Engage in your own learning
When the studies don’t require you to leave your home or to meet other students, it’s easy to become passive, to sign in a few minutes late to a session, to stop taking notes or to sleep in instead of going to the voluntary practice session. Nevertheless, learning is the result of effort. It’s possible, of course, to take in information by reading or listening to it, but if you want to learn something in-depth you should make use of as many senses as possible and engage in your own learning. Here are some tips that work even if you’re studying remotely!
Simply turning on your webcam in Zoom can make a big difference in terms of how engaged you are in the teaching. Try it out!
Prepare yourself mentally
Always give yourself a mental head start before a teaching session, even if the session is pre-recorded. Write down a few things you already know about the subject and consider what else you would like to know. Skim through the relevant literature and try to think of what might come up. The person who comes to a teaching session well-prepared has an easier time concentrating and becomes more engaged.
Write down and prepare questions – to your teacher, to your coursemates or to your future self. You often learn better by asking questions that you have come up with yourself than by answering those asked by others. Indeed, asking an adequately difficult and interesting question requires good knowledge about the course’s material and forces you to think like a teacher by considering which parts are most important to understand.
Be smart about your note-taking
Simply copying down long passages from the powerpoint or highlighting in the course literature won’t make a big difference in what we remember. It’s only when you anchor what you hear or read to your own experience and your own critical thinking that deep learning is activated. A majority of your notes should be your examples, comparisons, associations and questions. If you don’t have the time to properly take notes as you’re reading or listening – do it directly after the lecture or once you’ve finished reading a chapter.
You might be given the opportunity to discuss in smaller groups during a teaching session. If so, seize that opportunity! It’s better to express yourself with your own words and to hear other students’ interpretations than to only listen to the teacher’s version or to read in the course literature. If no formal time for discussion is given to you – schedule discussion sessions with your coursemates before or after the teaching session where you discuss the course literature, the lectures, the exercises or the instructions. Share your notes with each other and discuss why your notes might differ. When on campus, people automatically talk during the break but it can be awkward and difficult to have natural conversations when everyone in Zoom can hear you. Therefore, it's important to find another way to have these casual discussion sessions.
Pretend you’re a teacher
Decide with some coursemates that you will prepare study questions for each other or that you will read different parts of the course literature and give lectures to each other. If you don’t know your coursemates, you can invite some friends or family members to a lecture about what you've learned that day, or perhaps just explain things out loud to yourself. More things happen in your brain when you express yourself out loud and even more things happen when there is a recipient.
Unleash your creativity
Only your own imagination sets the limits for how engaged of a student you can be. Make a documentary or start a podcast. Fill the walls with mind-maps, get yourself a whiteboard or create your own powerpoints. Dance your assignment =). The point is for you to learn, not your teachers – they are only there to guide you and create the best conditions possible.