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Although this post is coming quite a while into the lock-down life. As they say, it’s never too late. I spent the first few weeks and months of online learning observing those around me, and communicating with friends about their experience with online learning. As changes have taken place over time and we expect a ‘second-wave’ of COVID19, I find it imperative for a letter of this sort to go across.
Perspectives towards online learning
Over the last few months, we’ve realised that depending on what lens you look at online learning through, there can be more than one side of the coin. A lot of students and teachers prefer it, while a lot also dislike it, and there are many reasons for this- transport, timings, the ability to attend class in Pajamas (poor you if your school forces you to turn your cameras every second, every day) and some not so ethical reasons as well. Let’s keep the pro/con debate on online learning away for now as that isn’t my focal point.
Getting at the main point, how exactly do teachers and students feel?
The strongest common ground students and educators have is eye strain. Even though you might’ve initially expected online learning to help save your energy, many of you might be feeling the exact opposite. It’s more draining. Eye strain is mostly responsible for this, among other reasons that won’t be commonalities. It is important to take constant breaks whenever you can and rest your eyes, and yourself. To be able to effectively do this- you’ll need to practice and eventually excel at effectively managing your time and stress so you do not end up having to overwork yourself, compromising on your physical and mental health.
Here are a couple ways you can start taking care of your eyes and educational lifestyle:
- Take 5-15 minutes breaks from technology every hour or so.
- Wash your eyes with cold water at least once a day if your screen time is high.
- Try your best to get enough sleep at night, and nap in the afternoon if needed (but not too long that fatigue and laziness overcomes you the rest of the day)
- Keep all your devices on ‘night mode’ or ‘blue light filter’ to minimise eye-strain during usage.
- Maintain calendars and/or to-do lists to keep track of what you need to get done, and mark important test and examination dates, and other deadlines.
- Practice the pomodoro technique: work in a focused manner with frequent breaks- 25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break repeated. This is one cycle. Repeat this cycle 2-4 times and then take a long (30 minute) break. You may make slight amends to the timings depending on what works best for you.
Feel like you have too much on your plate?
For a lot of us, work is starting to pile up, midterms and exams are nearing, or the responsibility of preparing them is, or a combination of all of them is coming at you. As I stated in the start of this letter, it’s never too late. Don’t let your procrastination keep building up like it has since the start of this academic year (if it has). It might feel like it’s too late and everything is coming crashing down at once, but i’ll say it again- it’s not too late. You can fix this!
- Do not look at all your tasks as one entire lump. Break them down into individual tasks, and organise them on the basis of difficulty and/or urgency and look at them one-by-one.
- Do not be afraid to ask for support. If you need academic or professional advising and help with how to organise your work, devise a plan and execute it, seek help. There is nothing to be ashamed about in seeking help for it is basic human tendency, and in fact, a sign of strength. The same logic applies for mental health and emotional support.
- Take ownership of what you need to get done, and of the end results you seek to achieve. At the end, how you fare will impact you and nobody else.
- If you need deadline extensions or need to outsource your tasks (not graded content), there is nothing to lose in trying and asking the persons you are answerable to about them. Worst case scenario- nothing changes. But if it works out, you scored a win.
- Learn to say no to people and projects that you do not have time and/or energy for. Drawing effective boundaries will help you for your entire life ahead and not just now.
- Execute your plans!
Do you feel like it is too late and you can’t catch up now? Well, if you think that and don’t try then there’s a 100% that you won’t catch up, but trying gives you a chance to succeed and paves way for new learning and personal development.
Technological difficulties and educator-student relationship
Another common issue educators and students, well, more often educators, given the generation gap, face is technological challenges. We aren’t addressing network connectivity here but how tech savvy a person is. Just like how many of us students foster compassionate sentiments towards one another, and try to believe in the concept of a growth mindset. We mustn’t forget that our educators and instructors are as human as we are and are involved in what I think is the most noble profession.
While they may not always be the best at expressing care for you the way you may expect it, you cannot entirely say that they don’t care. We must also recognise the relationship between an educator and the student as mutually reinforcing. Additional to a mentor-mentee relationship, a strong and effective educator-student relationship in the needs of the 21st century requires patience, support, guidance and open-mindedness from both sides towards one another.
Before you decide to lash out on another person for being slow with technology or pretty much anything, ask yourself, would you want to be dealt that way if you were in their place instead?
learning challenges and subconscious excuses
In general, and specially students who give in to distractions easily, and those who have lab-intensive subjects/courses, online learning has placed many restrictions on effectively learning.
Apart from actual challenges that not much can be done about (labs etc.), students have resorted to a dangerous excuse system of the online environment coupled with laziness. Not that this is definitely something they intend to do, but effort is repulsive to humans and this would’ve led the subconscious mind to believe the following excuse to be entirely true.
Online learning doesn’t teach me well, and I can’t do well in my exams and my future will be destroyed.
While some students might have genuine drawbacks, a lot of students don’t put effort beyond this. They might end up texting and/or playing games during class and blaming it on ‘distractions’, not recognising that the true responsibility and discipline to avoid the distractions is their job. They also hold back from clearing their doubts, and do not take the effort to search for different sources on Youtube or other platforms like Khan Academy, etc.
I understand that you might sometimes feel like your doubt is too ‘silly’ and it might not convince you when I say that your instructors will entertain all kinds of doubts, but, something you could try is asking the doubts to your peers after class, or, messaging them the doubt at the end of the class and they can ask it on behalf of you as if it were coming from them.
A sense of gratitude and grounding to reality might push you to working harder for yourself in these hard times. What I mean is, another major drawback that online learning has brought is the further expansion of the education gap between the rich and poor. While normal education was already not affordable, the need for technological devices and stable electricity further makes it difficult for poorer sections to gain a proper education. While you still have the resources to be able to read this blog post, stay grateful, and keep grinding towards your goals.
Before you give up working towards something, ask yourself, what is it that is really stopping you? Is it the online system, or your attachment to your comfort zone?