OPINION: Staying engaged while learning remotely

Adjusting to a mostly online semester is difficult. Not having to get up and go to an in-person class every day can make acting like classes do not exist far too easy. And when I’m in a Zoom lecture, the urge to get on my phone and not pay attention during the class is sometimes overwhelming. Despite all the distractions and adjustments, remaining engaged while attending online classes is important. 

One of the most effective ways I have found to stay engaged while learning remotely is to keep track of everything. Knowing what time classes are, when assignments are due or when I have an important interview are essential to my success. Everyone has a different method of time management that he or she prefers, but what works best for me is consolidating everything into one calendar, such as Google Calendar. 

I love using Google Calendar. It allows me to keep track of my entire class schedule with Zoom links, so I never have to go to the instructors’ class pages to hunt for the link. I enter all assignments and due dates from my syllabi into the Tasks section, which allows me to carry my to-do list everywhere and check off each assignment. Google Calendar also allows me to share my school calendar with my personal email, so that I have all of my engagements in one place. If you don’t like Google Calendar, College Info Geek has a great list of other calendar apps you can use.

Something else that has helped me stay engaged in online classes is continuing to take notes. Sitting in bed, eating lunch and having your phone next to you while in an online lecture can make concentrating difficult and letting your attention wander easy. Personally, I find focusing in class difficult if I accidentally fall asleep. But taking notes, even though I am not in a physical classroom, is one of the best ways for me to stay awake and concentrate in class. 

According to The Princeton Review, taking notes forces you to stay awake, pay attention and actively follow along in your classes, which helps you to learn properly and absorb the information covered in class. Notes are also an important study tool, a way to keep a record of what you have learned in class that will help you recall information later.

Another important factor in staying engaged outside of the classroom is the study environment. While some students may have a dedicated study space, I personally prefer to attend online classes or do my online work in a variety of different locations, because what helps me is to leave my dorm room every once in a while and avoid sitting in bed all day. However, there are more scientific reasons to switch up your study space.

According to The New York Times, frequently changing your study space can actually help you retain more information. Making your brain associate information with more than one location can make recalling that information later on easier, enriching what you have learned, which in turn, “slows down forgetting.” Whether in the library, Schwitzer Park, or my roommate’s side of the room, I try to change up where I study whenever possible.

Staying engaged during a pandemic is difficult. But that will only get worse if you fall behind in your classes. Practicing time management skills, ensuring that you are concentrating in class and doing your best to study and retain information are all important ways to stay on top of things. Ultimately, though, you need to take the initiative to do what is best for your ability to learn. 

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