Online learning is still in a relatively nascent stage, only gaining serious traction in the last decade (and skyrocketing in popularity over the last four years). Because of that fact, almost every student who walks through the digital doors at OES comes from a traditional brick-and-mortar school background.
These students spent their formative elementary or middle school years seated alongside peers in an educational facility. They learned at the same pace as other students. Perhaps they relied on a teacher to keep them on task. And they measured their days according to the ring of school bells – telling them when to start, when to break and when to conclude for the day. Then, they arrive at a quality Canadian online high school – and, suddenly, everything is different.
If you’re making the brave transition this year, you might worry about how to adapt to online learning. That’s natural. In this article, you’ll find actionable tips for facilitating a smooth transition. Online school will take some getting used to. But if you prepare your mind, emotions and space for the change, you can set yourself up for success.
Remember the Benefits
The first step in adapting to online learning is remembering why you made the switch. Presumably, you aren’t making the transition “just because.” You have personal reasons for choosing online education, based on your understanding of the relative benefits.
So, what are those reasons and benefits of online learning? Are you a junior student taking grade 12 courses online so you can get ahead in your studies and graduate faster? Are you switching to online education for its flexibility and self-paced learning model? Do you value the at-home comfort and accessibility of a remote education? Or are you attending OES because you heard about our engaging multimedia approach to learning, our track record in university placement, or our free 24/7 tutoring services?
Your transition into online learning will be smoother if you remember why you’re here. (And, who knows, maybe you’ll discover new benefits along the way).
Locate the Helpers
When your plane touches down in a new destination, you look for the visitor’s information centre; when you land a new job, you look for a manager or supervisor to show you the ropes; when you get lost in a new part of town, you ask a local for directions. Any time you embark on a foray into unfamiliar territory, you look for the guides, the steady-handed supporters and the helpers.
Adapting to online learning is no different. As you get settled, make a note of all the support staff here to help you. (At OES, there is a lot of support).
Get to know your teachers – your primary points of contact as you work through your courses. Next, familiarize yourself with OES’ free 24/7 tutoring service, which you can use at any hour if you struggle to grasp a concept. And finally, consider booking an appointment with one of our guidance experts to ensure you’re on track to achieve your academic goals and competitively apply for your chosen post-secondary program.
Make use of OES’s robust support system as you’re adapting to online learning. It can make an otherwise bumpy transition feel smooth and secure.
Create a Clean, Separate, Dedicated Space for Your Studies
The brick-and-mortar classrooms you’re accustomed to are specially designed for learning. They often feature big, bright windows for an ample supply of vitamin-D-enriching sunshine. They’re designed to ensure that students have everything they need at arm’s reach – supplies, texts, resources, etc. – for a fruitful day of studying. And they’re often uncluttered so students can focus better.
As you leave the classroom for remote learning, take that design approach with you. Implement those beneficial elements in your own dedicated study space. Choose a quiet room in the house flush with natural light. Have everything you need nearby (including water and snacks) for an uninterrupted study session, including physical and virtual learning tools. And keep things tidy.
Studies show that clutter can harm our ability to focus. As neuroscientific and psychological studies point out, clutter bombards our brains with excess stimuli, forcing our brains to work extra hard to process everything. At best, this distracts us from the task at hand. At worst, it can generate stress and anxiety, as our brains try and fail to understand it all. (There’s credence in the old saying, “mess equals mess”). The takeaway is that, unfortunately, your parents are right: you should clean your room.
Clutter isn’t the only distraction lurking in your study space. The average high-school-aged person’s bedroom is a minefield of diversions, obstructions and “time sucks.”
Now granted, these distractions aren’t wholly bad; pastimes like gaming, scrolling social media, listening to music or watching shows have their place in life. (Any adult who professes to avoid all these pastimes is probably lying). But they can quickly get in the way when you’re trying to focus on school.
As you develop a schedule and timeline for your daily studies, consider placing these pastimes “in a timeout” during working hours. For instance, if you hew to a 10 AM to 4 PM schedule (with a long break at noon), consider removing or powering down distracting devices during these hours. (You can power them up over your lunch break, of course – that’s your time!).
Know Yourself (and Your Time Management Style)
Everyone’s preferred time management style is different. But, broadly speaking, you can categorize time management styles into three archetypes:
- The Early Birds: meticulous planners who look ahead toward all deadlines and subsequent tasks to create a roadmap for their time.
- The Multi-Taskers: students who prefer to flit back and forth between subjects and courses; they give themselves ample time before deadlines but follow a more scattered, improvisational approach to managing time.
- The Pressure Cookers: students who like to leave things until the last possible moment – when the adrenaline of a fast-approaching deadline kicks them into gear. This time management type is often followed by intense crashes in productivity after a deadline passes.
