15 Tips for Remote Learning During the Spring SessionJune 19, 2021

The subject was painting, and your old mate told you that Vincent Van Gogh was a coffee addict. He used to drink twenty-four cups of coffee a day. He asked you to imagine his "Starry Night"', looking at it after drinking twenty-four cups of coffee. Doesn't it seem strange after all? You were at a loss for words, wondering if this was the same teenager who excitedly talked about Cooper, the largest dinosaur that roamed Australia. "Jurassic World" should've been set in Down Under, he added, but you believed that Universal Pictures won't even think about it. You also didn't wish for a venting partner during this time of the year. But you changed your mind. Spring session is around the corner, so you would need it. And it won't be the only one.

You asked your parents if Australia would ever open its borders to the world. Your mother would prefer later this year, if not next year, as she hasn't forgotten her fellow expatriates, mostly Aussies, who acted like grumpy old men during her few years in Hanoi. (And the locals turned out to be nicer to her.) Your father pretended not to hear it, as he asked her if the pandemic redefined Father's Day; he wondered if the new normal would see more men spend more time in raising children. He didn't get an immediate response, as you turned on the telly. Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the 47th G7 summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, and your mother would be surprised if climate change wasn't included in the agenda. You tried to imagine 50C as the normal temperature. Will it prompt Sydneysiders to spend less time in Bondi? Perhaps. Some might look up to the Blue Mountains, which would make you recall a short story by Ivan Vladislavic. ("Is it important to know whether this mountain of his exists in the world? Would it change our appreciation of art?") The delta variant also raised some questions, such as the possibility of Australians bracing for the third wave. Your coursemate, who lived in Victoria most of his life, doesn't want a fourth wave, as he kept on asking if vaccination would require a dress code. (He was bemused after your other coursemate advised him to check out the Duchess of Cambridge on social media. She predicted that her "vaxxie" image would define the pandemic this year.) All of these distracted you from how to conduct remote learning during the spring session. Medical experts advise caution during the new normal, so it would be hard to envision a pre-pandemic life sooner. There's no need for a sour face, though.

What Would Work for You in the Spring?

Call every coursemate. All of your coursemates are feeling uneasy about the pandemic, and you might be the most affected. One of them has a strange sense of humor (Chilbrains: the ice-cream headache). A call should be the first step for rebuilding the "community" in your department. An email is another suggestion.

Be mindful of your communication. Everyone is overwhelmed.

Make introductions. It may seem ridiculous, as you know your coursemates to a certain degree. Some might be awkward about this setup, so a smile could be the ice breaker. Laughter would be better; your father once defined "tinsillitis" as a severe allergic reaction to Christmas commercial excess. Someone might joke about "Burmitis", which would be a painful inflammation of the junta. Expect one to be offended, but you want to make a real connection sooner.

Be real. You can ask your parents about joining you in the next Zoom meeting, which your coursemates might not expect. But they would appreciate it.

Share things you are doing outside of online learning. Aside from reading the short stories of Ivan Vladislavic, you're curious about "emotional eating" after reading an article on Rebel Wilson's weight loss. You're not flabby, but you attempt to embrace a healthy lifestyle. (Your father teased that you would miss your mother's dishes.) It could make your coursemates hungry (and check what's inside the fridge). You might change your mind after one of them is holding a slice of pizza.

Read a poem. It could be a great way to end a virtual conversation. You don't have to analyse it, so no one would remind everyone about the next deadline for your assignment. Reading a poem could be a thoughtful gesture, which might prompt some to reflect. And you would realise that predictability isn't bad at all.

Share or ask. It would reveal the sleepy teenagers, who still have to adjust to a routine. And it's better than an open-ended discussion.

Play a game of check-in and check out. Have you ever wondered if there was a student who said something that could change your way of thinking? If not, then you can allot fifteen minutes (of your meeting) to it. One of your coursemates might know a cure to agoraphobia, a fear of long-winded speeches expounding on the dire consequences of global warming, but you're thinking of your favorite lines from W. Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge".

Assign a "catch-up" teenager. This student will fill in latecomers on what they have missed during the early part of the meeting. They might like someone pulling their legs.

Appoint a "buddy" to a shy student. Your tutor might not have thought of it, as he (or she) and your professors are stressed out. Keep in mind that remote learning is not for everyone, as this setup isn't an option at all. Encourage an introverted coursemate. Shower him (or her) with compliments as well.

Bring in a guest speaker. It can be a writer you have met in a cafe recently, who can share his (or her) expertise on paper writing. This figure might have another job, so his (or her) experience can benefit the double majors.

Where was I? The pandemic would make it impossible to go places, so this game should make everyone recall a particular place during their last holiday. Uluru must be excluded from the list, as this must be a guessing game. It could be a vegetable garden in Southwark (in London), which would be very challenging to some. Or it could be easy as the least-attractive side of Bondi. It can also be a landmark not far from the campus. What else?

Share uplifting stories. It doesn't have to be your grandmother's (strange) tale of how her parents inherited a county house with a lovely front yard, but the neighboring cats seemed drawn to it. (Mice may be playing around.) There are unsung heroes in the neighbourhood, so keep a close watch.

Walk 1,000 steps a day. Spring beckons.

Be willing to let things go. You don't have the courage to tell your tutor that there is something in the module that needs to be modified or eliminated. Remote learning should encourage you to do such things, which would help you in managing the coursework.

Not Everything Need to be Graded

The pandemic could be a blessing in disguise, as remote learning would enable you to focus on what is absolutely necessary at the moment. Mastery of content? Absolutely. Meaningful feedback? Of course. Innovation? Yes.

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