The COVID-19 pandemic quickly turned the things many of us take for granted—going to the doctor, attending a birthday party, sending the kids to daycare—into high-risk activities that could make others sick. And seemingly overnight, our worlds were turned upside down.
COVID-19 has inevitably affected us all in different ways—from navigating the financial burdens of unexpected layoffs, to having to work from home while homeschooling the kids, to the added stress of keeping yourself and loved ones safe and healthy.
Adult students, in particular, were thrust into a new reality in which they suddenly had to transition from in-person to online learning, often while juggling the stresses of raising a family and holding down a full-time job. A year ago, this might have seemed like an impossible workload. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past several months, it’s how to remain resilient and overcome challenges in the face of adversity. Adult students across the country (and at SNU!) found new and creative ways to remain successful while studying online.
If you’re in the process of starting an online program, here are some of the most important lessons that studying from home has taught.
Things Get Easier with Practice
In the early days of the pandemic, many people hoped they would only be home for a week or two. Even that seemed daunting enough. Now, many adult students have spent months at home. The challenges are real, and people continue to struggle with exhaustion and burnout. Despite this, most families have settled into a routine, juggling more responsibilities and competing demands than they ever thought possible. It’s not easy, exactly, but it’s certainly easier than it was—and likely easier than many families thought endless months of isolation could be.
Practice makes perfect. It also encourages us to see things from new perspectives and to seek out new resources to manage life’s challenges. Virtual zoos, video chats with grandparents, plant sale deliveries, and neighborhood parades are all realities now. They might not be as good as the real thing, but they do take the edge off. These products of bored, ingenious minds show us that things can get better and easier, even when they’re tough and even when the crisis doesn’t disappear as quickly as we hope.
Better Time Management
Time management. Your teachers have lectured you since kindergarten about it. Every college class urges mastering it. Even employers may offer free seminars to help you become an expert. It’s the skill that transcends time and geographic location. No matter where you are, no matter what you do, no matter how much time you do (or don’t) have, you need to make the most of it. Time is the only resource that we can never replenish. Yet many of us take it for granted, spending it on things we don’t need, don’t like, or don’t want.
Studying at home puts time into perspective. It reminds many students that family matters most and that our limited time with them is the most important thing we have. Many students have had to mine their own internal resources to master better time management skills. Some have found that certain tactics work no matter what you’re juggling. They include:
- Eliminate distractions so that you can be intentional about how you spend your time.
- Plan how to spend your time. Time, like money, must be budgeted.
- Pay close attention to where and how you spend your time so you can budget it more wisely in the future.
- Focus on doing a task well and quickly rather than multitasking.
- Develop a strong daily routine, and stick with it. This helps you develop good habits and can ensure you make the most of every moment.
Juggling Different Roles
Studying at home means you may be mom or dad, spouse, employee, and student all at once. That can feel overwhelming, but the truth is that adult students have always had to juggle multiple roles. They just had to do so in different locations. Balancing so many different roles can feel overwhelming and exhausting. It also offers an opportunity to thrive in each role, if you’re willing to use your time wisely and narrow down your goals to those that matter most. Some strategies that help include:
- Schedule time each day that you can commit to each role.
- Use this as a chance to teach your children life skills. Spend time together cleaning up the house, or do your schoolwork together.
- Remind yourself that this is temporary. Eventually you will graduate, and you will no longer need to wear so many different hats.
The Importance of Quality Study Habits
Study skills have always been critical to academic success. Acing a test demands more than just reading the textbook. You have to find ways to make the material relevant so that you can synthesize and truly understand it.
The pandemic has taught adult learners that efficient studying wins every time, whether you’re trying to survive a temporary crisis or focusing on the long game of graduating and getting a great job. Some tips for making the most of your study time include:
- Use your cohort to assist with multitasking. Each member can focus on a different aspect of the course material, which the group can then synthesize into a study guide.
- Take advantage of small blocks of time. When you’re waiting on hold, waiting for your spouse to get out of the shower, or preheating the oven, use the time to brush up on some of the day’s lessons.
- Try listening to relevant podcasts or audiobooks to make your coursework more relevant to your daily life. Listening to something while you clean or cook can make these tasks more fun.
Strategies for Occupying Kids While Studying
Adult students aren’t the only people who need to study. Kids have to learn too. Managing many different course schedules can be tough, but finding ways to learn together makes it a bit easier—and can help you feel more connected as a family. Savvy learners develop a family routine so that everyone can make the most of their time. Try these tips:
- Schedule family study time during which everyone does quiet work or reading.
- Set aside some time during which you can fully concentrate on your own schoolwork while a spouse or baby-sitter helps your kids. Then commit to spending some dedicated time each day supporting your kids to learn.
- Prioritize the most challenging work for both you and your kids so you can get it done while you have the most energy, and then move on to something else.
You Don’t Need a Classroom to Learn
All those years of fighting traffic, long carpool lines, and fighting over seats might truly have been for naught. Learning does not require a special setting, let alone a classroom. You can learn anywhere that you have the right information and equipment.
It’s true that kids need to interact with others and that school teaches more than just academic skills. Social intelligence matters too. For adult learners, though, going to an in-person class may be more trouble than it’s worth. You can do it online and on your own terms.
Many adult learners are balancing a seemingly impossible collection of duties, challenges, and roles. It’s possible to thrive even in difficult circumstances. For many, though, the biggest challenge of all is the lack of time for self-care. Exercise, healthy eating, a few moments to read, meditation, and other strategies help fuel the body and mind for the long haul. It’s possible to push through on a wing and a prayer for a little while, but eventually your body and mind will give in to fatigue. Work-life balance demands self-care. Tending to your own needs is not selfish; it’s vital if you want to graduate with the rest of your life intact.
You Can Do More Than You Think Is Possible
It might not be easy to study at home, whether you’re doing so because of a pandemic or because you hope to give your kids a shot at a better future. Whatever your motivation, remember that we can often do much more than we thought was possible, particularly if we have the right support and a sound plan in place. Struggling can feel exhausting in the moment, but it makes the end goal much sweeter when you reach it. Your kids and loved ones, too, will benefit from seeing that it’s possible to struggle your way to something better.
SNU believes in helping all students chart a course to a better tomorrow. We believe that every learner is different, and we honor the unique contribution that each enrollee brings to our campus. To explore your options and compare learning tools, check out Choose Your Path: Online vs. On-Campus Education.