Making the most of learning online

Eoin found it helpful to be prepared, gathering a pen and paper for notes and coming up with pre-questions for the class. He also made sure to take a break before classes, and he reached out to tutors and classmates for connection and support.

Eoin King

Eoin King is a PhD student at Edge Hill University who is exploring the relationship between work and mental health amongst coaches in the Gaelic Athletics Association.

Eoin shares his top tips for making the most of online lectures and classes.

Video transcript

One of the biggest challenges and changes the students and staff face across higher education concerns online learning. At first, I personally struggled to handle the new dynamic that came with online lectures during the lockdown. It was lonely compared to the shared experience of being in the classroom with my friends and my classmates.

In this video, I'll be sharing a few ideas that I use to help me with online learning, and will also give me the confidence to cope a little bit better without face to face teaching.

First, one thing that gave me huge confidence before a virtual lesson was simply being at the ready with a pen, and paper. Research has shown that effective note taking improves learning and recall. By writing the notes down, I didn't have to move between a Word document and the virtual classroom. It also meant I was less distracted by certain things such as Twitter, social media, or the latest football transfer news.

Also, I found that my concentration definitely dipped during the first couple of online lectures. I found it hugely beneficial to write down three or four pre- questions before a lecture or tutorial began. Ask yourself, what information do you want to get out of your next online session? By simply writing down three or four questions, you can help yourself and keep focused and attentive on the lecture at hand. Writing down the pre-questions helped me in two respects. First, it definitely meant I was less likely to skip ahead during pre-recorded content. And second, I was definitely more focused during live sessions because I was looking out for content that would help with my pre questions.

Next, it was a good idea for me to take a break from the screen any time I began a new online class. Like many other people, I have suffered from zoom fatigue, and struggled to find the motivation to begin another online class. There is plenty of research now that supports the benefit of being outside or being in nature, for your mental health. For me, I simply miss the buzz and having the physical space of my own university campus. For me simply being outside for five or 10 minutes before an online lecture made a world of difference to my mental health.

Next, it is important to remember that even though you may be studying by yourself, or sitting in a room, you are not in this experience alone. Also, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for students who are coming to university for the very first time, or for those students who are a little anxious, engaging with new content and new modules. This is a far different university experience than anything that has happened before.

But remember, you are not the only one. On many, many occasions. While I've been here studying, I have felt anxious and wondered, is it just me who is struggling to adapt to this new situation? Trust me. It wasn't just me. And it's not just you.

So whilst there have been some lonely experiences, I have found it helpful to remember that the lecturers and your teachers are learning themselves how to adapt with the new virtual online experience. On a positive note, we are all learning how to adapt to an online learning work.

Don't be afraid to ask your lecturers for help. Perhaps you can be the person that suggests to them a new technique that helps with your learning and improves the online experience for everybody. Take advantage of the one to one video slots that your tutors can arrange.

Discuss with them your own experiences of online learning the good, the bad, the ugly, and provide your own feedback. In larger online lectures, I used a lot of worries by simply doing one thing: I typed out my question in the comment box. And sure enough, the lecturer if they didn't answer immediately, would get around to it by the end of the class. It is very likely that your university and the staff within it are very understanding of this new situation. They recognize that this is different and complex for many individuals and for many different learning styles.

And remember, your classmates are in the same situation. Personally, I found great comfort speaking over the phone with one of my classmates, a conversation that would usually begin regarding the lecture we just had or an upcoming assignment usually led to a conversation that had absolutely nothing to do with our course whatsoever.

And these are only the tips that I can offer based on my own experience. There is great potential with online learning. Even though it may be difficult, it may cause anxiety or stress. And if this happens, the best thing you can do is be patient. Try to be patient with yourself and also the staff who are delivering the online content. You will develop strategies that work for you, your health and your home situation.

University support icon

See what support is available at your university