We’re in the thick of it now! Some of you may be starting online school this week, yet you’ve probably already been telecommuting and/or helping your children navigate online learning from home. But, let’s talk about you and your needs. As a non-traditional student, you may have been forced into online learning, knowing full well that online is not what you initially wanted, but here we are. So, let’s make the best of it. One way to have a good learning experience is to take those face-to-face opportunities and bring them to the online environment as well, such as study groups.
Study groups are essential to academic success in providing a much needed support system to classmates, helping increase and diversify learning skills, and improving overall academic success and social skills, so bringing them to the online environment can only help. With online study groups, you can discuss readings, videos, study methods, and simply just brainstorm and vent with your classmates. Some platforms for your study groups are: Zoom; Go to Webinar; Google Classrooms/Hangout; Skype; Facebook; and others. Just like office meetings, online study groups can take place once a week and can be a way to connect with others who are experiencing the same feelings you are. Also, similar to office meetings, your format for the study group should mirror face-to-face meetings.
Have a plan agenda: If you and your classmates are in multiple classes together, make sure that the online study group doesn’t focus on all of the classes at one time. Set an agenda for one class, and focus on one area (ex. last week’s class reading). This keeps the group from skipping to different topics and everyone gains something from the meeting.
Have a time limit (keep it short): As we all know, meetings that drag on can be mind-numbing, so keep your study group meeting to no more than 50 minutes. Usually, after 50 minutes, we all need a brain break anyway, so this is a good rule to follow. This also helps keep those 50 minutes focused and streamlined.
Have a moderator: You can rotate people for every meeting, but have at least one member act as moderator. This person gets the group started and keeps the group going. While the moderator is a contributor to the group, this person also makes sure that everyone stays on topic and moves along the agenda.
Have an icebreaker: The icebreaker is used to help people loosen up and get things “off their chests.” One person can plan an online activity (i.e. who can pat their heads and rub their bellies) or simply ask everyone how their week has been. Keep the icebreaker to no more than 10 minutes at the beginning of the meeting, but use this time to laugh, get the brain flowing, and relieve tension.
Stay positive and let the creativity flow: It’s not uncommon to hit a snag in a study group. You’ve reached a math problem that no one can solve. There’s a difficult part in a major reading and everyone has a different opinion. Online groups don’t prevent obstacles from happening, so instead: brainstorm, talk things out, and allow creativity to flow. Remain positive as you and your classmates are working on theories and assignments and encourage one another. More importantly, learn from one another.
Involve your professor: Study groups can be absolutely wonderful when faculty members get involved. If your professors are willing, involve one of them in your next study group, especially when it surrounds a difficult project/assignment. Getting your professor involved with your small group is sometimes the best way to learn and comprehend information because it is personalized.
As you continue to navigate online learning, make the best of it in ways you may have never tried before. Online study groups provide the close-knit learning environment you might not have been able to have during the traditional academic year. In a time of crisis, creativity emerges.
Keep moving forward and stay safe,