It goes without saying that the transition to online school (and online TKS) has forced us to adapt. For many students, this shift has imposed new challenges. While it looks like the end of online is in sight for those in the US and Canada, many students around the world will be doing another year of online learning – by choice or not. Fortunately, we’ve learned many ways to combat these challenges and thrive in remote environments. It’s important to experiment and find what approach or combination of strategies works best for you.

Build structure in a sea of ambiguity

Without the physical classroom setting, online learning might make your education feel less tangible, and as a result, more abstract and overwhelming. One of the best ways to combat this ambiguity is to create a structure for yourself. For example, large projects might seem like an impossible feat at first, but by breaking it down into smaller, more attainable goals, the task becomes achievable and the path to success becomes clear. 

A great example of this mindset is in TKS when students do a deep dive into a specific technology, also known as a “Focus”. The goal of a Focus is simple, but also comes across as overwhelming: become well-versed, build projects, and be legit surrounding that chosen technology. To help make focuses more manageable, they are broken down into smaller tasks/goals along the way.

To start, students will first write a “learn” article that reflects on their initial exploration into the subject. Then, students are encouraged to build a project that replicates one someone has already done. This step then equips students to then build their own projects. This process demonstrates that breaking down large challenges into many small goals along the way makes task management much more effective.

Learning to structure your time is also critical in the remote environment. Most online learning programs do not require you to be in a seat, learning alongside others for a set amount of time. That can leave you with such a wide-open feeling to the class. With this lack of structure of time during the day, the urge to de-prioritize and procrastinate increases. To combat this openness of time, break it down into manageable blocks, and assign to-do items within those sections to fill the time. You will be more productive, less stressed, and can stay on top of your work more effectively. TKS helps students understand how to time block their calendars, and set priorities.

Keep free of distractions

The intangible nature of online learning amplifies the allure of distractions. It’s easy to pull out a phone or open a new tab on the computer, but studies show that when attempting to do two things at once, we end up doing both poorly. For many people, this could be the most difficult part of succeeding in an online program, as both hyperactive and inattentive personality styles are fed by the vast void content that is the internet. 

When it comes down to it, the best way to avoid distractions is to prevent them from happening in the first place. TKS students know that keeping the phone shut off isn’t always enough. It’s about creating an environment where distractions have no ability to arise. For example, moving phones out of the room where instruction is taking place, and closing all the unrelated windows on your computer are great practices to get into. 

When TKS students are having trouble managing their time, we recommend they take a look at their phone and computer settings to see how much time they spend on TikTok, Instagram, and other distractions. Those hours you spend scrolling through your reel could be put to better use 

Connect with friends virtually

Connecting with others is part of human nature, but in a time it is scarce, it’s more important than ever. Connections with others help to boost morale, improves productivity, and keeps everyone’s head in the game. In online learning particularly, engaging with message boards and creating virtual study groups are key. Not only do these connections help enrich the efforts of students, but having people to connect with makes classes feel more real, tangible, and human. 

At TKS, our program has been remote for portions of the year, but students were able to thrive in the virtual environment. As a global program, we found that students around the world were able to connect virtually when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to in person. We do this through our “Braindates” feature on our platform – where students can schedule learning and discussion-based meetings with friends from around the world. We also organized games nights, movie nights, and tons of online events with leaders from Neurable, Google X, and more. Not only did these students connect in the virtual environment, but they collaborated on projects, conducted research, built companies together, all remotely. Our students proved that by building a strong community and connecting with others, the outcomes can be extraordinary.

Balance school and fun

While we now tend to work and live in the same physical space, it is often hard to shut off work more and have fun. Stress and burnout are side effects of a poor school/life balance and ultimately limit the ability to succeed. Building off the idea of creating structure, it is important to be intentional about taking breaks, spending time with friends, going on walks, trying a new hobby, and overall enjoy life. This balance also enriches productivity and creates a clear reward for good work.

Seek help and support

This past year has revealed the importance of supporting each other in times of challenge. Now more than ever, it’s important for students to understand that they aren’t alone, and that their peers, teachers, and parents are all helpful resources when trying to overcome academic challenges. Maintaining mental health is also paramount, and strongly impacts the ability to succeed in an online school. No matter the challenge, leveraging a network of support is the difference that can help students thrive academically, and in life.