Adapting to the new normal

January 2021

With the classroom seeming like a distant memory, Clancy Peiris explains how you can make the most of online learning.

Thanks to the internet you can now learn whenever, wherever and however works best for you. Would you say this made your life easier than ever? Or harder and more challenging?

When you study online you tend to only interact with your computer, unlike a traditional classroom where you would collaborate with teachers and fellow students. This may lead to digital fatigue. For example, you may sometimes feel that you are not in the right mood to study and so postpone your studies to another time. Digital distractions such as getting a text or an email may also break your concentration, taking much-needed energy away from studies.

Online learning is here to stay and to reap all the benefits you must be adequately prepared, self-disciplined and driven. Here are my top tips to make the most out of online learning.

Tip #1: Create your dedicated study space at home

Identify one space where you can sit and study comfortably (not on your bed!) and peacefully. During your study session you should aim to mimic an actual classroom and avoid doing things that you wouldn’t usually do if you were in a classroom. You should:

• Get dressed; it will help you feel better physically and mentally.

• Get organised and have all essentials such as stationery, a water bottle, calculator, etc. on hand.

• Log off from all social networks and turn off your phone so that you will not be interrupted or distracted.

Tip #2: Put together a study plan (and stick to it!)

Online learning needs structure, so having a study plan is critical. At the start of each week allocate a day and a timeframe in your diary for each of the tasks you need to complete by the end of the week. This is an excellent way to prioritise your study plan and stay on track. Also, it will enable you to remain motivated as you tick tasks off your list and see how much you can actually accomplish. You should:

• Stick to your study plan and stay organised so that you don’t fall behind.

• Review your progress at the end of every day and adjust your study plan accordingly for the rest of the week.

• Ask your family members, friends and colleagues to respect your study time.

Tip #3: Use the right learning techniques

While listening to or watching an online lecture take notes as if you were attending a lesson in a classroom. This will help you to keep focused on the lecture, enhance your understanding and improve your memory.

Keep listening or watching pre-recorded lectures without pauses so that you keep your momentum and avoid distractions. If needed, you can always go back to it later to clarify some points. You should:

• Read the relevant materials beforehand and do some practice exam questions.

• Ask questions if there is anything you aren’t sure about, during or after the lesson.

• Step away from your laptop every hour or so to keep your mind fresh and body active.

Tip #4: Be active within your learning community

Connecting with fellow students through additional sessions will enhance your online learning experience and make sure that you don’t feel too isolated. You should:

• Plan what you want to cover in the session so that the discussion remains productive.

• Set up study groups with other students to discuss ideas, swap study tips and get help with certain topics.

• Check your CIMA online portal for updates and other support platforms provided by your learning provider on a daily basis.

Tip #5: Make sure to have some downtime

Mental and physical wellbeing are very important, especially when you are an online learner and spend the whole day in the same space. You need to make sure that you have a clear cut-off point for studying every day and allow yourself to relax. You should:

• Do something you enjoy in your downtime such as listening to music, reading or catching up on the latest Netflix series.

• Stay active and get out of your home at least once a day for a daily walk, run or cycle.

• Look after your mental wellbeing by spending time with your family and friends, or integrating mindfulness practices into your daily routine.

Best of luck with your online studies!

• Clancy Peiris, Senior Learning Development Manager, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.