You’re officially an online student. Welcome to your new normal! You may have left school thinking that you’d be back by now and instead you got hit with some news: classes will remain online until further notice, graduation ceremonies have been postponed, and (if you have children) your children will be taught by you from home. When it rains, it pours. Many students have expressed their anxiety, frustration, and sense of being overwhelmed on social media and that is completely acceptable and normal. Your world has been flipped on so many levels and it feels as though there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. So, how do you deal with it all?
You deal with it the same way you’ve dealt with everything else in life. You accept the fact that you’re in a new normal. I’ve been reading post after post from non-traditional students where they wonder when things will get back to normal (i.e. the way it was). More than likely it won’t. Even if some things get back to the way they were, so much has changed in the past two weeks that not everything will go back. And guess what? That’s not all bad. Some pretty remarkable things have taken place that we once thought would take much longer (political parties working together, emergency hospitals being built, companies and schools moving to online formats to avoid closing). Creativity has showed itself in some unlikely places. It’s been hard, but it’s happened. The truth is that this new normal could last one more week or 18 more weeks, but we are in a new normal. Once you understand that and accept it (i.e. not fight it), you can move forward a lot better.
So, let’s address your new normal as an adult student. For some of you, you’ve experienced your first week taking online courses. Congratulations! Hopefully, you’ve learned that you’re not the only one trying to figure new platforms out and you’ve extended yourself some grace. The best thing to do is review your week, jot down what worked in your schedule and what didn’t. That way, you can better prepare for the week ahead. Please know that it normally takes up to a month to “get into the swing” of something new, so don’t think you’ll have it all figured out right now. However, you can make some adjustments.
Making your new normal work for you:
- Block out times to do your work: Online learning consists of reading assignments, viewing videos, writing discussion posts, and even collaborating with peers. When you sit down at the computer, treat it as sitting down at a desk in class. You don’t want to consume 3 hours of online work at one time, but start with 40 minutes. Then take a break. Then go back. This gives your brain time to process information and (in my Mom voice) protects your eyes from too much screen time.
- Invest in a digital recording app: There are many free recording apps for phones, but this is great for students who multitask and may not be able to get to their schoolwork until late in the evening. Have you ever been working on one project only to come up with a great idea for another project? Speak that idea into your phone and when you begin to work on the next project, refer to that recording. This saves you time because you’re no longer jumping from A to B to F to D. You can keep your thoughts (and assignments) in order.
- Talk with your family: Now that you’ve had a week to test out online learning, you have a better idea of what you need in order to make your learning successful. However, don’t expect your family to know what you need. Have a family meeting to discuss what it is that will make your school situation more manageable. It may be an hour of uninterrupted time, a designated space to spread out, or an encouraging word when you feel discouraged. Learning at home will not work unless you are clear about your needs.
- Revise your schedule: We all have an ideal schedule in our heads. Then we have what really happens! Example: Your ideal scenariowas to get two hours of school work in with minimal interruptions. Your reality was that you didn’t get to do any work until 11pm and then you fell asleep in the middle of writing out a post. It happens, so revise your schedule based on realistic expectations.
- Treat your schoolwork like your job: We have a tendency to treat our professional work with urgency. This may be because that work is tied to a paycheck, or connected to your boss’s approval, but schoolwork can sometimes be treated as something that can wait until later. Going online makes it worse because you don’t have to actually face your professor. However, if you want to be productive, treat your college work like your professional work. Simply get it done!
As you move forward with online learning, continue to adjust your study schedule as needed. Reach out to your classmates to see how they’re managing things, but in the end, do what is best for you. Remember, this is your education (even though it looks different). Take a hold of it and keep moving forward.