Student Resources

Coronavirus Information Center / Student Resources

For current Calvin students, one of the biggest adjustments to make is the transition to online learning. Below, find some guidance for managing this transition.

For detailed information about housing, academics, and other topics, see the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Managing the transition to online learning

The Calvin community’s transition to learning online (an upending change) is a powerful community action to help navigate COVID-19. New things are hard, so extend grace to yourself, to fellow students, and to professors while we figure this out together. As we move to online classes, here is some advice on how to navigate effectively and learn well:

You learn what you think about. Or as Daniel Willingham says, “Memory is the residue of thought.” Passively reading or watching lectures will not lead to learning. Learning only happens when you think deeply about course ideas and how they integrate with what you already know. Thinking is hard work and takes effort. In some cases, the self-directed nature of online learning and necessity to sort things out may help you learn even more.

Microsoft Teams and Moodle will be the primary new platforms for instruction during this time. You can find instructions for these below. Plan to continue consulting your syllabus, textbooks, and other established course resources as directed by your professors. If you are headed home, be sure to bring these with you:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Moodle
  • Additionally, check your email regularly. It may be helpful to create a folder for each class to stay organized.

Ask questions, and communicate clearly. For many of us, online classes are new territory. Stress and confusion are a common experience. To make this transition smoothly, clear communication with you professors and peers is important.

  • If you are having trouble with the new technology, spend 5 minutes searching for answers from other sources before reaching out to the professor. Be as specific as possible in your request to the professor. Include screenshots if relevant.
  • Be kind. Confusion and stress may be part of this transition. No one thinks this is ideal, but it is ripe with possibility. Be charitable in your communications.

Keep a routine. Online learning will still require time and effort. Keeping a routine can help you in this. Treat your learning like your work, as you would during the regular semester, and dedicate yourself to making it a priority.

  • Set aside 5-10 hours each week for each course. Use a planner or calendar to intentionally block out this time. Use this time to engage in lectures and discussions, complete readings, finish assignments, and to review material. Don ’t just skate by one the bare minimum work to meet the stated requirements: as we said above, you ’ll learn what you think about. Doing this at a regular time of day can help maintain beneficial rhythm.
  • Keep regular routines for sleep and exercise. Without the structure of in-person classes, it can be tempting to sleep in or to take it easy for the next month. Establishing regular routines for sleep and exercise can provide normalcy and structure for your schedule until in-person classes resume.
  • Work in 25 minute chunks, with 5 minute breaks between. Your attention span is limited. Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Repeat this pattern until your work is complete, and consider giving yourself a small reward (e.g. dark chocolate, a walk, text to a friend) at breaks. The Tomato Timer can help!

Monotask. If multitasking is doing multiple things at once, monotasking is intentionally focusing on completing a single task at a time. When you multitask (i.e. watch Netflix or ESPN while watch your video for class) you learn less and make more mistakes. Even things that seem productive, like checking email or working on two classes at once, can be distracting. Stick with one element of one class at a time. Monotasking takes discipline but will save you time in the long run.

  • Put your phone out of reach and out of sight.
  • Consider using headphones (without music) to block out surrounding noise.
  • Find a study environment with minimal distractions.
  • Consider using an app like Forest Focus (free for Android and Chrome, paid for Apple) or Flora to keep you on track on your phone or online.

Study effectively. Especially with self-guided and online learning, it can be easy to think that you know material better than you actually do. We tend to complete the task and then think we have learned it. Effective learning practices are those that help you accurately assess your knowledge and understanding, and make gains where you may be lacking. Remember, our goal is to learn things not just complete tasks.

  • Retrieval practice is effective for learning. Elaborating on what you ’ve learned and quizzing yourself (or doing practice problems) allows you to build connections and accurately assess how well you understand material. Try explaining an idea from class to a peer, parent or mentor.
  • Rereading texts, rewriting notes, and rewatching videos are less effective ways to study. These methods can help you ensure that you are familiar with all of the information that is available to you, but they alone are not sufficient for learning, and can give you a false sense of competence.

Use resources. A number of resources around campus including The Center for Student Success, Hekman Library, Counseling and Wellness, the Rhetoric Center, and others are open. Connect with any support you need as we navigate new technology and ways of learning. This article from Northwestern University can also provide good pointers: 8 Strategies for Getting the Most out of an Online Class.

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