Overwhelmed with Online Learning?

For so many students, remote online learning is now part of their everyday. I share this experience. Since March 2020, I have transitioned to Zoom for teaching graduate counseling courses at SUNY Oswego. Of course, it was not the easiest transition. Half of my courses are clinical courses, meaning that I am teaching students counseling skills, observing them practice these skills, watching their videos of counseling sessions, all while evaluating their progress. I had to accept and embrace technology, using Zoom to connect with students and Google Business to share and encrypt confidential files. Many people do not know that as I sit at my desk facilitating class, I am juggling a Zoom screen, PowerPoint presentation, spreadsheets with due dates and grades, engaging students in conversations, and taking notes and writing down reminders on my iPad.

Through this experience, I learned two main takeaways to reduce the anxiety of online learning:

1. Embrace technology and roll with it. Technology can be scary for those who never relied on Zoom, cloud files, file encryption, etc. before COVID. But if we allow ourselves to move past the fear and try it out, we are beginning to recognize how much it can expand our communication and learning. For decades, we have known that students have different learning styles. Hopefully, as K-12 teachers and college professors continue to embrace technology, we will develop new ways to design and develop courses for students and accommodate multiples styles of learning.

When tech errors happen (e.g., wifi goes in out, your laptop battery dies, etc.), remember that it happens to all of us. Take a breath and find a solution. It might be as simple as restarting your computer or plugging it in.  Online learning is new to most of us, so to prevent increasing anxiety, just remember that tech errors will happen. It’s okay. Find a solution and move forward.

2. Plan and be organized. Having worked in higher education for 11 years, I always tell college students that it is their responsibility to be on top of their work and remember when assignments are due. While professors usually remind the class, they are not always available to individually remind each student. The same goes for K-12 teachers. 

Many times, I have asked college students, “Did you check the syllabus?” About 50% say yes. It is important for students to remember that while we tend to think of teachers grading us, really students must remember that they are earning the grade.  Think of assignments and exams not as a way to reflect what you don’t know, but rather a way to show your teacher everything that you do know.

Now that we are learning from home, more so than ever it is important to stay on top of assignments and deadlines. Here are my tips for planning and being organized:

  • Write it down! Does Google Classroom, Blackboard, or your syllabus list assignment due dates? If yes, write them down! Too often, students will see the due date and forget about them within a few minutes. Write them down so you can look back and not forget.
  • Get a planner! Find a dedicated space to write down your due dates, tasks, mental notes, and anything else you might forget. The planner can be whatever form you prefer. If you like paper, buy a paper planner. If you are tech-savvy, use a digital calendar with a to-do list, such as iCal or Google Calendar. Or, if you hate the bulk of paper but want to have the feel of writing, use an iPad with an Apple Pencil.
  • Dedicate time to check your planner! Of course, a planner will not help if you forget to check the it. Make sure that you check your planner regularly. I recommend planning for the week ahead every Sunday and checking your planner every morning. If you are forgetful, set a reminder on your phone or home assistant device (e.g., Alexa) to remind you to check your planner.

*Wondering what I use? I use a digital calendar for all of my     appointments and the Goodnotes app on my iPad, along with an Apple Pencil, for writing notes and planning out tasks for the week.

3. Ask for help. I often hear students tell me that they are afraid to ask their teacher or professor for help. Sometimes it is because they believe they can figure it out on their own, but more often, it is because they are embarrassed and think that they should understand what they are supposed the work without any help.

Take it from me, ask for help. As a college professor, I view my class this way. If students aren’t asking for help, they must understand the work and assignments. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a student tells me he/she/they are worried about their grade 1-2 weeks before the semester is over. By that point in the semester, I am thinking, why did you wait until now to be worried about your grade? Waiting until you are struggling sometimes suggests that you did not care about the course until now when you earned a low grade. Instead, ask early. It is much easier to improve your grades if you ask early in the semester. It also shows the teacher or professor that you care about the course and respect them as an educator.

Recommended Resources

  • For K-12 grade students & parents. elearn.fyi

This database was created by a 12th-grade student from Toronto, Ontario. She created the platform to help parents and kids who are challenged with learning loss. The website includes over 300 learning sites to assist students expand learning. The database lists resources by grade, subject, description, and web address.

  • For undergraduate college students.

Many textbooks come with online supplements. Check to find out if your textbook includes free online resources from the publisher to assist in your learning.