Make the most of new learning landscape

First published in The Border Mail as “Make the most of new learning landscape” on 20-04-20

The pandemic of COVID-19 has thrown us in an abyss of remote and online learning. While some of us may have experienced some kind of online instruction, most of us prefer face-to-face means of learning and development. As we move from day to day grappling with google classroom for our children, Education Minister Dan Tehan advises us to upskill through online courses. This advice is supported by the initiative of discounted higher education courses available online from May to bridge the skill gap for economic rebound after COVID-19 has evaporated.

Let’s brace ourselves and approach this new era of remote and online learning with a more structured approach. It is imperative that we first understand the basics of effective learning. Memory and learning are directly related. Good memory requires a proper uninterrupted sleep routine. If this is supplemented by healthy food, exercise and meditation, it can help you get on top of your game.

Now evaluate the common obstacles to learning at home. We may be surrounded by people or devices that are distracting. Its best to allocate a location for learning at home that is free from interruptions. Turn off phone notifications and close browsers on your devices that are not in use.

No matter how big or small a certain goal is, we need to assign it a time frame to ensure constant progress. Scheduling is the key to follow through with our timelines. In the current scenario prioritising work and study and sticking to a routine is crucial. Set a calendar to stay organised. Make weekly study plans or a to-do-list and follow it. Set small goals and tick them off as they are achieved. It will give you a sense of achievement and the motivation to do more. In order to meet deadlines, make a timetable of milestones by working backwords from the date of submission for timely progress.

Get technologically organised by downloading apps that are needed to study or work. Check emails. Get your documents in order in separate folders for each topic. Keep your hardware handy – mouse, keyboard, power cords. Download course material at hand. Have your phone hot spot ready.

During face to face learning we are given breaks in between our lessons to rejuvenate. Apply the same approach while studying at home. Take regular breaks to minimise distractions. In isolation, your break can involve facetime with friends and family, walk or bike ride, meditation, yoga or exercise. You can use the 20-20-20 rule to avoid getting overboard with these breaks: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

We have the schedule down, distractions out of the way, location and devices sorted. What did we miss? Motivation and behaviour! If we lack the motivation and the right attitude towards work and learning, we will not be able to get anywhere.

The only hurdle between us and our learning a skill is the mind set we have. We learn through effort and not ability. If we put in effort, we will learn. Thinking that we don’t have the ability to do something only throws us off our track and demotivates us.

Set SMART goals – S- Specific, M- measurable, A-attainable, R- relevant, T – time based. Do the most challenging task first. It will make you feel accomplished and motivate you further to achieve those small tasks quicker than usual. Reward yourself for the progress you make. Buy something for yourself. Watch a Netflix episode that you now deserve after an arduous day of work. Eat that piece of chocolate.

Lastly, employ self-regulated intentional learning strategies. Read the questions first and then skim for answers. Hear the audio of the text instead of reading. Write a summary to collate the information you have. Employ what works best for you. And then practice, apply and reflect - practice helps you retain knowledge; application allows you to make use of it and reflection encourages you to learn more.

As harsh as it may sound, we need to get our act together in order to accomplish anything in life. You are what you do and not what you say! If we are mindful of our actions and take responsibility, then there is nothing standing in our way and our growth.

About the writer... 

Ayesha is a Career Development Consultant who has two gifted children. She is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA). She has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Graduate Certificate in Careers Education and Development (RMIT) and Certificate of Gifted Education (UNSW). She also holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate of Fashion Illustration. 

She worked for a multinational engineering manufacturing industry before switching to career counselling, writing, teaching and case management.  She has worked in the British and American schooling systems and is now working with the Victorian Selected Entry and Regional Schools. Her diverse experience of working around the globe in the education and corporate sector and strong academic background enables her to see the bigger picture.