What we all thought was going to be a phase that we will have to pass until better days, is now actually turning out to be a way of life — online classes.
With schools and colleges once again being asked to conduct remote learning and online classes, students are back home with their phones, laptops and computers, trying to make sense of what the teacher is saying on their screens.
After the initial novelty, online learning has become rather a boring way of learning for some students. Understandable, it cannot make up for face-to-face interactions of a class, where there are frequent interactions, question-answer sessions and resource material, making the topic more understandable and the retention longer.
In online classes, the only way to learn is to actively listen to what the teacher is saying and follow the instructions. In cases where the lectures/classes are in a recorded form, students have the benefit to listen to the lecture a number of times to fully grasp the points. However, the problem starts when this is not the case, when the lecture is lost as soon as the class is over. Then, it is only by being a good listener, or active listener as such people are called, can a student hope to learn things well.
Listening is a natural process that we do without even making an effort, but careful listening is a skill that we need to learn. There are so many sounds and speeches that we hear during the course of a day, but we tend to forget most of it in no time. Things that we do retain are usually ones that relate to topics we have an interest in, have been spoken by someone we pay attention to or are sounds that are particularly loud, pleasant, irritating or unusual.
Online classes generally do not have most of these features, and since the teacher too is speaking to a device, the lecture is somewhat more monotonous than it would be if there was a live audience sitting in front. Of course the teacher would be using different techniques to involve the students in live video session and make the topic more interesting, students need to put on more effort to pay attention to what is being said.
There are some simple ways to make the most out of online classes and lectures, and which all students should take up, because that is what they would be doing for some more months now until we can all be immunised against Covid-19.
The devices being used for online classes are usually those that everyone uses for leisure activities such as playing games, chatting, watching movies, browsing, video chatting, etc. Some students continue to use these devices during online classes in the same positions as they played games or watched movies in —which can be lying in bed, while having breakfast, sitting with the rest of the family and such distracting settings.
So the first and foremost step is to be in a place with minimum distraction, which can be your study table or a room which isn’t being used by others. And with several siblings taking online classes at the same time, it is important that they all don’t sit in the same room, especially if headphones are not being used.
Family members should not roam around the place where a child is taking a class, it will pull the attention away from the screen. And a ‘no talking’ rule should apply during online classes just as it is done in a traditional class. Since there are generally breaks between online classes, there really is nothing so important that can’t wait until the class is over. So family members should not disturb a student during a class.
No eating during class
Since students are home, most of them only get up a few minutes before class and often a doting mother brings their breakfast over to where they are listening to the teacher, asking the child to eat as they attend the class.
This is a bad idea. Each time a child takes off his or her eyes off the screen to look at the food as they eat, their auditory attention too is going to become less and they will miss or not retain much of what they hear during their snacking session.
Online classes should be taken just as seriously as those in a regular school setting, there is a decorum that needs to be followed for proper learning.
The use of headphones will reduce household sounds and distractions, allowing the student to hear the teacher better. Of course, the volume should be monitored so as not to be too loud as we all know that loud sounds and prolong usage of headphones is bad for our ears.
Choose to concentrate
Listening and hearing are two very different acts that are often considered as the same. We hear every sound that falls on our eardrums, but when we listen, we make the effort to do so by concentrating on what we hear and forcing our brain to retain that too. So while we may forget most things that we hear, we will retain most of what we choose to listen to. So choosing to listen is what makes a person an active listener.
The active listening process requires focusing on what is being heard, processing it and then comprehending it. This is required the most during an online class. When a student processes an online lecture, he or she becomes more involved with the topic and the brain processes the information in real time. This makes the learning more effective and fruitful.
Because the concept of online classes has been so new to most students, many have fallen into the practice of being passive listeners, who do not make the effort to process they information the teacher is giving in real time. They leave the learning part for later on when they will go through their textbooks, do an assignment or when an adult or tutor will explain it again to them.
This is also why many students and parents feel that online classes are not as effective as regular school lessons. They are right to some extent, but since this is the new normal, or regular classes that students the world over are going to be taking for some more months, probably the rest of the academic session, it is better that students learn to become better online learners.
Note down important points
Students should keep their notebook and pen handy to note down important points of a class. Writing what is being heard will help to focus, absorb and retain what is being heard.
But do not become so involved in noting down everything that you stop looking at the screen, because carefully watching the lecture, especially when there is text appearing on the screen, is also important for retention. It is better to jot down things in bullet points, or just important names, and focus on listening.
You can also take screenshots and photographs of text on the screen so as not to waste too much time on writing too. For recorded lectures that you can always listen to as many times as you like, you should consider listening to them in chunks — pausing after an important point is explained, going back and playing it again to reinforce understanding of the points and noting it down.
Another way to listen to recorded lectures is to listen to it in one go first, to get the essence of the whole lecture, and then play it again to undertand, note points and learn in chunks like mentioned earlier. Whichever way works best for a student should be the one they can follow.
There would be other helpful tips for online classes which many students would already be following. Each student is different and each has a different home environment, but effort needs to be made to make the best of what we have got for the time being — online classes.
Published in Dawn, Young World, December 5th, 2020