By Dr. Lisset Bird-Pickens
Faculty Member, School of Education, American Public University
“We are in the midst of unprecedented times!” These are the words that we hear time and time again as we find ourselves in the center of a global pandemic.
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But saying these words doesn’t make our current situation any easier, and ignoring the realities of this pandemic will only make it more difficult to navigate through this challenging time.
We are all in some way impacted by COVID-19. Not only are we having to adjust our professional and personal lives, but the current pandemic has also posed challenges to students seeking an education.
For adult learners, the situation is especially perplexing. They are not only taking care of their full-time jobs and caring for family members, but these students are also working toward a degree with the aid of online classes.
Some students are learning their way around the online classroom for the first time. Coupled with pandemic lockdown measures and social distancing, the stress of this time can be overwhelming.
Online Classes Offer Flexibility and Convenience, But You Must Have Realistic Expectations
However, online education has two great benefits for adult learners who are new or current students: flexibility and convenience. For instance, working from the comfort of your own home and at a time that works best for you and your family, are great benefits of online learning.
During this pandemic, the flexibility and convenience of online learning are worth more than gold. Nevertheless, it is also important to develop realistic expectations for your online education.
Online learning requires just as much effort, if not more, than a traditional brick-and-mortar university. Self-discipline is a crucial requirement in successfully navigating through online classes, and the motivation to learn and to continue on the path of success is crucial.
How to Retain Your Motivation in Online Classes
So what can we do to retain our motivation as adult learners taking online classes during the pandemic? I advise several tactics.
Begin with the End in Mind
Try your best to not lose sight of your desired outcome: achieving a degree and using that knowledge in your current job or future career. If you could visualize your future, what does that desired outcome look like to you?
Set aside some time to daily or even weekly to remember the big picture….the reason why you have even taken on this journey. Reflect on that purpose, and always seek to see the bigger picture.
Reward Yourself at Intervals
It feels great when we accomplish a goal that we’ve worked hard to achieve. That feeling of accomplishment is very rewarding, but taking the time for yourself to do something nice for yourself or even someone else can create even more internal motivation.
It is so important to celebrate the little achievements, no matter how small they are. For example, set a goal for yourself this week and a timeline by which you want to accomplish this goal.
Once you have achieved it, reward yourself with something that makes you happy. This reward may be a new pair of shoes or even a trip to the local drive-in or park over the weekend. Whatever it is, acknowledge your accomplishments!
Remaining positive may seem like a far stretch during this time, but it can be done. You can achieve a positive mindset when you focus on something bigger and greater than the problems that exists.
For many people, maintaining a positive mindset may involve tapping into their faith. Others may prefer to starting each day with yoga or even practicing the art of mindfulness or in some instances a combination of everything and that’s okay.
Something else that we can do as we’re taking online classes is to create and stick to a schedule. This practice is also connected to a positive attitude.
Research has shown that when we fall behind or fail to achieve our goals, it impacts our motivation and in turn elevates our level of stress. The resulting stress leads to feelings of helplessness and fosters negativity. If you try to stay positive throughout your online learning experience, you’ll find it makes your life a little easier.
When students are healthy, both physically and mentally, there is a greater chance of successful academic performance. As you sit down each week to establish your schedule, build in some time for regular exercise, healthy snacks and meals. Also, set aside some time for rest and relaxation to avoid burnout.
You can always begin small and then increase your time incrementally as the weeks progress. It is important that you practice self-care, especially during this pandemic and social distancing.
When you take online classes, you won’t see your classmates or instructor face-to-face, so it is very important to take active steps to avoid feelings of isolation. Now is a great time to access the Student Affairs resources and join one of the university’s clubs and organizations.
These online clubs and organizations provide opportunities to interact socially with your peers in a safe and virtual environment, while allowing you to remain in line with social distancing guidelines. There are also some great apps available that make it possible to easily connect with your peers and even with your instructors through instant message, email, Google Hangouts, discussion forums, and applications such as Zoom. Your interactions will keep spirits high and help you develop a level of healthy level of involvement.
The COVID-19 crisis has indeed changed the world as we know it, and each person has been impacted in some way. It is important to do what we can to keep ourselves and our families safe and healthy.
In order to achieve this outcome, we need the right motivation. Without motivation and clear outlook, we create even greater challenges that will make even the simplest of tasks insurmountable.
About the Author
Lisset Bird-Pickens, Ed.D., is a professor at American Public University. She holds a B.S. in psychology from Georgia Southern University, an M.Ed. in early childhood education from Mercer University, an M.Ed. in school counseling from The University of West Alabama and an Ed.D. in education/instructional leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Bird-Pickens has experience in online learning and has taught at the university level since 2006. She has taught elementary students and adult learners.
Her academic background is in early childhood education, educational leadership, psychology, and child and family development. Dr. Bird-Pickens is also a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor and nationally certified school counselor. She holds certifications in teaching pre-K through 12th grades, school counseling in K-12 and educational leadership in K-12.