Getting the most out of virtual learning


The BPS Research Digest has an interesting article on getting the most out of virtual learning, written by Emily Reynolds. 

Virtual learning is a reality for most of us at the moment, especially students, who are finding the bulk of their course content is being delivered through Collaborate or similar online platforms. 

I’ve certainly heard via the grapevine that many students have struggled in the context of all their content being delivered online. This isn’t surprising really. We know that attrition rates in online courses tend to be higher than traditional courses with face-to-face content

One reason why is motivational. Online learning requires one to be very self-motivated and self-regulating. This is harder when you lack all the various social and other cues that come from being on campus and attending face-to-face lectures. 

Another reason is that course content has to be re-imagined for the online environment, and content that worked in face-to-face settings doesn’t always translate well to online. So students may have to work a little harder to extract the necessary information from the course materials. 

The end result is that doing one’s degree online can be experienced as more challenging than a more traditional format. 

But we shouldn’t fret!

The move to online brings benefits as well: flexibility of when you access the materials, doing so in the comfort of one’s own home, no-one seeing you eating that whole bag of potato chips whilst you watch the lecture. 

As someone who delivers some online teaching content, I like the enhanced interaction opportunities that online teaching brings (e.g. chat, shared whiteboards, breakout rooms, reactions etc). They (if used well) can partly make up for the loss of the more subtle forms of non-verbal communication that you can use (or see) when delivering live lectures. 

But as a student, what can you do to improve the experience?

The BPS article outlines 9 strategies for making the most of virtual learning. They cover note-taking (pen/paper still best), asking yourself ‘pre-questions’, setting learning goals, boosting your concentration abilities, social learning, time-shifting, boundary management, sleep and developing individualised strategies. 

Put simply, there are some factors within your control that can help you improve both the experience of virtual learning, but also your individual performance in a topic/course. 

If you’ve been finding the online learning experience to be challenging, maybe one of the hacks suggested by the BPS article could help. 

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