Staying motivated with online classes during social isolation

As classes have moved online for Oregon students, some are struggling to find the motivation to do school work as social distancing continues.

One struggle students navigated was figuring out whether their classes were synchronous or asynchronous.  Synchronous is a real-time type of learning where students have in the past met together with their teacher, but now these sessions have been moved onto Zoom, a live video conferencing software.  While sounding like a good use of technology, there has been many struggles for students and teachers alike while using Zoom. One such problem is the lack of support for Chrome Book on Zoom, it has caused some to have to drop classes as they are not able to attend lectures.  Asynchronous classes, classes that teach with recorded content in Canvas for students to use on their own schedule, have been giving students more control over their learning as they complete the course at their own time.  However, students with asynchronous curriculum struggle with staying connected to the class.  This can lead to an increased lack of motivation to do class work as students may feel more alone and separated.

“For me personally, the most challenging part about online classes is the willingness to avoid procrastination,” said Brianna Graves, a second-year music major working on her AAOT at UCC.  Graves says that she sometimes tries to do everything in one day so that she can avoid school work for the rest of the week, a learning strategy that is not advised by staff because of the burn out potential.

Some students are also struggling with the communication lag that can occur with online learning. “Another thing is not being able to learn efficiently like you would with an in-person lecture,” Graves said.  Students can contact instructors several ways through Canvas. These include comments on assignments, statements in discussions, or emailing the instructor at the email specified in their syllabus.  Email tends to be more reliable than comments on assignments or in discussion forums as those may be missed. Time is also important to keep in mind when contacting instructors, as they may not be able to get back to students right away. Working on assignments early in the week will help give students more time to contact instructors with questions.

Most experienced online students recommend avoiding the piling up of homework till the weekend or other free times as this causes stress.  “One of the most important ways to stay motivated while studying online is to set a regular weekly schedule, so that you can get yourself into a routine,” says Professor Vincent Yip, an associate professor of Computer Science and Computer Information Systems at UCC. “For instance, read a chapter every Monday, work on assignments on Tuesday, take breaks regularly, and so on.  You can use the calendar on your phone or computer to remind you and stay on track.”

Getting into a routine will not only help keep track of homework, but it will also help motivate work.  A checklist for each day of the week will help to increase motivation, with each item done and marked off the list showing that progress is being made.  A checklist or weekly schedule should make sure to take into account what is due soonest and what assignments will take the most time.  “Checklists are very important and I would recommend it, but it is important that you prioritize classes/what is more important (activities in school or out of school), so that there is less worry on missing/turning in late assignments,” says Graves.  The Canvas calendar often shows what and when assignments are due for each class.  If they are not visible, check the dropdown list called calendars. If classes are in gray, click the box next to the name. This will allow them to be shown on the calendar.  To add more items to the calendar, click on the day wanted and a pop-up will show giving students the opportunity to add an event or task to their calendar.

Apps can help with the process for students who have some classes which are not using the Canvas calendar. “You can use apps such as the Google Keep, Microsoft To Do, etc,” Yip said. “Besides using the to-do list apps, the Canvas calendar is a very useful tool. It can help you keep track of course assignment due dates and make study plans.”

Also, keeping in contact with fellow students and instructors will help with motivation and staying connected will build this important part of school. 

For some students, listening to music can be a way to help stay focused. “Some tools such as listening to music, taking advantage of your instructor’s office hours, and getting together with classmates via Zoom are very helpful when it comes to staying on track and motivated,” Graves said. “Listening to music allows an internal environment for your brain and helps stimulate it to where it allows focus on tasks that are needing to be done, and it allows you to maintain a positive vibe on your current situation.”

Listening to music can be beneficial in several ways.  It can help with students’ mental state, such as helping to relieve stress.  “Background music may enhance performance on cognitive tasks,” says Scott Christ, on USA Today.

Asking others for advice can also help to gain more ideas for how to stay motivated with online classes. It is important to try different ways of staying engaged with classes until a way that works is found.

“Please always remember, you are not alone, we are all in this together. All your instructors want you to be successful. Everyone learns differently,” Yip said. “If you have questions on course materials, or if you are unable to finish your assignment, because of unexpected life events, please contact your instructors immediately.  Remember, it is not your fault. We will always work with you.  Again, you are not alone; we are here for you!”

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