There is much you can do in advance to prepare for online sessions and make sure they go smoothly.
Consider your surroundings when you attend online sessions. While sitting on the sofa or armchair might be comfortable, does it allow you to take notes and participate with the class effectively? Using a dedicated work space, like a desk or table, helps us to associate certain environments with work and study as opposed to relaxation. It is important to make this psychological shift, not only for adopting a more professional attitude when its time to study, but for winding-down afterwards.
Do you have all the equipment you need and is it in good working order? You will have to consider your computer hardware and whether you have the capacity to participate in online sessions. Will a phone or tablet be enough if you have to switch between programmes or make digital notes? Make sure you have access to all the software and platforms required well before the beginning of the lecture.
Before the lecture or workshop takes place
Give yourself adequate time to do the preparatory reading beforehand. Again, managing your background reading is yet another reason to pre-schedule asynchronous lectures ahead of time.
Try to summarise what you have learned about the topic so far - and what you don't yet understand.
Brush-up on any relevant vocabulary or specialist terms with which you are not familiar. This will improve your understanding of the presented material.
Make a list of questions you expect or would like the session to cover.
Talk to other students about your expectations of the upcoming session and compare views and ideas. Regular online meetings with peers can really boost your confidence in your chosen area and helps to promote a feeling of community. Where sessions are run asynchronously, consider hosting an online meeting to facilitate a joint viewing and synchronous discussion.
Prepare any note-making materials you need well in advance, be they digital or otherwise.
Check the associated Canvas pages to see if there are any specific activities you need to complete in advance.
During the lecture or workshop
Make sure you listen carefully for any extra information that may not be referenced in the learning materials or presentation slides directly. Very often, these extra explanations or descriptions are invaluable for gaining a thorough understanding of the topic.
If there is the opportunity to ask questions, take it, don't leave it to others to ask on your behalf. If you have prepared questions based on your expectations of the lecture beforehand, this might be a good opportunity to get clarification on anything not covered by the main lecture.
If the lecture is synchronous, don't assume that you can watch the replay and take notes then - not all sessions are made available for later viewing.
You should try to follow-up on the session as soon after it finishes as you can - while the information is still fresh.
Review the expectations and questions you had before you attended. Have these been answered? What do you need to do to address this?
Meet online with peers for a debrief of the material and activities presented. Consider scheduling further online meetings around this topic to clarify or compare ideas for assessed work.
Top Tip: take online learning seriously - as seriously as you would in a face-to-face environment. Being at home and without the formality of being physically on-campus it is sometimes easy to slip into a less organised routine. Plan your time around a standard 9-5 working day and keep track of where you are in each module.
In most cases, your lectures will be provided as recorded videos. This requires a slightly different approach to learning. Below are a few points that you might like to consider to get the most out of recorded lecture content.
As always, it's important to try to paraphrase or summarise the most important points of the lecture. If you have a tendency to try to write everything down, it may be even more tempting to do this when you can pause or rewind a recording. However, being selective and considering what the most useful points are will help you to think and learn about the information, rather than just mindlessly writing it out.
Come back to your notes afterwards and consider any sections that you found difficult to understand. Then revisit only those parts of the lecture; again the focus is on being selective and thinking actively about what you need to re-watch, rather than trying to watch the whole lecture again.
Keep to your timetable and watch lecture content as it comes out each week. You will learn more effectively that way. Don't be tempted to binge watch at the end of the semester!
For the first viewing, always watch the video at normal speed - again this helps you take in the information more effectively. Only watch at higher speeds if you are revisiting something you have already watched and taken notes from.
Avoid having the recording on while you are doing something else, like driving, exercising or housework. You need to be engaging with the content, and taking notes!
Do try using the recording for revision though - you could pause the video to test your understanding in places, and re-watch sections to revisit information that you might be finding hard to remember.
Top tip: Treat recorded lectures as if they were the real thing. Watch them each week when they are timetabled and watch at a normal speed.