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As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps through the nation, the disruption and chaos it has caused can be felt in every facet of our lives. Requirements of social distancing have wreaked havoc on the public school system, resulting in school closures for at least a month. The uncertainty of whether schools will open before the end of the year is very real.

School officials have been discussing the implementation of virtual learning, in which lesson content, assignments, quizzes, and tests would be stored in an online platform accessible through the Internet. This would enable students to continue learning outside of the classroom while schools remain closed.

As virtual learning has become far more common, it’s likely that you will come across an online course at some point in your educational career even when there is not a pandemic. Here are a few tips on how to succeed in a virtual learning environment.

Familiarize Yourself with the Platform

Be patient with yourself as you learn the platform. Many virtual learning environments incorporate a discussion board, chat board, assignment and submission boards. After you learn how to use each facet of the environment, you can focus on the assigned lessons.

Routine

When it comes to online, self-paced learning, routine is always best. Whether you focus best right after you wake up in the morning or need an hour or two before jumping into your school day, stick to a schedule that works for you. Take breaks around the same time each day; a 5-15-minute break every hour or a 30-minute break every two to four hours is ideal. Try different study routines until you find one that works for you.

Set Goals and Deadlines

In a classroom setting, your teacher directs the learning each day to ensure you are prepared for the quizzes and tests throughout the quarter. When it comes to virtual learning, you are responsible for reading, processing, and understanding the material before taking an assigned quiz or test.

Instead of cramming all reading, homework assignments, and tests in one day, divide reading and assignments into manageable sections and set deadlines for each section. For example, if a quiz is assigned in four days, outline which content sections you plan to learn and study each day. Then document these study goals.

Limit Distractions

Leave your phone in a separate room. All it takes is one text from a friend to distract you from your study routine and goals. If you have a content-related question, you can reach out to a friend through the chat messaging program within the virtual learning environment.

Choose a study location where you can concentrate. An ideal location is a quiet, well-lit area designated solely for the purpose of studying. Consider using headphones to block out external noise, and if you plan on listening to music while studying create a playlist with only classical music, or songs without lyrics. Finally, stay away from social media unless you are on a break, but even then, limit your media time to no more than 15 minutes.

Ask for Help

Transitioning from classroom learning to an online learning environment can feel overwhelming, but keep in mind you can ask your teacher for help through email or online chat. Before asking for help, make sure you read all the directions carefully, and complete as much as you can on your own. Teachers don’t want you to feel stranded, but they also want you to take advantage of the resources and tools they provide.

Utilize free study apps like Khan Academy, Quizlet, and Math 42 when teaching yourself new concepts. Identifying your preferred learning style can also help you get the most out of your study sessions. And remember, the more you study in a virtual learning environment, the less intimidating it will be.