Across Ontario, we’re beginning to see blankets of snow, gusts of whipping wind, and ice slabs forming in the vast Great Lakes. And if you’re a student in Ontario, you’ll notice that it isn’t just the weather changing; all around you, you see Ontario students gearing up for a long break from the classroom.
The winter break, which lasts roughly two weeks and spans the major religious holidays, makes a modicum of sense in the context of brick-and-mortar school education. The winter break gives teachers and administrators time to hit the reset button, arriving at a new semester freshly rested and ready to corral a large classroom of students for another semester. It also gives parents a rest from having to commute their kids to school.
But when you introduce online education in the conversation, you find that the winter break doesn’t need to be quite so empty. Quality online schools (like OES!) employ several teachers to manage students’ learning outcomes; teachers are ready year-round to welcome new students; and because students work online, their parents don’t need to make lengthy commutes. With online education, the winter break can be a terrific opportunity for students to capitalize on a traditionally slow learning period to meet their academic goals.
Whether you attend a brick-and-mortar school the rest of the year or are a year-round online learner, consider taking online courses in Ontario over the winter break. Why? Below, we detail the undeniable benefits of starting flexible, self-paced courses around the holiday season.
Summer Isn’t the Only Season for Learning Loss
In a recent OES blog post, we offered tips on how to keep your brain moving over the break – offering students actionable advice for warding off “summer learning loss.”
Summer learning loss is a real, empirically identified phenomenon in which students forget or replace information from a previous year during the summer months. Without continued education (whether institutional or self-guided), students may put themselves at a disadvantage when returning to school after a long break. Not only that, but it’s a roundly inefficient model for advancement. Think of it like pouring water into a jug with a hole at the bottom; if you wanted to fill the jug to the top, you wouldn’t take a lengthy break midway through!
Summer isn’t the only season for learning loss. While winter break is shorter than summer break, it’s still possible for students to backslide in their knowledge retention over the holidays, which may make the second semester more challenging.
If you want to prevent seasonal learning loss, consider enrolling in an online course. Especially if you’re in your junior or senior year (when credits really matter toward continued education), online courses can be a fantastic way to keep your brain sharp.
Make Effective Use of Those Indoor Hours
We understand why some students are hesitant to enroll in summer courses, whether online or in-class. Summer is a season of travelling, shooting hoops down the street and soaking up the sun with friends. But in winter, those leisure activities aren’t exactly common. The basketball courts are covered in snow, your family’s staying put for the season, and your friends are mostly doing what you’re doing: dragging their heels around the house, waiting for the new semester to start.
Why not make effective use of those otherwise tedious indoor hours? Instead of flipping the channels on yet another cheesy Christmas movie, work ahead in your courses or retake a course online. As you’ll see in the next section, you’ll probably thank yourself later!
Work Ahead for an Easier Spring and Summer
As mentioned, the warmer months are when all the fun happens. So, why not front-load your second semester by getting a head start during the winter break?
Online courses do not follow the same rigid “seasons” as traditional schools. You can start a course whenever you want; then, through self-paced study, you can finish that course as quickly or slowly as you can manage.
If you wanted to start an MHF4U course in the winter, you could potentially finish it by March, freeing up your spring and summer schedule for all those exciting warm-weather activities. Likewise, if you know you might need a little more time with Grade 12 English than a traditional school allows, you could enroll early for ENG4U online (i.e., December) to ensure that you aren’t racing toward a stressful finish line.
Flexible Online Courses Leave Plenty of Wiggle Room for Celebration
A common question we hear around this time of year is: “Will I have time to celebrate the holidays with my family if I’m enrolled in online courses?”
Of course you will! Unlike traditional schools, there are no set classroom hours or allocated study hours. You make the rules. We’ve crafted an entirely flexible approach to education that allows for ample wiggle room.
Don’t worry about studying on Christmas or Boxing Day. Put the books away during the eight days of Hanukkah. Spend time with family over Pancha Ganapati or Yalda. Work on your readings and assignments during downtime over the break, but don’t let it detract from celebrations.
Shore Up Your College and University Applications with Upgrade Courses
If you’re a junior or senior in high school, chances are you’re getting a little antsy about university and college applications. After all, ‘tis the season for applications.
As mentioned in a previous OES article, while post-secondary schools look at applications holistically, they focus their attention on your average grades. Therefore, if you see a “C-plus” in a sea of “A”s, you might suffer from a lowered overall grade point average that could put your application at risk.
Now’s the perfect time to amend the situation – use the winter break to enroll in upgrade courses. When upgrading high school courses online, you revisit the original course material on a condensed assessment workload (with fewer or shorter assessments), which generally allows you to progress through the course faster. When you finish this second attempt, the higher of your two grades will appear on your official transcript.
If you’re adamant about a particular post-secondary school, but aren’t sure if your current grades will rise above the competition, capitalize on your downtime this December to shore up your chances.
