How to keep learning during COVID-19 while schools are closed

DATE: June 2020
AUTHOR: Louise Sinclair

Across the country, dental schools have ceased in-person learning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and dental students have left campus. Technology means that students can continue to learn remotely. However, online classes bring with them their own set of challenges.

If you’re continuing your dental education remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, here are some strategies for staying engaged, motivated and disciplined while you learn from home.

Embrace your community

Interacting with peers, colleagues, patients and professors is an essential and rewarding part of a well-rounded dental education. If you’re missing the social and collaborative aspects of studying, there are many ways you can keep the community spirit alive.

Many students are continuing collaborative learning by joining webinars, discussion groups and forums. Ask your school if they’re facilitating any such activities, or get together with other students to form your own discussion group.

You can also set up informal discussion or study groups on platforms like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. This is a great opportunity to share learning strategies, get new perspectives on the study material, or simply help each other to navigate this challenging time. However, if you are discussing patient information that falls under HIPAA, make sure that you are using a HIPAA-compliant method.

Be an active learner

If you find yourself zoning out in Zoom classes, try to treat them as much like in-person classes as possible. Keeping your camera on, taking notes, getting involved in discussions and asking questions will help you to feel more connected and engaged.

Create a designated study space at home

When you’re spending all of your time at home, it’s important to draw boundaries between your personal and study space so that you can switch off afterwards. Resist the urge to work from the sofa and carve out a designated study space that’s separate from your relaxation space if that's possible.

Minimize distractions

Even the most disciplined student can be thrown off by the distractions of studying at home. Before you start a study session, take a few minutes to set up your environment for success.

Do you have all your study supplies to hand? Is your study area cluttered? Is there a nagging chore you forgot to do? Are you hungry or thirsty? Is your chair uncomfortable? Is your roommate’s TV too loud? Is your phone pinging? Take care of these distractions before you start so that you can study uninterrupted.

Create a schedule

When you’re not bound by a school timetable, it can be tempting to put off studying until later. However, during times of uncertainty, having a reliable routine can give you a sense of purpose and control.

Remember that you have more freedom than ever to set your own schedule, so make the most of it! Choose the time of day when you feel most alert, motivated and productive, and set that aside to really immerse yourself in your studies.

Take a break

In this time of potentially prolonged stress and anxiety, it’s important to accept that you may not be working at the capacity you’re used to. If you attempt to push through regardless, you’re unlikely to perform at your best, and you may even lead yourself to burnout. Be sure to listen to your body, take breaks when you need to, and switch off and relax when your scheduled study hours are up.

Ask for help

If you’re finding it difficult to adjust to your new study arrangements during COVID-19, don’t hesitate to ask for help. This is a time of significant change and upheaval for everybody, so whether you’re having technical difficulties, falling behind, or simply feeling isolated, rest assured that your peers and professors will understand your challenges and be ready and willing to support you.