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How to Make the Most of Remote Learning

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, most college students are finishing the spring semester from the other side of the screen. The lecture halls are empty, the office hours are virtual, and the libraries are restricted-access-only. Some of you might already be experts at remote learning – in 2016, more than 6.3 million college students took at least one online course – but for others, the transition to online classes requires a seismic shift in your study habits. With final exams barely a month away, it’s important that you’ve got the remote study skills you need to be successful.

Here at Applerouth, we’ve been offering online tutoring and classes for over a decade, and here are our best practices to maximize your potential while at home in your sweatpants.

Create a comfortable but distinct study space

One of the nicer things about remote learning is that you don’t have to be in a classroom. But just because you could do your classwork while in bed doesn’t mean that you should. It’s better for your class performance and mental health if you have designated spaces for work and relaxation – and that you keep them as separate as you can. The form your study space takes will probably depend on where you are and how much space you have available to you, so it may look like the kitchen table, a spare bedroom, or a desk tucked away in your own room. Organization is key, no matter how large or small your study space is. As Northeastern University’s Graduate Studies blog notes, “Knowing exactly where important dates, files, forms, syllabi, books, and assignments live will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals.”

Make yourself a schedule and stick to it

Having in-person classes provides students with a built-in time management system. You know exactly when you need to leave your dorm, where to stop for your pre-class latte, and what time you need to hit the library to get a quiet study booth. Online classes don’t always have a strict timetable; some professors are keeping their lecture and study hours consistent, but others are assigning students independent work and learning modules. If you’re in that boat, you need to develop your own schedule. You should set specific times for classwork and make sure the people around you respect your time. Writing for HuffPost, Jennifer Lachs says, “It’s best to set clear boundaries and ask [family and friends] not to contact you during certain times.”

Choose your apps wisely

On that note, you should try to minimize distractions – no Netflix, Snapchat, or Insta during study time! – but that doesn’t mean you have to turn off all the electronics. There are some web tools that can help you be more productive. Apps like Coffitivity provide ambient noise if you’re the kind of person who can’t study in silence. Evernote can help you organize your notes and create to-do lists. If you’re managing group projects or study groups, Asana is a great way to assign specific tasks to specific people. The key is to be mindful when it comes to your app selection and to avoid anything with frequent notifications.

Take notes on paper, even if your lecture is online

One benefit of online learning is that you can rewind, record and rewatch your professor’s lectures. If you think that means “no more note-taking,” though, think again. A 2014 study by Princeton and UCLA faculty showed that students who take notes the old-fashioned way actually perform better than students who take notes with their laptop. According to Cindi May of the Scientific American, the results indicated that students “who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops.” Taking notes by hand doesn’t allow you to copy everything the professor says verbatim; you have to process the information and only write the most important information, which helps you cement your understanding of the topic. 

Say no to multitasking: focus on one assignment at a time

It’s tempting to think that you can work on different subjects at once when you’re at home. After all, all the class information is just a click away. But you should think twice before opening up fifteen tabs on your browser. According to the American Psychological Association, attempting to do multiple things at once can actually hurt your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s because it takes your brain time to adjust every time you switch from one topic to another: “Thus, multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error.” It’s better to finish your Psychology study guide and then move on to your English essay. You’ll save time and produce better-quality work.

Take regular breaks to keep your body and mind happy

At this time, we’re all doing our best to move around as little as possible. This means we’re missing out on a lot of the casual physical exertion and social interaction that makes up the fabric of our lives. You’re not walking to class or chatting with friends in the dining hall or dorm, so you’ve got to make sure that you’re getting an outlet for that energy. First, your body. You should get up from your desk and stretch at least every two hours (here are a few basic stretches from HuffPost UK to get you started). You can also take walks or use a stationary bike, if you have one. Second, your mind. We need time to socialize about everything – or nothing at all – says Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki. Build in some breaks to practice what Zaki calls “distant socializing” – connecting with friends and family via Zoom, Facetime, or other apps just to spend time together. You can play games online, cook “together,” or just talk. Taking regular breaks will make your studying more effective, but more importantly, it will keep you healthier in mind and body.

We hope these tips will help you make the transition to distance learning smoothly and successfully. It’s a big shift, getting used to this new reality. The most important thing to remember these days is that you’re not alone. We may all be separated by distance, but we’re all in this together, and things will get better.

If you need help managing your courses and staying on top of your classwork, please reach out to us or take a look at our offerings here. Our tutors are trained in online tutoring and know how to help you tackle the challenges of distance learning. We’re here to help.

From everyone here at Applerouth, we hope you’re staying safe and healthy. 

Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 212-731-4676 or