How to learn virtually during a pandemic
In the accelerated One-Year MBA program at Goizueta Business School, the most intensive portion of the curriculum is held over the summer. COVID-19 changed many plans, including education. I wanted to write to share my thoughts on what worked well when learning at home throughout the summer before Emory University implemented their hybrid class system.
- Reflect on your expectations: Working virtually requires intentional outreach that is different from stopping a professor before or after class. Taking time to reflect before each class to think about what you want to get out of it will help you make sure your metrics are met. It’s also critical to reflect on your expectations about what your program should include. Are you invested in learning the material only, being the top of the class, or expanding your professional network? What other priorities and expectations do you have for your program and yourself this year? How do you want to grow? Taking time to reflect before you start, and frequently throughout your program, will enable you to stay on your pre-determined track and meet your expectations.
- Invest in tools you need to succeed: There are a couple of tools everyone needs to optimally learn at home. Everyone needs a second monitor if they are doing anything that requires excel or working on data while taking virtual class (this means every class in an MBA program). Additionally, everyone needs a stable internet connection that can handle more traffic. If you have a roommate doing virtual classes too, your connection speeds need to be even faster to accommodate. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to connect, having choppy video, or not being able to engage in class because of internet issues. Lastly, everyone needs to equip themselves with the tools they use to learn in class. For me, that means a printer for readings, notebooks to take notes by hand, and a desk dedicated to work. This is different for everyone, but the tools to learn are very similar to in class tools.
- Develop a routine: This applies to in-person and virtual classes pre-pandemic; however, I feel it’s important to note now. Having a rhythm to the day and maximizing the times you learn best relieves frustration and perpetual work. It’s healthy to have time for work, exercise, and relaxation. Finding an intentional routine that works best for you can help you find satisfaction in your work and time at school. Life is too short to be miserable! Make time for things you love and for learning.
- Become intentional about maintaining friendships: This one is the toughest. During the pandemic, staying at home meant always saying no to going out with others. For many of us, physical distancing has led to feeling more socially distant too. It’s important to maintain social connections for your mental health and general wellbeing. Having a strong network of friends gives you allies through classes, people to share your experiences with, and a network beyond your program. Sometimes it is hard to reach out, but finding a great group of friends brings immense satisfaction.
- Find an outlet: Being home most days can make the days bleed one into the next. It’s easy to lose track of time and wonder where the season went. As for me, I rescued a dog, increased my cooking at home, and became more invested in getting physically stronger. Creative outlets like writing, painting, pottery, and drawing pay dividends in bringing satisfaction and giving you creative space. For others, physical outlets like training for a race, gardening, walking, biking, and spending time outside are where it’s at. If you haven’t found something you love, give yourself permission and time to explore! You can connect with your community and learn a new skill.
These top five suggestions are steps that enabled me to focus on classes, enjoy reviewing information, and creatively collaborate on teams. Graduate school is about flexing your academic muscles, but also being acutely aware of what skills you need for your future career. Your experience should be tailored to help you gain those skills and connect you to new opportunities. Virtual learning is different and at times uncomfortable, but unique challenges often help us learn more about ourselves. As for me, I can’t wait to see what the next couple of months have in store.