Online learning tips

Read tips from Dr Cathal Doyle on how you can make learning online work best for you.

While online teaching and learning may be new to a lot of us, some date the concept back over 170 years. However, with the evolution of technology, how it is delivered has changed greatly. Below is some advice on how you can make learning online work best for you.

Be curious about the technology you’re using

We use different technologies everyday, be it to chat with friends, or to write the assignment that's due tomorrow. Something that we don't often practise, is being curious about the technology we use. By this I mean try to understand how it allows you to work in this new learning environment, and how different features allow you to complete different tasks. Understanding these different technologies and their features, and being confident in using them, will not only improve your learning experience but also helps you build knowledge that you can apply in your future working environment.

Structure how you’re going to work online

Whether it's individually or in a group setting, structuring how you’re going to work online is an important task and should be documented. From an individual perspective, this includes when you’re going to attend lectures, watch recordings, and work on assignments. From a group perspective, this includes how often you’ll be in contact, what technologies you'll use to communicate, and nominating someone to be responsible for making sure it happens. For example, you could have a daily brief through Slack, where each member describes what they did in terms of the project, and then a weekly Zoom meeting to discuss the week's work in greater detail.

How to participate in online discussions

We’ve all had the experience of sending someone a message only for that message to be completely misunderstood. To avoid such circumstances, make sure any communication online is clear, to the point, and unambiguous. Use simple language, which can be aided with the use of emojis (just don’t overdo it). Also, reach out to your classmates and lecturers through informal discussions too—a simple “How is your day going” will go a long way to helping build the class community.

Take plenty of breaks

I’ve not been able to work a typical 9–5 since we’ve gone into lockdown, and I don't expect my students to be able to do so either. Taking breaks from sitting in front of your computer is very important to remain motivated and focused. Every hour or so, step away from your computer to do something you enjoy like reading, walking, or gaming. Reward yourself with a treat when completing difficult tasks. And if you’re not being as productive as you’d like, take a step back and resume work when you’re in the right frame of mind for it.

Overall, this is going to be a new learning experience for you, and everyone around you. I would encourage that you embrace it, and learn from the experience.

Dr Cathal Doyle is a lecturer in Information Systems at the School of Information Management, Wellington School of Business and Government.