Insights on remote learning from NIU digital marketing students

Recently, NIU Digital Marketing instructor Jessica Gibbons (pictured above) engaged her students in a discussion on learning in a digital world. While the Department of Marketing‘s digital marketing program is offered 100% online, the impact of COVID-19 and the university’s pivot to remote instruction and remote learning has still been felt in a variety of ways even for those who are accustomed to a fully online virtual experience. As Gibbons says, “Even though our class has the advantage that many participants are used to being in a digital environment, no one expected their whole lives to be like this.” For this reason, she decided that she and her students needed to take “a step back from formal conversations to be real.” Here are some highlights of what students in Gibbons’ digital marketing class had to say.

JG: So, things are weird out there right now. How are you doing? How are you handling the transition to online exclusively? If you are an on-campus student, what do you miss most about being on campus? If you are virtual only, what advice would you give to your peers?

Nathan: Yes, things are very weird right now. I am doing okay. It’s tough right now because I just recently became an uncle and I cannot see my nephew until the end of May. Transitioning to online classes is not too hard because most of my classes are online, except one. Something that I say to my peers is “we have been through many tough times in this country and have always come out better because of it. I know things are tough right now, but they can only get better from here.”

Blake: As someone who was originally taking all online courses, not much has changed for me in that regard. For those who have switched to online, my advice would be learn how to manage time. Online has been great for me because it allows me to balance work and school, but it can quickly become overwhelming with a mindset of “I can wait; nothing is due until Sunday night.” Even just taking the time to plan when you will do assignments can take a lot of stress off. I would also say to keep the same mentality during these lectures. Keep routines, keep taking notes the same way and things like that. Do not change what has gotten you here just because the class format has changed. Luckily, I have not been personally affected by the virus itself. But since it led to work closures and so much else, I will say that it is nice having so much time to focus on school, since my work is at a minimal amount right now. Hopefully everyone else is doing well, but this will definitely be interesting to look back on.

Chloe: Things are very weird right now, but I finally have a new life schedule, which is making things better. I am finishing my degree online, so nothing has changed. Here are a few things that make life easier: 1) make a calendar of what is due. That way you can keep track of each class and check things off as you go. 2) Make a to-do list for each day. 3) Set aside a chunk of time for whatever amount of days you do homework, just for homework. I do homework everyday right in the morning so I can get it over with. 4) Don’t lay and do homework on your couch of bed. Productivity levels tank when you do that.

Katharine: It is definitely weird right now, especially being home when the rest of my family is too. I miss working and leaving the house. The transition is harder with some classes – especially those that I thought were hard enough in person – so I am struggling to make sense of things. I miss being able to walk around campus freely, especially on beautiful sunny days. I have had a couple online courses and my advice is to stay on top of assignments. Don’t push them for the next day just because you feel as if you have more time; it will catch up to you faster than you think.

Iris: I have been taking most of my classes online so not much has changed. There are many benefits with online courses but a lot of students might feel limited with communication when taking courses online. So for students who are new to this, I strongly recommend being open with communication with your professors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to professors or advisors when needed. It is always better to ask and move on rather than being stressed out with unsolved issues. Also make a daily study plan. It is the best way to manage your time. As I am taking six online classes and also taking care of two teens (one of whom is also doing e-learning), a daily study plan has been helpful to me when I need to complete more than dozens of assignment a week. By setting goals, being open to communication and managing your time, we will be able to finish strong throughout the semester!

Joylyn:  Even though the world is crazy, my life is good right now. I have a lot to be thankful for. My husband is working from home, and my two daughters are doing school at home. I am doing school and an online marketing internship. Because my two “day jobs” are closed right now, I have a lot more time to focus on my classes, my family, and my internship. I enjoy being home with my family and still being able to do my work. I hope to continue this family connection after the virus is over. All of my classes are online, so I have learned a few skills to succeed as an online student. I hope these 10 tips of what I’ve learned help you: 1) Set aside specific times every day to do school work, and commit to it. 2) Have a dedicated space. I have a desk. Keep it clean. 3) Do all your reading/notes on the front end of the week. 4) Read everything the teacher assigns, and watch all the videos, pausing the video as needed to take notes. 5) Take notes to use during the quizzes/tests as allowed. 6) Take pictures or screen shots of detailed info such as charts or infographics so you can go back and reference it later. 7) E-mail or call your teachers if you get confused or have any questions. All of mine have been wonderful about helping. 8) Put all due dates for assignments in your Google calendar. You can set alerts/reminders to notify you on your phone. 9) Set the alarm clock on your phone to remind you to attend specific appointments, meetings, etc. 10) Stay connected and check your e-mail, Blackboard, and calendar every day to see what you have coming. These things have helped me succeed as an online student. I think the main thing is to have a plan and adjust it as you learn what works best for you. Good luck!

Jayla: The one thing I miss about being on campus is meeting with my teachers. I’m so used to doing my classes in person and having group discussions and collaboration, so it is an adjustment. It is also hard to do group projects when you’re unable to meet in person. For example, my yoga class is all online now and it’s weird not having the in-person discussion. I used to commute two hours everyday to campus, so at least I’m saving a fortune on gas! One piece of advice I would give is to plan out your days so you’re not overwhelmed with coursework.

Ryan: So far I’ve been doing pretty well despite all the changes happening for all of us. Considering that half of my classes were online to begin with and I’ve done online courses every semester I’ve been at NIU, this hasn’t been a bad transition for the most part. I commuted to school, but I do miss seeing everybody and having in-person discussions in class. If I have any advice to give, it would be to set aside a time each day that is just for focusing on school work. Personally, I like to wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee and finish at least 2-3 tasks for some classes. This has become a routine for me and allows me to get everything done on time. I hope everyone is finding a way to get through these times we are facing!

Megan: I am virtual only and my advice to those adapting to an online-only curriculum is to stick to a routine. Whether that is designating how much progress you’ll make on assignments day-to-day, scheduling time throughout the week to work on courses, or something else entirely, adding structure to online classes is incredibly helpful. With that said, what is a routine nowadays anyway?! Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

Patrick: In this current environment, I am doing ok mentally. I’m a manager of my department as well as the most senior manager, therefore, I also mentor other managers and lead discussions regarding the direction of the department, which is spread between Illinois and Florida. We’ve made the drastic transition of moving from a 100% call-center based team to 100% work-from-home. This has resulted in numerous challenges…from technology issues to employee performance issues that you might expect to happen with a fully work-from-home approach. The last few weeks have not given me much time to reflect on myself, however, I ensure that I block off a portion of my day to sit and reflect, and spend time with my family. We developed a routine of eating lunch together everyday as well as incorporating exercise time but each time someone different leads the family workout. Even though I am now working from home, which is very different for me, I start everyday the same way as if I was getting ready to drive to the office.

posted, with minor editing, by M. De Jean, Director of Marketing, NIU Business

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