Developing Independence as an Online Learner
By Anne Flenner, FLVS Flex School Counselor
When students first start learning from home as an online learner, you may hear them utter statements like: “I don’t understand how to do this. I’m so frustrated.” Or perhaps: “Ugh. I’ll do it later. I can get it done really quick.” Maybe even: “Man, this is tough! My old school was so much easier!”
Starting anything new can be a challenge. Becoming an online learner is no different. Learning online takes a different skill set than the traditional face-to-face classroom. In a traditional school, a student may be taught a lesson for 50 minutes by the teacher pointing out the important information and then the student will have 10-20 minutes of homework.
Online students typically review the content and identify the important information independently. Of course, FLVS students are always welcome to reach out to their teacher for support and attend live lessons. However, online learning is something that requires a degree of self-discipline. Having this kind of responsibility may seem daunting, but it can be done! It just requires a different skill set.
Soft skills are intrinsic abilities that can help a student perform independently. Soft skills that can benefit an online learner include focus, collaboration, motivation, organization, and patience.
Let’s delve deeper into these and how they can help you to become a more effective online learner!
Let’s be honest. Learning from home for anyone can be a challenge. Focus is generally the most difficult skill for anyone to master. How is it possible to block out all other distractions when working from home? Here are some tips:
- Have a dedicated workspace free of distractions
- Set a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goal that can be accomplished. You can focus on this task and, once completed, have a sense of accomplishment.
- Know Thy Self – What types of things distract you? If it’s your cell phone, place it in another room while you work. If it is your comfy bed, be sure to set up your workspace outside of your room.
While sometimes we can’t be with our teammates and peers physically, we can still collaborate with technology! Collaboration means working together with others toward a common goal. Your education, even though it is your goal, is fostered by connection with others. Here are some tips to collaborate:
- Open communication with your family and teachers! Having everyone on the same page to support you will make staying on track easier.
- Choose your method of collaboration. Do you like talking over the phone with others? Do you enjoy meeting in Zoom? Do you like receiving feedback on a shared Google Doc?
- Commit to asking for help! Your teacher will not know that you are staring blankly at your computer screen for two hours unless you tell them! A quick call, text, or email may solve your problem in minutes and keep your productivity high.
Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. We have all had days when it is hard to even get out of bed and start the day! However, with a few easy tips, you will be jumping out of bed, excited to begin your schoolwork. (Ok, maybe not excited… but ready to go!)
- Create a strong schedule and stick to it! Students who have daily schedules are more successful than those who do not. It’s hard to be motivated and get to work if you don’t set a firm time to start and complete.
- Create a visual. This could be as simple as a list of assignments you want to complete and get to cross off once completed. It always feels good to check things off your list! Or if you want to create a “big picture” visual, perhaps make an artistic collage that includes your goals for the year or your future!
- Reward yourself. When you were younger, you probably got stickers on your papers for a job well done. While you may have outgrown stickers, be sure to reward yourself for a job well done with time to listen to your favorite music, go to the pool, or paint your nails. (Whatever works for you, go for it!)
When going on a road trip, you don’t just get in the car and go! You need to first plan ahead and get organized. This could include packing, checking out Google Maps to find the best route, planning your snacks, etc. Organization in our lives makes everything easier and more manageable. Learning is no different. To be organized in online learning you may want to:
- Take one day a week (maybe Sunday) to organize what you will be working on each day. A little prep work can make all the difference.
- Once your schedule is created, you might add it to a calendar linked to your phone so that you get alerts to keep you on track. You could even share this with a parent so they can stay on track with you.
- Plan ahead! If you know that you are going to need to talk with a teacher, contact him/her ahead of time to schedule a call instead of playing dreaded phone tag.
When learning from home, it isn’t possible to walk up to your teacher’s desk at the end of class to ask for help. Sometimes, you may be stuck on something and need to wait to get a response back from a teacher. Here are some tips to stay calm in the stress:
- Once you have reached out for help, move onto something else. Yes, you may have to be flexible with your schedule, but that is the beauty of learning online from home! It’s always open for you, so you may need to bend a bit.
- Take a brain break! Go for a walk, get some exercise, create some art.
- Know that your teacher will get back to you soon and get you on your way! Don’t stress!
Mastering these skills will take some time, but they will make learning online a bit easier! These skills are ones that will come in handy in many different times in your life. Conquering these skills now will fuel your success in the future as well!