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Seven deadly sins of remote studying, in time for spooky season

Seven deadly sins of remote studying

@Quizlet are proud to partner with real students and recent graduates to showcase authentic voices. This guest post comes from Nicolette Kier, a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh.

You’ve probably been “in school” for a hot minute now, school being your living room. I hope you’ve adjusted well and have a good rhythm going because this is the point where learning habits are formed for the foreseeable future.

So if by some twisted turn of fate you’re chilling on Instagram instead of paying attention to your Zoom class, or trying to sift through the internet for homework and test answers, now would be a really good time to get yourself together.

Here are seven deadly sins of remote learning, just in time for the spooky season. Steer clear of these and your good grades won’t ghost you.

1. Letting the internet paralyse you like a 21st century Medusa.

Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, a random post about who Sam Smith has been writing breakup songs about all these years… pick your poison. It’s almost impossible to have a smartphone and not be on social media. It’s really almost impossible to be on a computer and not stray away from your writing assignment or research project.

At any time of the day, the internet can turn us to stone, sitting on the sofa scrolling away for hours without even realising it. Suddenly, it is 11:59 pm and your well-thought-out project is suddenly not looking so good.

This is why Do Not Disturb and extensions for temporary website blocking exist.

2. Waiting for a genie to teach you how to use your class’ technology.

If you haven’t been hit with a bunch of new technology to use, enjoy that.

I did not get the chance to enjoy that. I was expected to use Zoom, Google Meet, Skype and our school’s login portal. One class had me either contribute to a WordPress website or design one myself. For a business class, our whole book was online and interactive, and it was a very steep learning curve.

I probably should’ve been on x-games mode with this software by week two.

Was I? Of course not.

There isn’t really time later on in the year to struggle with technology. So if you don’t know it by now, get reading some tutorials or emailing teachers for help.

Not learning the software because you think it’ll “save you time” will end up hurting later. Like when it’s 11:59 pm and you’re sweating trying to figure out how to submit your project in a class portal in the next 60 seconds.

3. Becoming the phantom of your class because you don’t answer any messages.

Instructors can’t see you face-to-face, so handing out assignments, taking questions and general communication is a lot harder. There’s not a great way to consolidate all of your message boards, chats and emails, so you’ll have a lot of messages to check.

Sometimes you forget to look. Usually, though, when you’re not responding to messages, it’s because you’re just ignoring them. We have all been there: a really long email with a lot of details, multiple notifications in classroom chats. It gets exhausting! But, there are three issues here:

  1. You will miss important information.
  2. Your instructor probably counts messaging boards, chats, etc., as participation points in some way.
  3. Your messages will build until they are completely overwhelming to look through.

If I were you, I would designate time in the day to check message boards and emails, perhaps twice or three times a day, depending on how active the groups chats are. This way, you can stay atop of class activity without spending too much time responding to messages, instead of working. How often you check chats depends on a lot of different things, such as looming due dates, so tailor this approach to you and your time availability. The trick is to remain focussed.

4. Being the imposter in your remote learning class.

I don’t believe there is a student alive who has been 100% present and attentive in every single remote class and meeting. We have all glanced at our phones, opened other tabs, or left the room altogether. (Sometimes you just need a snack!)

The problem comes when you completely check out of classes. If you’re staring at your phone for an entire lecture, you are not learning anything.

Again, this is where Do Not Disturb and temporary site blockers can come in handy. It also helps to sit in a place that simulates the idea that you’re in a class, like at a desk or table. Learn to associate a particular place with work, and save your couch and bed for chilling. Make it feel like you’re in a physical classroom, where you wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be using your phone in the first place.

5. Thinking your witch energy is more powerful than your tried-and-tested study methods.

In my humanities classes, most of my lecturers handed out physical papers to read and take notes on. I’m a real highlighter and always make additional notes in the margins, so this system worked for me.

In maths classes, lecturers would write on the board painfully fast, and I tried to write and listen at the same time. I’m a visual learner, so most of the spoken words did not connect at all.

As learning and lectures switched to remote, paper was no longer necessary. Everything was electronic, paper was wasteful, and how many college and university students realistically have access to a decent printer throughout the day? Because all lectures were online, students are able to listen during the lecture and save videos to look at, and make additional written notes later.

However, not everyone is the same and for some, read notes on screens is very hard. Kinesthetic learners will find themselves needing to actually physically write things down. That’s how I worked every year before this one. I definitely haven’t developed the witch powers to take in information through osmosis, maybe during a full moon, but otherwise, it feels virtually impossible.

You should use whatever methods of studying, doing homework and practising for tests that you are used to, if possible. If you always studied in groups, use your superior Zoom skills to set up a virtual study group. If you have to write out and scan your homework, try to take notes and revise them on paper, or even use apps like Quizlet to make digital flashcards, simplifying notes and study materials into digestible chunks that can be revisited and scanned over at any time. Making the flashcards in itself can be a tool to revisit subjects and gain a better understanding of the information.

The entire world, including schooling, has changed, but your witch mind powers haven’t had the time to change with it. Continue to do what works for you.

6. Thinking Google is a crystal ball with all the answers.

First and foremost, cheating is wrong. You can get suspended, or, especially in college, expelled for violating academic integrity policies. 

Students are not fools. We know that we can Google questions and answers for homework and tests. Educational software designers have been working to put restrictions on these abilities, but as their methods evolve, so do the ways around them.

But lecturers and course leaders are not fools either, so they know this is bound to happen. They’re going to make homework and tests nearly impossible to just Google the answer to. Randomised questions on exams ensure no answer can be copied and distributed.

Then you have to take into account the time factor: It will take you longer, in the end, to try and Google answers to tests and homework than it would to just learn how to do the work. It may even take so long that you run out of time to finish your homework and tests.

Note: There is a difference between cheating and using software that helps you to learn. Using software like Wolfram Alpha to see examples of other problem sets, or flashcards on Quizlet to help you memorise concepts for an exam is a good way to learn. But simply Googling assignment questions and copying the answers holds you back from learning foundational concepts that you will need later on.

7. Thinking you’re a vampire with an eternity to get yourself together.

A lot of times, when starting an assignment, it may seem that you have all the time in world, leaving you sitting at home thinking that there is no immediate pressure.

Everybody works differently, some need immediate pressure to do their best work, others enjoy an evenly timed and planned out approach to big projects and coursework. The theory of Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Whether it is a week, a day a month or a few hours, it is up to you to decide what approach works best and how to fill the time to be as productive as possible.

You can apply the principles of Parkinson’s Law in many ways to become more efficient, and one of them is setting time constraints for assignments. If you give yourself a specific, finite chunk of time to do an assignment, it will take less time (and hangover your head less) than if you just float through the day like you have all the time in the world.

Your actions become your habits, which become your life.

At this point, students are building habits that may shape who they are. This is important to keep in mind, in school and in life. Don’t ghost good grades and a good life by feeding into any of these bad habits.

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