Overcoming Distance Learning during a Pandemic

Daniella Moore offers some useful tips which will be of value to fellow students regarding distant learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illustration by Nino Mekanarishvili

With the rapid growth of preventative responses towards the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems that distance learning is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future. These are difficult and stressful times we find ourselves in. We need to find ways to deal with these anxieties whilst engaging in distance learning for us to become successful as Academics and Mathematicians.

I am currently an Honours Abstract Mathematics student at Stellenbosch University, and I am hoping that some of my studying tips and techniques can inspire others to rise above the challenges of distance learning.

Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own

Bruce Lee

One of my most important tips for distance learning is to stay on task, especially with studying Mathematics. It is understandable that sometimes things happen in life that are unforeseen and pull us away from our studies. But you must keep your primary goal in mind. When you set goals that are personally important, you are more likely to manage your time in a way to accomplish them.

Setting daily goals and making checklists can help me succeed in each course and project, allowing me to prove that I can work efficiently and independently. Accomplishing small goals each day will help motivate me to keep working. When I have been stressed about a deadline, or my thoughts are diverted from my studies, I like to take a 5-minute break and visualise where I want to be. It is imperative to read more, listen closely, collaborate, and keep in close contact with online teams, Professors, and peers.

Illustration by Nino Mekanarishvili

Set aside time for yourself and for your studies. During your dedicated study time, try to disconnect from distractions like social media, your phone, or television so that you can focus on what you really need to get done.

When I first started studying online, I found it difficult to focus and concentrate. I found it very hard to communicate my questions to my lecturers and more so, to understand what they are trying to communicate to me (especially between emails where LaTeX cannot be used).  But you have the entire world at your fingertips. If the notes are not sufficient for your understanding, there are so many credible articles and readings online. Use your time and resources wisely. Maintain regular breaks to avoid strain, a quick break and walk outside can really revitalise you to continue studying.

It is vital currently to connect with others! Online portals, discussion boards and connecting with peers as well as teaming up for group assessments, staying in touch, and helping each other with proof-reading, tips, and exchange of resources. Use any of the student resources that are available. For instance, Stellenbosch University has an online library, SunLearn which offers resources for assignments. If you are confused about a course or have questions about an assignment, contact your Lecturer or post in the SunLearn forum. They are there to guide students in the learning process and they want to help students succeed.

Illustration by Liani Malherbe

Engage! Do not disengage simply because it is distant learning. Interact with your classmates and lecturer as though you were doing in-class learning to gain the ultimate benefits. Communication with other students is vital, it is sometimes necessary to see another person’s point of view on the subject matter, especially when studying Mathematics. It is the number one thing that will make distant learning a positive experience. Email your Professor, post in the forums, text your classmates – use every communication skill you must to ensure you are getting what you need from the course. There is nothing worse than having no idea what to do for a problem. But brainstorming with a classmate helps A LOT.

It is also important to prioritise and make time for all the Modules in your course. If you become stuck on a Mathematical problem, learn to move on and come back to it at a later stage, otherwise you risk falling behind (Trust me, I am very guilty of this. I will spend hours on a problem that should not take longer than 45 minutes).

If another student has posted a solution or even a question about a problem and you do not understand their solution, do not hesitate to ask. If they are stuck on a problem, it is not necessary to wait for a Lecturer to respond, if you have some insight, you can share your input. Collaboration is key.

Having the right mindset and attitude can make your distant learning experience a successful one. 

Daniella Moore

Honours Student Abstract Mathematics,

by Laylaa Motola
Meme by Laylaa Motola

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