Of the three time-management styles, the one to rule out is the third. When adapting to online learning, try to suppress the “pressure cooker” in you. Research shows cramming is an ineffective use of a student’s time and often bears suboptimal results. Remember, your preferred time management style is not an inherent time management style; you can always change and grow.
Organize Your Time and Workload
Once you’ve settled on a productive time management style, you can begin to sketch a schedule.
The actual day-to-day shape of your schedule doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you work from 9 AM to 4 PM, if you prefer to work solely in the night, if you skip Tuesdays to attend sports practices, if you study on the weekends, if you work in the mornings and evenings, taking long mid-day breaks, etc. What matters is that you’re a) consistent and b) on track to complete your courses on time.
Break down each of your courses by unit, chapter, deadline, etc., and roughly plot a schedule enabling you to work through those components on an incremental basis.
Give Your Eyes a Break Every So Often
As you develop your schedule, pencil in frequent breaks. At a brick-and-mortar school, the bell tells you when to take a recess, or break for five minutes between courses. At your online school, you are that bell.
And it’s essential that you be a fair and just bell. It’s a common misconception that educators want to see you work around the clock. We don’t. We want you to strike a balance between studying, social activities, physical activities and good old-fashioned leisure time. Plus, staring at a screen for too long can make any pair of eyes feel sore and unfocused.
Capitalize on the newfound freedom and flexibility of online school by giving your brain and body the rest it needs.
Retain Your Social Connections – Even If It Means Scheduling Social Time
Some new online high school students worry about keeping in touch with friends. That’s understandable. Brick-and-mortar schools – for better or worse – force young people to interact with one another routinely. For some students, the arrangement introduces uncomfortable social dynamics. Others thrive in the environment. But pretty much everyone finds some form of kinship.
Here’s the great news: You don’t have to say goodbye to those friends. Did we mention that online high school is flexible and self-paced? You set the hours! You dictate how you spend your time! And if that means you take an afternoon off from studying to hang out with friends, we trust that that’s the most effective use of your time in that moment.
It helps to be systematic about maintaining your friendships and social connections while at online school. Reach out to people, set dates and make plans.
“Touch Grass” – Or, Better Yet, Run Around in It
Maybe you’re familiar with the online adage, “Touch grass.” It’s a lighthearted way of telling someone that they need to be a little less online – that they need to step away from the immersive effects of the internet and reset their brains in nature.
Honestly, it’s not bad advice. Spending several hours poring over a digital course is great for your education, but let’s ensure that it isn’t at the expense of your mental health. Once in a while, lift your head up from the computer and head outside for fresh air.
For an even more constructive use of time, consider exercising outdoors (weather permitting). Studies show that exercise can lower stress-inducing cortisol, elevate feel-good hormones, and provide your brain with the fresh oxygen supply required to feel focused. It’s one of our top self-care tips for online students.
Flexibility and freedom necessitate self-regulation and self-discipline. As we’ve mentioned, one of the most jarring things a student experiences in their transition from classroom to online school is the newfound need for self-discipline. (Or, as it’s defined in psychological literature: “effortful regulation of the self by the self.”)
In a conventional classroom, you had a teacher’s physical presence to spur you into action, telling you to read, write, memorize and practice. In your online courses at OES, you must find that motivation within yourself. And the best way to do that is by setting goals.
Goals represent a commitment we make to ourselves – a commitment to strive for greatness, focus on an achievement and see it through to the end. They can be powerful self-disciplinary tools. As you’ll read elsewhere on this blog, we often advocate for “S.M.A.R.T.” goals, which are reasonable, measured and time-sensitive. We want you to choose goals within the realm of attainment and develop a strategy for tracking your progress. We also want you to craft goals relevant to your long-term objectives.
For instance, if your overarching goal is to attend medical school, you can line up smaller goals as stepping stones along the way. First, you’ll focus on acceptance into a pre-med program. To achieve this step, you’ll need minimum required grades in prerequisite courses like Biology, Chemistry and English. From there, you can create goals like “I want a B-plus or better in Biology 12” or “I want an 84% or higher in English 12.” Measure your progress with each returned test score and assignment, and adjust your approach as needed to stay on track.
Locate the Helpers (Part 2)
We know – we already said this one! But we feel like we should repeat ourselves. In the beginning, as you’re figuring out how to adapt to online learning, we want you to take stock of your support options. But the relationship shouldn’t end there. Even at month five, when you’re starting to feel confident about this whole “online learning” business, we want you to locate the helpers.
Anytime you have a seemingly unanswerable question or a concept you can’t wrap your head around, we’re here. As challenging as it may be to extend a hand for help, we want you to use our support system to ensure you never miss a learning outcome.
At OES, we understand how students adapt to online learning. We’ve welcomed countless students from traditional classrooms. For a smooth transition, follow the straightforward tips above.