, PhD, of Myers Park Pediatric Psychology

Many students took their first dive into virtual learning last spring and quickly realized that it’s not always a walk in the park. Though it seems like the easier option in theory, learning virtually can make it incredibly difficult to stay motivated and engaged. ”It’s important to learn about your individual profile as a virtual learner: How long can you pay attention before you find yourself drifting off? Is the speed of instruction too fast or too slow? Do you feel more fatigued in an online platform versus in-class instruction? If something is particularly challenging or does not seem to be working, speak up! Something may need to be tweaked or modified so that students are able to learn in a way that makes content easily accessible and understandable.” Keeping these things in mind, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks in hopes of making your life a little easier this fall. 

Adding Structure to an Unstructured Day

Though you’ll be in your house for your schooling, it can be extremely beneficial to treat every day as if you are leaving the house and physically going to school anyway. Try your best to create a flexible routine in which you wake up around the same time everyday, go through your morning routine (this includes getting dressed), eat a healthy breakfast, and go to class. The most important thing here is to designate a quiet, comfortable place, preferably not in your bedroom (and definitely not in your bed), where you can take your classes from a computer. “Sleep is especially important these days. We are required to think through so many different things at all times that it is fatiguing. Further, worrying because of uncertainty can disrupt sleep or cause insomnia. Maintaining healthy practices around sleep, such as physically separating where you sleep and study, is really vital during these trying times.” Furthermore, you should strive to practice active listening during class through note taking or other strategies. If you find yourself losing focus often, it can be helpful to keep a water bottle and some healthy snacks near you when you’re taking classes in case you need an energy boost (but always make you’re muted when you eat or drink!). Organizing virtual lunch breaks with your friends can also be a great way to break up the monotony of the day. All of these simple steps will make it much easier to stay focused, motivated, and organized throughout the day.

Staying Organized

There’s something about learning virtually that can trick your brain into thinking that the stakes aren’t as high as they are when you’re physically at school. Getting organized can help combat these effects while keeping motivation high and stress at bay. Getting a physical calendar/planner and writing down due dates, deadlines, and daily homework assignments can help you visualize your week and what needs to be done during it. That being said, flexibility is key. “You want to have a schedule and be organized, but there also needs to be some flexibility. There may be days where you are simply too tired or distracted to tackle all that needs to be done. Prioritize the absolute must-dos and schedule other things for when you have more mental space to get them done.” Simply keeping your bedroom and “classroom” physically organized can also help you stay motivated and avoid distractions during class. If you find yourself falling behind, don’t panic. You can always email your teachers for help or meet with them one-on-one to discuss strategies for how you can catch up and stay caught up. 

Being Aware of Your Mental Wellbeing

Sitting indoors all day by yourself doing nothing but schoolwork would drive anyone crazy, so it’s a good idea to be hyper-tuned in to your mental health in the coming months. As stated above, a flexible routine is a great tool for success in school and a stable mental health. Furthermore, you can open windows and turn on lights while you’re indoors, go outside everyday to sit, read a book, or go on a walk/run, consistently take any medications that have been prescribed to you, stay hydrated and eat healthy, try to organize virtual or safe in-person hangouts for you and your friends, and, perhaps most importantly, communicate with your friends and family (especially in regards to your mental wellbeing!). If you find yourself in a bad place mentally, it’s a good idea to see a counselor, through your school or otherwise. Most importantly, “don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong. We are all learning as we go, and there are bound to be bumps along the way.”

Getting Out of the House (Safely!)

We know it can be totally maddening to stay in the house all day everyday, so don’t resign yourself to that option. There are still ways to leave your home without endangering yourself or others. Something as simple as going to the grocery store for your parents can provide mental relief. Going outside to exercise is also always a great idea as it gets you out of the house and gets endorphins flowing that will improve your mental state. Some places around Charlotte are even offering outdoor, socially-distanced exercise classes. Furthermore, our article “Volunteer Opportunities During Covid-19” details many community service options that are still available both virtually and in-person during these crazy times. Participating in an activity like these or interning/working somewhere has the added bonus of expanding your resume and showing to colleges that you went out of your way to participate in activities that you are interested in or that benefit your community during the pandemic. If you are currently going through through the college process, you can also check out our articles “Colleges in the Southeast That Are Open for Independent Self-Guided Tours” and “Colleges in the Southeast That Are Still Hosting In-Person Tours” for lists of schools you and a parent can drive to visit to get an idea of the different kinds of colleges out there. Finally, it is beneficial to your mental health to have contact with people your own age so, if you and your family are comfortable with it, try to organize outdoor, socially-distanced hangouts with your friends. For example, a picnic can be really fun. If you are not comfortable with seeing people in-person, try to organize facetime or zoom calls with your friends instead. 

Garrett Educational Consulting, LLC is a full-service, academic consulting firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina. With over twenty years experience in education and counseling, Katie Garrett guides and supports students and families that are navigating important academic decisions. Services include all aspects of academic advising, comprehensive college planning, independent day school consulting, and boarding school application guidance. 

Garrett Educational Consulting


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