Practice Soft Skills for Student Work Experience or Workplace Preparedness
At OES, we understand that not every student is bound for post-secondary education. Some students’ talents are better served in the workforce after high school. Not to mention, even those bound for university may still need to work – to bolster their application, pay their tuition and front the cost of housing.
In cases like these, online high school courses can still be roundly advantageous. Online schools sharpen and improve several “soft skills” that employers look for in a candidate:
- Time management: The self-scheduling nature of online education helps students exercise essential time management skills.
- Self-reliance and self-motivation: Self-paced learning requires internal motivation, which employers look for in a productive job candidate.
- Teamwork, especially in a digital setting: In the modern workforce, digital teamwork is an asset. Online courses allow students to practice collaborating through online platforms.
- Proficiency with online tools and modules: Likewise, online courses familiarize students with digital tools and modules, setting the stage for professional careers online.
- Written communication skills: Because many modern workplaces rely on digital communication, hiring managers put added stock in written communication skills. Online courses help sharpen these skills.
- And more!
Taking online courses over the winter break can help polish these soft skills so you can include them on your next resume.
Adult Learners Can Integrate Winter Courses into a Busy Schedule
OES is open to all different types of learners – visual learners, kinesthetic learners, young learners and older learners. So, let’s take a quick moment to address the adult learners reading this article. If you’re an adult learner interested in continuing education, winter break might be an ideal time to start courses.
Depending on your work life and personal schedule, you might find that the holiday season provides enough downtime to re-embark on an academic career. It’s a time of year when many businesses slow their activity, potentially freeing time for you to take the plunge.
Conversely, if your schedule is busy this winter, but you still want to commit to continuing education, you’ll find that online courses offer the right mix of flexibility and convenience. You can integrate online courses into a busy schedule (by working in the evenings, skipping days for other obligations, etc.). And you can complete courses from home, which is advantageous if you have dependents, a tight schedule, or limited mobility.
Enrolling in Winter Online Courses is Straightforward and Fast
We’ve covered the pragmatic reasons to enroll in online courses this winter break, but there’s a deceptively simple one we’d like to slip in as well: Enrolling in online courses is easy and fast. In just a few short minutes, you can start your academic journey toward an easier spring, an improved post-secondary application, stronger soft skills or enriching continuing education.
When you visit the OES homepage, simply click the “Get Started” icon, choose your relevant grade of study and browse courses. Add courses to your cart (with adult supervision and help, as the case may be) and follow the checkout prompts. There’s no meeting with administrators or jumping through bureaucratic hoops.
If you have questions, please refer to the FAQ page of our website or reach out for more information.
You Can Make the Most of an Online Education Over the Winter Break with a Few Simple Tips
Lastly, we wanted to explore how you can make the most of your online education over the winter break. With these simple tips, you can ensure a smooth start to your course and set yourself on an earnest path toward achieving your academic goals.
Creating a Dedicated Indoor Study Space
If you live in Ontario, you know that studying outdoors between the months of, say, October and March is downright impossible. Likewise, commuting to third-party study spaces like libraries can be a little tricky in the cold.
Therefore, we recommend establishing a dedicated indoor space for studying at home. A quiet, dedicated space can make all the difference for your concentration.
Ideally, you can find a quiet spot in the home, free of distracting siblings or loud outdoor noises. But we understand that not all homes can facilitate an isolated, noise-free space (especially during the holidays!). In these cases, consider wearing noise-cancelling headphones or a white noise playlist as you study.
According to the CMHA, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) officially affects roughly one in six people, although some experts suggest that the figure is much higher. Anecdotally, we see a lot of students adversely impacted by the changing weather, whether in big or small ways. The increased tiredness and lack of focus conventionally associated with SAD can put a damper on a student’s ability to study.
To help counter SAD, consider adding brightness to your study space by drawing open the windows, flicking on the lights or even investing in a high-LUX SAD lamp, which some medical experts maintain can help trick your brain into producing light-stimulated serotonin. Try to get consistent quality sleep – one of the bedrocks of cognitive focus. And, if possible, consider integrating some fitness into your daily routine. If you feel that SAD is seriously affecting your mood and energy, speak to your doctor.
Capitalizing on School Support Systems
Part of the reason you’re taking winter courses is to be productive over the break; nothing stifles productivity quite like misunderstanding a course concept or assignment. When in doubt, capitalize on school support systems.
Don’t feel like you have to go it alone this winter break. While the rest of the world might seem closed for business, you can count on support from your teachers and tutors over the winter break.
Crafting Education-Based New Year’s Resolutions
‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions! When taking winter break courses online, you might as well leverage this seasonal dedication to self-betterment by outlining firm academic goals.
Ask yourself: “Why am I taking winter courses?” If you’re enrolling in winter break courses to advance in school, craft relevant New Year’s resolutions: “I want to be finished Chem 12 by early April,” for instance. If you’re taking an upgrade course over the winter break, your resolution might be something like, “I’d like to focus harder on the coursework and assignments this time around.”
Hopefully, this article provides the motivation you need to take charge over the holidays. Visit OES to browse courses and skim through our other blog articles for handy advice on studying and learning. Happy holidays!