It’s easy to complain about the online semester and list all the ways it might hinder your education. We don’t have our friends to push us through late nights in Gelman Library, and Peet’s Coffee is no longer at our beck and call. Given this new reality, we need to find ways to stay virtually engaged with our professors and each other this semester to maximize our learning.
For starters, students should try to find a quiet place to work and designate it as a studying spot. That will help us set boundaries between work and home and better maintain a balanced lifestyle. It may be tempting to attend class laying in bed or on the couch, but these areas are not conducive to productivity. Writing notes by hand becomes difficult and even more so, the urge to nap can become overwhelming. Try to find a spot outside the bedroom or away from couches while you’re focusing on class.
Next, turn off your phone and turn on your Zoom camera. It’s difficult to avoid the never-ending distraction of a cell phone, but it can make all the difference in focusing during online classes. We know multitasking hurts productivity and focus, so every time we’re scrolling through social media, we’re averting our attention and missing information and discussion. We should instead turn on our cameras to ensure professors know we’re present and listening. In my experience, even after my lab facilitator asked the class to turn on our cameras during the first week, I was the only one who followed suit. Her eyes lit up, and she even waved at me. This interaction made me realize how off-putting it can be for instructors to only see names on a screen. If you don’t want to use a live camera, you could at least consider adding a profile picture to your account. That way, your professor can put a face to your name.
Finally, take the time and energy to get to know your classmates and professors. Faculty have set up weekly office hours to make themselves available to students – use them. It’s our responsibility to meet our professors halfway and use the resources they’re providing to us to get to know them this semester. We could also stay engaged with our peers by setting up group chats or virtual study sessions using platforms like GroupMe. Moreover, GW should utilize the roster feature listing everyone in our classes on Blackboard as an additional resource to build connections.
At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to make the most out of our education and build a community with our professors and classmates. Despite all of the challenges of virtual learning, we must find a space conducive to learning, get rid of distractions that are within our control and reach out to the people in the same situation as us – our peers and professors.
Shir Levy, a junior majoring in international affairs and economics, is an opinions writer.