It’s a brave new world. Universities, once busy centres of social interaction, intelligent discourse and complex drinking games, have become ghost towns which echo with only the sound of remote learning servers.

It’s probably for the best. I mean any institution that already had a problem with flu spread so serious that it had its own name (freshers flu) is better closed right now. Regardless of the method teaching is a lot easier when the teachers and students are alive.

But learning doesn’t stop just because no one can go into their classes. It just means that instead of in-person learning we all now have get used to sky-zoom-time-meeting video learning.

Transitioning to this new learning style is tough. By the time you reach university you’ve spent more than 70% of your life learning face to face. Switching to pixel to face requires a whole new set of skills.

Luckily we’re here to help you get up on those skills as quickly as possible with a brilliant guide to home learning. And by help I mean tell you a big list of things you should absolutely not do. Enjoy! 🙂

Preparation

Now you are going to be on a video call. If the wind is in the right direction and the stars are aligned you might even get a good enough video call in which people can actually see you in more than 14 pixel resolution. So you have to expect that your lecturer and all your class mates are going to get a camera eyed view into you and your workspace.

Most people react to this by ‘set dressing’ their background by cleaning and taking down offensive posters and might even go so far to as to put on a nice top (no one is wearing pants) to seem more professional or serious.

This is a huge waste of time. Don’t be afraid to show people the real you, even if the real you is shirtless and in front of a world record setting collection of offensive pogs. Your class mates will all be doing the same thing and they’ll appreciate the solidarity.

Connecting and technology

No video call would be possible without the dizzying array of exciting video tehcnology that makes it all possible. None of your learning would be possible without it and it deserves some careful thought as your use of it reflects on you as a learner.

You can so easily waste time before the call ‘testing’ your camera and audio equipment or reading on screen prompts that tell you how to fix problems. But it’s much better to demonstrate these skills live during a lecture.

Likewise make sure you show the lecturers how focused you are on the content of the lecture but not taking any time to aim your camera at a sensible angle or cut down excess noise around you. Having the camera directed up your nose next to an open window outside which is an orchestra of roadworks shows how laser-like your focus is on the contents of the call.

Attention

In regular lectures the level of attention you give in class is relatively easy to convey to the teacher. Sitting down on a chair, actually looking at their slides, looking politely thoughtful when you think they asked a question, little stuff like that.

In a video call it’s much harder, firstly on the lecturers screen you are one of a many students and secondly they can only see a small window and might miss the nuance of your attention signals. But this can be fixed with some minor changes.

Firstly you need to dial up your attention signals to 11. For example don’t just look at the screen with the slides on it being quietly attentive, move your eyes really close to the camera so the lecture can see you ‘looking’. Equally don’t just look thoughtful when a question is asked – put your hand on your chin and say “HMMMM” really loudly.

Secondly, you need to make sure the lecturer knows the difference between attentive you and distracted you. Be sure to equally make it clear what it’s like when you’re not paying attention. While you might subtly text in a face to face lecture, in a video lecture you should receive a call and loudly have a conversation with someone. Instead of quietly checking football scores have the football on the TV in the background. That way when you turn it off the lecturer will know they have your full attention.

Ending the session

Sessions for distance learning can go on quite a while. Depending on the degree you’ll have a lot to cover and you might even have to catchup what you missed from lockdown. Having to sit on a video call for as much as 30mins or even an HOUR can be a lot to manage.

So whenever you feel like you’ve absorbed all you can then just hang up the call and claim that you ran out of internet juice. Pacing yourself is important and the lecturer will be pleased that you’re being proactive about not overloading yourself.

Likewise they’ll be equally pleased if you don’t turn up at all. Shows how seriously you’re thinking about your schedule and the impact distance learning has.

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