How do you focus on online classes amid a pandemic?

On the news and among my colleagues, I hear the struggles students experience in studying for online classes: unfamiliarity with technology (or not enough access to it), less interaction and attention, special needs not being addressed, child care issues, and sorrow at family members and friends dying. 

I can’t repair or bring back what was before, but I wanted to share tips and secrets I’ve learned through teaching online. Only, it didn’t feel original or unique to the time of COVID-19.  So, I decided not to write my advice, but ask Janice Indajang, a high school student and blogger, her perspective. 

Janice adjusted to her online classes and found positive actions she could take to help her get through the loss of connection to her teachers and classmates. She survived the changes and advanced her knowledge and talents despite the isolation of not being with her teachers and friends. 

I am excited that Janice decided to share her story in the guest post here.  Check it out and see what she did to succeed.  

Janice’s Advice: How to Study for Online Classes

It’s 7 am, wake up, 7:15 am, eat breakfast, 7:30 am, get ready for the day, 8 am, look wistfully outside my window as my computer makes the familiar booting sound; 8:15 am, go to Zoom high school. Rinse and repeat.

If you took a time machine and went back one year and told me soon I would get to attend school in my pajamas, take charge of my learning, and essentially have total agency over my day; I would be overjoyed. Finally, I get to prove my independence, move away from the dreary schedule that I followed day by day: get up, go to school, do homework, go to bed. Now, it’s August, and after approximately four months of that reality, I would love to use that very same time machine and shake last year’s me for believing that this was ever a great, amazing paradise of an idea.

 

We Weren’t Prepared

In theory, the agency I could have over my time and interest would be an amazing gift. But in practice, it took much more time than I initially expected to be able to juggle so much of my time. Just because I could attend classes in my pajamas classes didn’t mean that the amount of work associated with the class would be equally casual. Classes started sharp at 8:15 am, often with the teacher only telling you the day before whether or not they’re going to be teaching, or just holding office hours for that time. Often, they might even cancel the day before. If it was a class, the slew of internet connectivity problems, ineffective teaching styles poorly suited for online instruction, as well as the general lack of passion felt among everybody involved, including the teacher, made even the smallest lesson an absolute hair-tearing hour. 

Afterward, the homework assigned would be difficult and challenging. Without the ability to stay after class to ask questions, or talk face to face to visualize the problem, it felt like the questions took a Herculean effort to even complete, and they were due at 8 am the next day. Soon, all the free time I believed I had, whittled down to even less time than I had to myself even prior to online learning. To complicate matters, halfway through my learning, I had to fly back to Singapore. The flying is one matter, but imagine everything I said, but with a 2 hour time difference. 

The difficulty became a logistical nightmare. Lectures at 1 pm meant 1 am, homework was due at 8 pm the day of (I was 12 hours ahead), and everything felt impossible. I struggled to even stay afloat among the work. 

Day after day, it was a battle. But then I realized: Why am I trying so hard? Yes, the workload was taxing, the classes incomprehensible, and the time difference a headache, but essentially I am doing the same amount of work as prior to online learning. I was drowning because I didn’t realize the responsibility that came with giving myself so much agency.  My time was not organized. My mind was frazzled, and that came across in my work style. If I could organize bits and pieces soon the workload will feel more manageable. 

 

Online Learning Success Quote

 

Let’s Take It Slow

I took small steps in the beginning. First, just setting a kitchen timer to do my work. During that time, I focused strictly on one subject. Whether it was learning the material, doing the homework, or even learning ahead, it didn’t matter. For that one hour, I would focus on a singular subject. Between these, I would take breaks, walk, draw, play the flute– anything but academic work. My baby steps progressed to altering my sleep schedule, scheduling two times a day I would sleep in order to stay alert at 2 am in Singapore for my 2 pm class time. 

The small concentrated efforts I put in place began to snowball into my own, comfortable work pace, and I started not only to manage my work, but I had even more time now as I finally caught up and surpassed the lecture notes. A daunting task was reduced to bitesize obstacles when I took a little bit at a time to adjust, and finally, I began enjoying my online learning experience. 

It does not replace the indispensable value face to face teaching brings, but I realized online learning is not too different from regular classroom settings. If you want to succeed, trying hard to pound the work throughout the day is counterproductive. Working with a purpose and direction was taking less time and producing concentrated results in my learning.  I realized the agency of my freedom to wear pajamas to class, didn't absolve me the responsibility the school once took care of for me with a general schedule. Instead, I needed to do myself a service and create a personalized… Click To Tweet

To all those struggling in learning and all during this time, I know it’s difficult. Just because I could summarize my story in an essay doesn’t mean that everything was fixed beautifully. I still struggle, and during the process of organizing myself, I was extremely stressed.

Having so much agency in your life can feel overwhelming, and maybe you’re naturally organized, which is great for you, but if you’re like me, this time can feel torturous as you have to grow and realize what is important to you.  However, you can seize the time you have now and use it as an amazing catalyst for maturing and realizing your ability to become independent.

 

Photo of Janice Indajang--Guest Blogger

About the Author 

Janice Indajang is a rising senior who is planning on taking her final year of classes online from home. She has an interest in creative pursuits such as writing, drawing, and music. Janice is looking forward to applying for college and is hoping to create a fantastic application. She has created a blog to collect all of her writing elements and drawings that you can check out at https://personal-site-janicei.glitch.me/index.html.

Are you a student studying online classes or a teacher instructing classes online? Please comment and share your story below!