A guest blog written by Bryan Cranston; Swinburne Online Lead Unit Coordinator for Politics and History.
While adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be experiencing limited social interaction. An essential requirement for emotional health is being connected and feeling connected with others. To succeed with online studies, especially during this difficult time, it is essential to connect and stay connected with your classmates and studies.
Being an online student does not mean studying independently. Approach your studies as you would on campus – your discussion board is your classroom, where you can engage with your teaching staff and your classmates, and discuss the content and topics informally as you would in a physical classroom. Remind yourself that you are not alone, as every student in the unit is in the same situation as you. Reach out and engage with each other by responding to discussion posts; if you are unsure about something, say so in the discussion as you will find others feeling the same way –the sense of relief you uncover when you realise you are not alone will amaze you.
You have undertaken a major commitment to pursue tertiary studies. It is important to keep a focus on why you are doing this. One strategy is to change your mindset approach and replace the word “study” with “work”. Imagine your weekly learning tasks and activities as part of a job; engaging and collaborating with classmates could be akin to working with colleagues in a professional setting – if you have a classmate not pulling their weight with a group assessment, how would you deal with that situation in a workplace, particularly if you were the manager?
Successful university study is not only about learning advanced content but developing a professional skill set. You would develop friendships, have casual chats with colleagues and introduce yourself to someone you do not know at work. So why not use those same approaches towards your studies?
Keep in mind that your teaching staff are in the same situation as you. Many of us work remotely and face the same obstacles as our students. I am responsible for a large portfolio of units and supervise approximately 45 online staff each teaching period, so when students comment about the difficulties of group work, or communicating online, I understand. The key is to develop appropriate strategies and effective approaches to make it work.
While we teach you how to use the tools, it is up to you to pick them up and have a go. The key message is: successful students engage with each other. Suffering alone or in silence may lead to exacerbated feelings of isolation and disengagement from studies and may ultimately result in not achieving the desired results. Reaching out and developing connections with people experiencing the same stress, anxiety, growth, and academic development as you is perhaps the most important learning strategy you can adopt.
Above all, be kind to yourself and those around you.