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'ROAR'ing into new classes: How to succeed in virtual classes

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Since kindergarten, we as students have been taught classroom etiquette. By college, most of us have learned how to succeed in the classroom. However, students are once again having to learn how to succeed in class, this time over Zoom while taking synchronous classes or while being in fully online classes.

When taking synchronous or asynchronous classes, Dr. Vincent Genareo, a professor in the Seidel School of Education, recommends students use an acronym that stands for four components, called the “ROAR” method. The first component of his method recommends that students maintain a routine.

“The first ‘R’ stands for routines. It’s important that students and faculty maintain routines. Humans need that, we are sort of routine-based animals. Routines are especially important for us now, because a lot of us feel like we’ve lost some control in our lives and the world around us and keeping routines helps us feel in control. I think it’s important to maintain routines for everything you would do if you were in traditional class … so have consistent wake-up times and bedtimes, give yourself consistent mealtimes as much as possible, just give yourself that predictability throughout the day, even if you have a free day…” Dr. Genareo said.

Dr. Sarah Surak, a professor in the Fulton School of Liberal Arts, also feels that it is important that students keep a routine, whether they are in the classroom or working at home all day.

“The key is to just schedule the time, because even though you’re not going to the campus with the same routine, like at campus if you had two classes and a break in between, you might usually go to the library and work on whatever for the next class, but if you’re at home or if you’re somewhere else, you feel at home and it’s hard to kind of get into that routine,” Dr. Surak said.

The next tip that Dr. Genareo gives, is working to stay organized. Staying organized is always important in college and in other aspects of life as well but is especially key when taking virtual classes.

“The ‘O’ in ROAR stands for organization … things that I would recommend that are good tips for college students are have a work space … set aside a corner to be your workspace … get a calendar or a planner that has all your events in it … make sure in that [the planner/calendar] you are writing times of when classes are meeting, make sure you are writing times when things are due, but more importantly, keep track of your work along the way … you should be building in chunks of time along the way with specific goals each day so you’re not procrastinating and you’re not waiting until the end,” Dr. Genareo stated.

Dr. Genareo also believes that taking care of oneself is important, especially during this pandemic when people may feel more stressed and isolated.

“The ‘A’ stands for acceptance. I think this is really important for college students and for all of us to do, is to be kind to ourselves … I think it’s important to treat yourself occasionally also, that is part of that being kind to yourself … you can treat yourself or reward yourself by having times that you set aside where you can stream your favorite shows or you can read your favorite books, or have snacks or do something you enjoy, and I think that should be everyday…” Dr. Genareo said.

The last letter of the ROAR acronym stands for “relationships.” Forming and maintaining a positive relationship with professors is especially important in virtual classes but can be more challenging because you aren’t able to meet with them face to face.

“Stay in touch with your professors. The relationships with your professors might be more important this semester, especially those that are at a distance. We still want to get to know you … so attend virtual office hours, send emails, ask questions, these are all ways that you can maintain the relationships that you could have in a traditional semester, even though it’s a little bit different this semester,” Dr. Genareo stated.

Dr. Surak also believes that forming a relationship and interacting with professors is important in being successful in an online class.

“Faculty now have Zoom office hours … those are hours that we’re scheduled that we are dedicated to meeting with students … those office hours become even more important to drop in when you have questions, because it is really hard sometimes for the instructor to see that students are getting it [the material] in the classroom…” Dr. Surak said.

When participating in a synchronous class, students may find it more challenging to pay attention than when in the physical classroom. However, it is recommended that students act as though they are in the classroom and work as they would in there.

“I recommend trying to think of that screen time as [class,] just like you would be taking notes hopefully in class … writing is going to help you remember that [lesson,]” Dr. Surak said.

Making sure to pay attention while in the class is also important. When at home, it can be easy to be distracted with other tabs on your computer, other people in the house or room, and other tasks that are waiting to be done. However, failing to pay attention can hurt students’ learning and retention of the material.

“We know … from the Social Cognitive theory … that we can’t learn unless we pay attention. if [your class] is like a synchronous Zoom class, think of it exactly as you would if you were in a regular class. A regular class you wouldn’t or shouldn’t be checking your phone, or have some tabs open on the side … that is called the butterfly defect … when you are bouncing back and forth from thing to thing you are doing none of them well,” said Dr. Genareo.

In order to succeed in synchronous and asynchronous classes, it is important to pay attention during the class, stay organized with class meeting times and assignments, and take care of your mental health so that you are in a positive mind space to learn. Students shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to their professors, especially since this is all new for professors too.



Staff writer

Featured photo: Salisbury University Facebook Page

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