How to adjust to distance learning

Justin Verlinden
Justin Verlinden
April 6, 2020

With most schools transitioning to distance learning, many students are trying their best to adjust, with varying degrees of success. This reaction is understandable. The current set up might be more beneficial to some students than others. But for those who might be struggling right now, here are some tips for you that will hopefully make things easier during the next several weeks. 

Before I begin though, it’s important to note one thing: I don’t have the right answers. Nobody does. If you’re feeling lost and struggling to adapt, it’s okay. We ALL are. We are in the middle of an unprecedented moment in our lifetimes. And with that in mind, the most important of my tips is…

Be Understanding and Empathetic

Your professors are just as perplexed and stressed as you are. They will inevitably make mistakes during this time just like everyone else. Be patient with them and give constructive, respectful feedback whenever you can. Remember that they are trying to do what is best for YOU and they greatly value whatever you have to say.
Likewise, be patient with your fellow classmates. Help others in your class if they’re having a tougher time with online learning. And if you’re having trouble, feel free to reach out to your fellow classmates and see what you can learn from them. 

Keep in Touch

We’re all human. We naturally crave social interactions with others. So, despite being cooped up in the same place all day, try to stay in touch with those that matter to you most. Whether it be family, friends, or mentors, make sure you stay connected during these times.

There are many ways you can stay connected. There’s texting, phone calls, FaceTime, social media, online gaming, etc. You can even utilize some of the video conferencing apps many professors are using for class such as Google Hangouts and Zoom. Just last week my friends and I chatted on Zoom for an hour or so and it was a fun time!

One of the best parts of college is the social connections you make. So if you want to make these next few weeks seem like college and not just boring online classes, stay connected and keep those meaningful connections going.

However, make these connections safely. Follow CDC guidelines and don’t put anyone at unnecessary risk. We all must make sacrifices at this time and face-to-face interactions likely has to be one of them. 

Create a Personalized Schedule

One of the few upsides to distance learning is that many of you have even more autonomy in terms of when to do work. Albeit, some classes are still meeting at their normal times but many are either meeting only once a week or not at all. 

For some, this lack of structure can be scary. And even if it’s not scary to you, it can still mess you up. The key is to create a schedule that works for you and maximizes your ability to properly learn the material. 

For starters, select a set time (or times) each day to focus on schoolwork. If you’re a night owl, maybe this is the time to get work done. Or if you’re an early riser and learn better after you first wake up, perhaps that will be the time for you. Or maybe you’d prefer to separate things in little chunks throughout the day. Do whatever works best for you, just make sure you stay consistent with it.

As for your study space, make sure it’s a place with little to no distractions. The last thing you need is for your mom to start vacuuming while you watch an important video from your professor or be distracted by what’s on TV while working on that paper due in a couple days. 

To be safe, I’d even recommend turning your phone off or at least leaving it in a different room. Now that we’re distance learning, you’ll have plenty of time to scroll through social media or play games on it. This time should be focused on schoolwork and mastering whatever material you’re learning. 

I hope you found this information to be useful and can apply these tips to your life while adjusting to this new but hopefully brief normal. Again, I don’t have all the answers and nobody else does either. We’re all learning and adapting together so just be patient and understanding to those around you.

Most importantly, stay safe, be smart, and practice healthy habits. This is only temporary and it too shall pass if we all work together. And I believe that we will. 

Justin Verlinden
Justin Verlinden

Justin graduated in 2020, double majoring in biology and neuroscience with a minor in creative writing. He conducted research at Baylor College of Medicine, where he investigated the use of several brain imaging scans to detect early structural and functional differences in young mice with Alzheimer's, with the hope of eventually developing an early diagnostic tool for the disease. He currently is pursuing a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Kentucky.