As the new year rolled around, many college students hoped the long-awaited
transition to in-person classes and an overall return to normalcy would follow. The circumstances surrounding the pandemic, however, have delayed this transition, forcing students across the nation to prepare for another semester of virtual learning. While the idea of Zoom lectures, virtual office hours and labs, and limited interaction with peers is no longer foreign, college students are still navigating the challenges associated with this style of learning.
A particular challenge that is familiar to every individual, student or not, is a loss of motivation.
To combat this sense of defeat and disappointment, it is important to first recognize the challenges out of your control that most significantly affect your learning before actively working to improve the circumstances you can control.
- Communicate your concerns. While college learning before COVID-19 circumstances was predictable, virtual learning requires students to adjust their expectations for the upcoming semester. Although exams, assignments, and relationships with professors/peers look differently than they used to, the basic framework for success in college courses remains the same. Understanding what your professors expect from you in terms of participation and assignments makes it easier to adjust your expectations of what another semester of online learning looks like. Use this transparency from your professors as a motivating factor to plan. That being said, do not be afraid to advocate for yourself if you feel that your professors could do more to facilitate your learning. Professors are there to help you learn and engage with the material. This may look different for each student and so you must communicate your concerns early on in the semester in a professional manner.
- Find new ways to stay engaged. In-person learning, and the social pressures associated with learning alongside peers indirectly encouraging student engagement. Impersonal distance learning makes it easy for students to feel less motivated and engaged with their work. This lack of engagement can also arise in discussion-based courses where students, having never met their peers in person, may feel too uncomfortable or insecure to participate in class. In-person learning creates the opportunity for classes to serve as a safe space for students as they get familiar with class dynamics and their peers. Virtual learning makes it hard to connect with your classmates which then makes it harder for shy, less self-assured students to vocalize their thoughts on course material. One way to feel more confident and engaged in your courses is by forming a small study group. Whether this means reaching out yourself to a handful of students or by posing the idea to the professor privately, small-group learning methods promote engagement and participation. Use these aspects of college learning to challenge your understanding of the course material by asking clarification questions and promptly responding to your peers’ comments.
- Schedule uninterrupted study time. While the prospect of an upcoming exam or paper may be daunting, simply scheduling uninterrupted intervals of study time can alleviate this stress. For example, some students find that studying for 30 minutes straight followed by a timed 10-minute break is the most effective way to quell anxiety surrounding an important assignment. Repeating this sequence, and adjusting the study-rest ration as needed, will give you more control over your day and allow your brain the necessary rest to feel prepared.
- Reward yourself. It is no secret that online learning requires a whole new kind of focus and self-motivation. Add a global pandemic into the mix and students are left more discouraged and anxious than ever. While fortunately, most professors have expressed intentions to be lenient and understanding due to the current circumstances, there is still the pressure to perform well in our classes. An important, albeit often underrated strategy for overcoming a loss of motivation, is to reward yourself for your achievements, big or small. The reward can be something as simple as treating yourself to a smoothie or a coffee from your favourite restaurant. These small rewards create a positive mental perception of work and study time. We are worthy of a pat on the back more often than we think.
This year has been tough so let’s not deny ourselves simple pleasures. With Edumeister’s college course material kick back and enjoy this semester.