-2021 KDIS Online Education Essay Contest 2nd Prize Winning Essay-
Lessons Learned: How to Approach Online Learning
Wie Hyungbin (2021 MPM)
When my first semester at the KDI School began, I was very excited. As someone who truly loves learning, I really missed an academic environment where I could expand my knowledge by interacting with professors and colleagues. One thing I was a little worried about, though, was the fact that all classes would take place online. It’s something I had never done before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yet, I let go of my concerns, thinking, ‘How would it be any different from offline classes?’ And then I told myself, ‘Pay attention, ask good questions and share your opinions in class, like you always did at college, then everything will be fine.’
That didn’t turn out to be so easy, however. In fact, the semester went in a way that I didn’t expect at all. Paying attention, asking questions, and sharing opinions in class—none of these came easy for me in a virtual environment. Granted, the professors were all fantastic. They were sincere in teaching online, they gave impressive lectures, and they were eager to have their students engaged. No, the problem was with me, as I had a hard time adjusting to the new environment. As a result, I had to redesign my learning strategies and habits entirely, trying to get the most value out of online classes. I would like to take this opportunity to share a few things I learned this semester and small tips on how to become a better online learner.
First, dress up for class. At first, I attended most of my classes in pajamas, taking full advantage of virtual learning, and loved it. However, this turned out to be a bad habit because I became too relaxed to focus on lectures. Clothes make the man, they say, and this really felt true for me. So I decided to “dress up” one day—nothing special but just a neatly-ironed shirt and pair of jeans—and found myself noticeably more engaged in class. I listened to lectures more attentively and participated more. This confirmed my idea that what we wear has a huge impact on our mindset. Thus, take time to prepare yourself before class. Take a shower and get dressed, nice and sharp, just as if you were to attend an actual, offline class. It will make a real difference in your attitude towards online learning.
Second, never turn off your camera during class. I confess that there were times I occasionally turned off mine to chat, to eat, or just to feel ‘liberated.’ But to tell the truth, as soon as it was turned off, I felt disconnected from class and started to slack off. I realized that there was a reason why the school made it a policy to keep your camera on all the time, because it actually helps you concentrate. To have an interactive learning experience, simply watching and listening to your colleagues isn’t enough. You also need to be watched, and be listened to, by others. And just like wearing pajamas, leaving my camera off made me feel too relaxed. In order to stay alert during an online class, I learned indeed, you need a healthy dose of stress.
Third, you need to push yourself hard, consciously and constantly, for class participation. I realized that this is the only way to make your online learning experience as rich as an offline one. In the past, I was quite good at sharing my thoughts and asking questions during class. But something about the Zoom environment made this very difficult. For example, when professors asked for questions or comments, it was hard to break the thick, awkward silence. And silence is like a living thing that, unless someone breaks it, it keeps growing and becomes impenetrable . The outcome? Professors end up performing sad one-man shows, which is painful to watch. To prevent such tragedy, I made a strategy to ask at least three questions per class. Asking questions not only helps you stay focused but also softens the rigid atmosphere inherent in virtual classrooms. By breaking the ice, it encourages your classmates to speak up as well, which makes the overall learning experience better. So don’t be afraid to speak up. In fact, interrupt your professors with questions or comments whenever you can. They will love you for that, I guarantee. Most importantly, this should be a group effort. In other words, everyone should work hard together to participate in class, to help each other get the most value out of virtual learning.
Finally, stay connected with your classmates. If you’re like me and don’t live on campus, it’s too easy to forget that you’re a student. And one of the best things about being a student is interacting with your colleagues. This makes a school life all the more fun and valuable. In a virtual environment, however, we have to make extra efforts to connect with others. If not, the only people you get to know until the end of a semester will be your presentation partners. So, here are some ideas on how to socialize with your virtual classmates. Take notes when someone says something interesting in class, and talk to him or her about it afterwards, either via chat or email. If foreign students talk about their home countries, say hi to them during break or after class, and ask them for more information. Get to know their cultures. Also, make use of the “KDIS Connect” and start a conversation with someone you don’t know. Make the money the school has put into the app worth it, and you will find your virtual school life richer than before. Remember, school is more about meeting people than getting a degree. And since we’re unable to meet in person just yet, we must redouble our efforts to get to know our colleagues.
Of course, we’re all different, and you might be someone who has no problem with online learning whatsoever. At the same time, you might enjoy virtual education precisely because you don’t have to focus as much. But if you’re like me and love active learning, yet had difficulties enjoying online classes, try some of these tips. While I hope that we can end the pandemic soon and meet each other in person, chances are, virtual learning is here to stay. If so, we might as well try to get the most out of what is given to us. Whatever the future holds, I very much look forward to my upcoming semesters at the KDIS.