Digital experts release advice to help students with online learning

Dr Alex Fenton from the University of Salford Business School, and Dr Aleksej Heinze from Kedge Business School in France, offer their top tips for maximising online learning outcomes

The UK government ordered all schools, colleges and universities across the country to close until further notice on Friday 13 March. Just three days later, prime minister Boris Johnson placed the nation on lockdown, following the likes of Italy and Spain, where citizens have been under strict instruction to remain at home since 9 March and 16 March respectively.

The growing impact of the pandemic has forced education institutes and businesses alike to accelerate their digital transition, with classes now being delivered online and employees now working remotely. Though the shift was not a matter of choice, people all over the world are adapting to ‘the new normal’, exploring brand-new learning methods and platforms and capitalising on digital opportunities.

While exams have been cancelled or postponed, educators are doing everything they can to minimise disruption to their students’ education. Now, digital learning experts Dr Alex Fenton from the University of Salford Business School and Dr Aleksej Heinze from Kedge Business School in France have collated their top tips to help students get the best out of online learning.

Ensure you have the right technology in place

To truly engage in the learning process, you must ensure you have access to a reliable internet connection. Last week, the EU called on streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube to limit their services to prevent the region’s broadband networks from crashing as tens of thousands of people work from home, so it’s crucial you do all you can to make sure your network is up to scratch.

If you know where your WiFi hub is, position yourself as close to it as possible. If you are able to connect to the internet via a wire, this will hopefully give you internet that’s both stable and fast. It’s also important that you use the very best screen you have at your disposal – if you have to choose between a smartphone or a tablet, go for the tablet with a bigger screen which will be much easier on the eyes. You must take regular breaks, get plenty of exercise, and of course, stay hydrated.

In related news: Why adult learning can thrive through distance

Set clear learning objectives and study goals

Your attitude and motivation towards your work will ultimately determine your success. Before you start each day, outline how much time you need to devote to learning and define what you’d like to achieve.

Formulate a study routine

Humans are creatures of habit, and with research showing that classroom routines can positively affect students’ academic performance and behaviour, it’s a good idea for you to set a routine before you start.

Commit to certain goals each day and take regular breaks. Reward yourself for good work and experiment with which time of day works best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to education after all!

Recruit some ‘study buddies’

Learning together is far more effective than learning on your own. This means you can face challenges together, giving you someone to lean on if there’s something you don’t understand. Plenty of learning tools allow you to interact with other learners and tutors, while audio/visual conferencing tools such as Skype can help make the learning process more interactive.

Don’t give up

Every new experience presents its own unique set of challenges we have to overcome. Online learning comes with a host of potential issues – including connectivity, time management and productivity.

Motivation could be another challenge – it’s hard to find the drive to carry on if there’s something you’re struggling to understand or something doesn’t work. A number of tools might require a certain web version, for example, or a certain internet speed to connect and engage. Try things out, experiment and ask for help – remember that the process of how you learn is what will benefit you later on. Sticking to these principles could be a great way to maximise the opportunities available throughout the coming months.

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