It’s 3:17 a.m. You’ve been in a restless sleep, unsure of how to tackle your upcoming courses. Your mind spins – how do you do this? You’re coming from high school where your teachers practically handed you your marks, or you’re coming back to school after a hiatus working, and now you’re taking your first foray into post-secondary education.
And now, there’s another wrench in the mix. COVID-19 has hit your post-secondary’s city, and to be safe, your first semester – maybe your first ever semester—is now online. Everything you knew from previous years spent in education, sitting at a desk while your teacher drones at you, feels useless.
Fear not, future legal assistants. Everything you know can be easily transitioned to online learning – if you’re committed to doing so. At times, you’ll feel unmotivated. You’ll be bored, sick, lonely, stressed out, and frustrated—but you’ll also be taking steps towards a brighter future. You’ll be excited, learning new concepts every day. For some of you, this might be your first time learning in a different city – for some, even, your first time learning from a different country! It’s an exhilarating time.
My goal with this is to give you some tips for transitioning into online learning, and just generally succeeding when it comes to your new (or old) program. It’s going to be hard, but it will only make you stronger when it comes to joining the great workforce outside. You’ll have to be disciplined. You’ll have to do things, even when you don’t want to do things, lest you fall behind. Catching up is almost the hardest thing to do, but it’s worlds better than having to drop out because you missed a few assignments.
- Figure out how you learn before your classes start.
Are you a visual learner, auditory learner, reading and writing learner, or kinesthetic learner? Or are you something else – something not here, or a mix of them? If you don’t know, there’s a lot of tests you can do online to help you figure it out. You’ll need to adapt to online learning, but knowing how you learn can be a huge idea to getting concepts and understanding them.
Here’s a few examples of ways you can learn for each of the overarching “learner” types. You might not fit into one box specifically. If you’re not sure, try out each technique – you’re bound to stumble upon something that helps you.
- Visual learners will learn the best when they can visualize concepts. Try using a whiteboard, or drawing out the link between different concepts. For example, have a visual representation of your keyboard up on your desk wall while you learn not to look at your keyboard.
- Audio learners love to listen to people talk, and prefer to absorb their information that way. Try reading your notes out loud, or listen to the audiobook of your textbook. No, unfortunately listening to your textbook while you’re sleeping will not help you remember concepts you haven’t learned yet.
- Kinesthetic learners use physical objects, like building blocks or replicas of items, to learn. Sitting still for a long time may be hard, and they may fidget with pens in between writing stuff down. Walk around while reviewing your notes, or go for a walk outside to refresh your brain.
- Reading/Writing learners learn the best by simply reading or writing concepts. The newest “type” of learner, you learn best by reading textbooks or written lecture notes. Try reading your assigned readings before class to help you grasp concepts.
Remember that you most likely won’t slot into one of these types of learners exclusively – in fact, it’s more likely that you’re a combination of these learning types! Figuring out your “style” beforehand can help you adapt faster and absorb concepts better.
In addition, knowing that not all learning styles will help with all classes will put you at an advantage. For instance, audio learners may not benefit from learning in Grammar and Proofreading because we speak differently compared to how we type. Adapting your learning style as well will help you out in the long run.
- Make a workspace dedicated to school work, and only school work.
This one might be the hardest, but it’s the one that everybody on your LAS Executive Team agrees on. It’s hard to focus when you’re sitting at the kitchen table while your parents, spouse, or roommate makes dinner and plays their music at top volume. Having a dedicated school space, even if your environment is distracting, can help you focus. At the very least, you’ll have all your school supplies there.
If you don’t have your own large space that you can dedicate specifically to work, then try to outfit a moving cart with things that you need. Having everything in one place will save you precious time when writing notes or referencing textbooks. This way, if you have to move from the kitchen to the living room to your bedroom, you have a cart with everything you need.
If you don’t have a desk, we highly suggest getting one. In addition to a desk, and your Keyboarding instructor will go over this, we recommend an external keyboard and a stand for your laptop, to lift it up to eye level. I suggest a mouse as well. There are some decently, relatively inexpensive mice available on Amazon that are wireless.
In summary, for this semester and all of its technology requirements, we recommend:
- A desk, or a dedicated space you can do work in; and
- An external keyboard.
To make your life easier (and to make it easier, technology wise, to do your assignments), I also recommend:
- A wireless mouse;
- A stand monitor;
- A USB splitter, as the SAIT-issued laptops only have three USB ports on them (and you might need to charge your phone); and
- A decent pair of headphones.
If you’re really extra, like me, I also have an external monitor and an external web camera—but I also work from home, so I have those things for work. Your needs may vary.
- Get everything in your calendar as soon as you can.
One of the key components you’ll learn is diarizing – and that’s something you should learn right away. One of the things we all agreed on is writing down your dates as soon as you know them, so you have advance notice of when exams and projects are coming up.
We do disagree, however, on how you do it. Your Legal Computers Applications instructor will ask you to diarize everything in Outlook. Some of us prefer writing stuff down and some of us prefer using your online services, and you’ll find one or two of us that do both. One thing, though, that we all agree on: writing stuff down is incredibly important.
Take a look when you get your course schedules, or course syllabuses. See if your instructor has written down their dates for their exams, or dates that homework might be due. As soon as you have that, write it down. It’ll help keep you calm when it feels like everything is due.
- Take breaks!
Don’t be so hard on yourself! It’s really hard to block our multiple hours of time, but setting small, achievable goals is much easier. One thing that I personally found useful was the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro technique is a way to manage your time by breaking down a large task into smaller, more manageable chunks. Traditionally, you set your timer for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break. During that 25 minute time, you work completely focused on your task, with no distractions. After that timer goes off, you get those five minutes to do whatever you need – bathroom break, water break, social media break, or scream into the void break. I personally set my timer for 20 minutes on, 10 minutes off – and then if I want to cut my break short, I can. By doing this, two hours of studying just flies by.
It’s okay as well to take a day to yourself, if you’re feeling incredibly overwhelmed by school (or things outside of school!). SAIT has a great Student Development website, found here. If you feel like you need help, this is a great place to start, and they have free counsellors that you can take advantage of.
- Reach out if you need help.
If you’re struggling, or feeling like you just don’t understand something your instructor is going over in class, reach out to your instructor. They’re there to help you and ensure you succeed. They’re people too and they understand the struggle you’re going to! All of your instructors will have virtual office hours, where you can reach out to ask for help, or you can also request to set up private appointments with them.
That’s it for now! Tune in for some more tips on how to succeed in the Legal Assistant program!