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Student Lawyer

Student Essentials

Planning for a Successful Online Learning Environment

Bridget Jane Crawford

Planning for a Successful Online Learning Environment

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Over at the Law to Fact podcast, Professor Leslie Tenzer and I have a conversation with tips for law students about online learning.

I’m teaching my classes synchronously (via Zoom) and holding lots of virtual office hours. I encourage my students (here, for example) to “stop by” my online meeting room to say hello, tell me how they are, and talk about the class (or not). If a student reports having trouble with online learning, I have a few tips that might be helpful. As I discuss in the podcast with Professor Tenzer, planning for successful online learning takes place in three phases: before, during, and after any online session

A few of my students report they are having trouble with online learning.  Students report difficulty concentrating, trouble retaining information, and overall high levels of stress. This is completely normal and understandable. 

In these uncertain times, we proceed together with compassion, understanding, and joint purpose. The conditions may change but the students’ and faculty’s commitment to excellence does not.

How can students best position themselves for online learning?

Four Things to Keep in Mind

1.    Make a schedule. Block out times on your calendar for studying, attending classes (whether synchronous or asynchronous), and reviewing the material. Otherwise, working and studying from home can be very difficult without the usual rhythms that propel us forward.

2.    Use Your Calendar. Whether digital, paper, or somewhere in between, put important school-related due dates, prompts, and reminders on your calendar.  Have a practice midterm due on a certain date? Write it down. Need to exchange drafts of a paper with a classmate on another date? Write it down. Professor’s office hours that you’d like to access? Write it down.  With new emails and reminders arriving every day, getting important deadlines and information down on the calendar can be a big help.

3.    Find a Space and Gather Your Materials. Bring to your online class everything you might need—casebook, statute book, highlighters, other materials.

4.    Sit at a Desk or Table.  I personally don’t care what you wear to an online class or where (or whether) you are sitting up or lying in bed. But my students self-report that they feel more ready to learn when they are sitting at a desk or table. Lounging in that recliner may feel great in the moment, but your actual physical posture and position may be working at cross-signals with your brain. Ditto for taking a shower and getting dressed for class. Highly recommended! No, this is not a recommendation to wear a ballgown or even business attire. More that it helps keep you in “I’m in class” mode. Business casual on top, pajamas on the bottom? I won’t ask and I won’t tell.