Four Tips For The Newly Minted Remote Studentby@aileen
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Four Tips For The Newly Minted Remote Student

by Aileen May 15th, 2020
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Coronavirus closures have given a fillip to remote learning for students right from kindergarten to college. Students need to adapt to the new normal of sitting alone and participating in a class, perhaps it’s time to find ways to make it more conducive to learning. Have a designated space to give structure to remote classes. Use educational technology. Participate, however hard it is, but remember that for most students, it will help you feel a part of the class. Your participation will also encourage teachers to make better efforts to teach a bunch of kids.

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As the classroom of the future changes, the students also need to adapt. As educational institutes are looking at long Coronavirus closures with millions of kids out of school worldwide, they are scrambling to reimagine how they can educate their students. 

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From Zoom parties for kindergartners to grading-changes for college students, the flux in education has become an ongoing reality. 

Remote Learning

Remote learning per se has been around for a while, but it has been by choice, e.g. when students participate in MOOCs or there are pressing circumstances like ill health. The Coronavirus closures have actually given a fillip to remote learning for students right from kindergarten to college. As educational institutes shut down and students were isolated at home, teaching faculty, parents and students organized themselves to help kick-start remote classes at all levels. 

It wasn’t easy. Connectivity could be flaky. Teachers weren’t all comfortable with technology and not being able to see their students. Parents could not always organize for the required hardware and software at home. There was a persistent fear that a large percentage of kids would fall behind because of the Corona closures. 

But teachers have risen to the challenge - some send paper packets to students’ homes while others call students and help them with school work. Kids have been staying with relatives who have good broadband. The gaps in access and resources are worrying parents and schools. 

Communities too are chipping in - with money, devices, free content and ideas. Interestingly people are getting creative with how to make this ‘remote teaching thing’ work. 

From Student To A Remote Student

"Deschooling Architecture: readings from the anti-library - 03.07.2013" by Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Students who weren’t used to remote learning appreciated school better. They missed the discussions, walking the hallways, the breaks and, very interestingly, not having to stare at a screen!

I think the biggest difference between being a student in a real world classroom and a virtual classroom, is the absence of sensory input. However uninteractive a student, the sensory input was there. Not only audio and visual, but a host of other things which truly make a classroom a place of learning. 

As students enter this new normal of sitting alone and participating in a class, perhaps it’s time to find ways to make it more conducive to learning. Here are 4 tips:

1. Have a designated space

This is a great way to give structure to remote classes. You have a space you can come and sit in, even if you have to share it with a pesky sibling or a parent. Here is where you study. Avoid the bed, for it takes you where it’s supposed to - slumberland. Have some shelf space, desk, bookshelf and a few other things which give you a feel for a classroom. A board perhaps? Map? Whatever gives you the classroom vibe. If you cannot have a dedicated space, that’s okay too. Just clear some space. Sit upright. By a window? Great. Exercise your eyes by looking into the distance frequently. Try to create your calm oasis. Keep some water easily available. A desk to write on. Or atleast a clipboard to make notes. 

2. Use educational technology

These are new and uncertain times. If you fear you need some extra help ask friends or the teacher. Need more? Did a friend get extra help for Deductive Reasoning in Math? That thing you cannot wrap your head around? You go ahead and try it too. Need extra tutoring - tell your parents or teacher. They might have great online tutoring ideas.  Lots of companies have stepped forward to make their online curriculum content available for free. 

3. Participate, however hard it is

This is one of the hardest things to do. For some, this veil of remote technology might actually help them be more open to participation in class discussions. For others less confident at using technology, it might be difficult, but it helps if you remember that this is difficult for most students, but it’s all the more so for teachers. Your participation will help you feel a part of the class, it will also encourage the teachers to make better efforts to teach a bunch of kids they cannot see or hear as they did in a real world class. Not all classes have video as the demand on broadband systems then becomes too high. Stick to a schedule and try not to watch content while you are attending class. Separate the two for better concentration!

4. Collaborate with friends

If you have friends who do not have access to tech that is required, maybe you could just keep a telephone line open and they could listen. Get on a common platform and discuss school work. It sounds crazy, but it might be invigorating, especially when different people have absorbed different things, leading to an exchange of information and help. Sharing the information or helping someone else understand something you know, is a great way to complete the learning process. 

Being a remote student is not easy. Classes can sound boring. Especially if they are recordings. Lectures might sound like lullabies. For international students, their nights might have become days. Taking remote exams is demotivating. You miss the tutors. For good students, everyone getting a ‘Pass’ is unfair. For other students, it’s not fair to test in these testing times. There’s no place to let off steam. Playing is not possible. The chores at home can drive you nuts. Tight living spaces can get claustrophobic. Wi-fi can suck. Phew, this list can go on. 

Will We Ever Go Back To Normal?

That’s the question on the minds of most students. 

Will we? When? What will change? 

Of course students will go back to regular school and college. Many students who fear that the next sem might be a ‘remote classes’ one, are contemplating taking a semester break. After all, how can college be fun, if you aren’t ‘going to college’?

The ‘when’ is unsure. Authorities are grappling with understanding the new data that keeps coming in from researchers who are working at top speed to understand Covid-19. No one wants hospitals to overflow and populations to suffer. Vaccines and effective treatment protocols are expected. 

Of course things will change. For a while it will be all about using personal safety measures - sanitizers, masks, gloves and keeping distance. There will be fear. As time passes and we understand how to cope with the situation, people will become more normal as protocols morph. 

People and communities will definitely get better at using tech, which would have been extensively tested thanks to these Covid times. We will also learn (hopefully) not to take the good things we have for granted. 

Give It Time

Change is hard to digest. Some take longer than others to come up to speed. In these uncertain times, we need to put our best foot forward, however shaky it is. As most students are digital natives, certain facets of tech do not bother them at all. But to take a class? To become a remote student? To do this for an uncertain period of time? That is tough, but this too shall pass. 


Featured Image Credit: Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.