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College Preparedness: Recovering from the PandemicSuzanne Shaffer
This is the second in a series of three articles about staying motivated and productive during what we all hope is the final lap of remote pandemic learning. This is an ideal time for parents and students to think about how they will stay focused during this spring semester. Click here to read Part 1, "Focus on Moving Ahead."
Most of us began “pandemic school” believing we were in a sprint. We shifted quickly to remote learning, clumsily adapted to classes online, and hung on until the end of the spring 2020 semester.
Spring turned into fall, and now as we begin spring semester 2021 with many students still learning remotely, our sprint has become a marathon.
Most students and faculty have come to terms with online learning technology. Whether we like it or not, we’re more comfortable with Zoom classes, Learning Management Systems, discussion boards, video lectures and chats, and other forms of technology we had barely heard of before March of last year.
We’re better prepared to teach and learn this spring, but we’re also exhausted.
For many students, remote and hybrid classes, curtailed activities, masks, plexiglass partitions, quarantine and social distancing have really become social isolation. Students feel disconnected and definitely not very social.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “Connecting with others is more important than you might think. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems.”
For many students, the problem right now is not learning online, it is staying motivated and feeling connected while learning online.
We can’t motivate students who don’t want to be motivated, and although we can offer opportunities for connection and engagement, we can’t force students to engage. Engagement and connection need to be proactive.
One of the important factors in motivation is feeling that you have control over aspects of your life. Students can take control over building connections and staying engaged in four important areas of their academic life — even while learning remotely: in the classroom, with their professors, with other students, and with their school.
Talk to your student about what engagement might look like for them and how they might stay connected.
Engaged students feel better about their education and are more likely to do better work.
These small strategies will show the professor that you are not just present but are ready to learn. They will help you be ready to learn.
Remember that professors are people, too. They need and value connecting with their students. Most professors appreciate students who make an effort to get to know them.
Some relationships will be more successful than others, but making the effort will help students and their professors maintain a good working relationship.
There are many other ways to stay connected with your professor — even with remote learning. Take a few minutes to read the CollegiateParent article "Connecting with Professors During Covid" for 8 more ways to stay connected!
If your student is taking classes remotely (whether at home or at school) they may feel cut off from other students. Virtual connections are not the same as the spontaneous encounters that happen in the residence halls and classrooms, in the dining halls and on the athletic fields.
Students need to work harder at making connections, but the opportunities are there if students work at finding and taking advantage of them.
There’s an old adage — “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Unfortunately, for some students this is true. Students who are attending their classes from home are focused on individual classes. When you're not on campus, walking across the quad, going to concerts or plays, attending games or seeing the mascot, it’s easy to forget about the bigger picture.
A sense of belonging is an important part of being a resilient learner. According to Adina Glickman, founder of the Stanford Resilience Project and co-founder of The Academic Resilience Consortium, “Because resilience is not an individual trait but rather a relationship between the student and her institution, it is essential that students become knowledgeable about the culture, politics, structures, and processes of the educational institution of which they are a part.”
Schools have not forgotten about their students. When The Institute of Higher Education conducted a study of college presidents early in the pandemic, 81% indicated that they were very concerned about keeping students engaged.
Although campus life may be minimal or even non-existent now that so many students are remote, schools are working hard to continue to connect with students through newsletters, daily bulletins, video messages and texts.
We will all reach the end of this marathon!
Many who've run a marathon say it was the other runners who kept them going through the hardest miles. Help your student look for ways to reach out to others — not only to receive that boost that comes from running with others, but also to provide the support someone else may need.
No one needs to run this race alone.