So, you've decided to learn something new right from the comfort from your very own home... good choice! These are difficult and uncertain times that we find ourselves in and as I've said before, there's no reason why you shouldn't try to better yourself just because you can't buy a carton of milk without wearing a pair of gloves and a full face mask from the supermarket...
Anyway, you've chosen the new skill you want to learn about and you've booked a set of lessons, which are currently on offer for a really good deal (Am I being subtle enough)... so, the question is now: "How do I ACTUALLY learn from home?"... what I mean is, what's the best way to get set up for learning from home? I'm going to give you a list of tips to turn your front room/ your study/ your kitchen/ your toilet (best to avoid that one) in to the most efficient learning environment...
1. You need to make sure you choose somewhere quiet; or at least somewhere where you can maintain focus and not have to deal with interruptions or external noise. There's nothing more frustrating for you or your online teacher than someone bursting in to the room every 5 minutes trying to find a book or looking for that DVD they've been looking for all day long. Choose somewhere that's relatively shut off from the rest of your house, if you can and make sure if you live with others that you tell them when your lesson is booked so they know not to disturb you!
2. Make sure the device you choose to connect to your tutor with has enough battery and/or can be connected to a power source. You don't want to be half way through a lesson and suddenly be cut off because you let your phone run down to 5% or you forgot to charge your iPad.
3. This is a kind of extension of number 2; which is the best device to use when online learning? Well, it does depend on the type of lessons you have chosen to take. If you are going to be learning how to speak a new language or how to play the stock market, then you may be able to get away with using a phone or an iPad- something that doesn't require you to be physical or use your hands; if, however, you have chosen something like singing/ voice lessons (not sure why you're reading this if you haven't, then I would recommend using something like a laptop or a desktop computer with access to a webcam. These types of lessons can get quite physical. You will often be required to be on your feet and have full use of your hands, or you may need to do work on the floor; the last thing you want is having to hold your iPhone in your hand whilst trying to massage your jaw all while trying to maintain focus with your tutor on the other end of the phone (who is probably feeling a bit sick due to the shaky cam approach you've gone for, by the way). Also, as a teacher, I need to see what you're doing, I need to be able to check your technique for certain exercises and be able to check in with your posture etc... that's rather hard to do if the camera is flying all over the place or isn't focused on one consistent spot.
4. Lighting is another important thing to consider. It may seem obvious, but you need to make sure you choose somewhere with bright enough lights that a teacher can actually see you and what you're doing... there's no point teaching someone in pitch black, how can I tell whether you're actually doing the exercise I've just given you correctly? It's also quite intimidating and off-putting to try and teach someone you can't actually see properly.
5. Another obvious one is audio. Make sure you have access to some sort of speaker system that ACTUALLY allows you to hear and microphone capabilities that ACTUALLY allow me to hear. I'm not saying you have to spend thousands of pounds on the best microphone and sound system, I'm just saying, don't try and take a class with broken speakers that a mouse would struggle to hear anything from and/ or a microphone that makes you sound like some sort of weird robot pigeon. This is especially important if you are taking voice or singing lessons for obvious reasons. If I can't hear you or you can't hear me properly, we're not going to get very far.
6. Make sure wherever you choose has enough room for you to move about. A broom cupboard under the stairs won't suffice. You're not Harry Potter! As I've already said, some classes, including mine, will require you to move around and perform exercises standing up or on the floor, therefore you need to be somewhere where you can perform these exercises without having to remain in the foetal position position or having to give yourself some sort of spine injury just to see the camera. You don't need a mansion, just comfortable space to swing your arms.
7. Make sure you have something to make notes with. This one is really important; very often you may need to write information down for you to remember later or I might give you an exercise or recommend a book or a website for you to take a look at to further your learning, if you don't have anything to write it down with, you will forget and hinder yourself! Just a piece of paper and a pencil is enough, even your phone will do (if you're not using it for the actual video call).
8. This is more of a courtesy thing... try and switch your phone to airplane mode or at the very least, put it on silent... Let's face it, it's not like you've got anywhere else to be right now, I'm sure a phone call or a group WhatsApp message dedicated to funny COVID-19 memes and GIFS can wait until the end of the lesson. It's your money that you're spending on these sessions, why waste it by allowing yourself to be distracted by your phone? It's also incredibly frustrating for your teacher to have to sit and wait for you to respond to a message!
9. Try and choose a place that has a decent WIFI connection. Much like the battery issue, there's nothing more annoying than a session cutting out halfway through or glitching in and out the whole time because you've decided to choose a location about 5 miles away from your WIFI box. Nobody wants to be staring at a frozen still of your face, let's face it, it always freezes in the most embarrassing pose.
10. This sort of leads off from the phone thing... please don't choose a place that has lots of distractions, or at least make sure those distractions are temporarily stopped. If you've chosen your living room, for example, don't have the TV blaring out or the Radio... you need to make sure you can focus and hear what the teacher is telling you; having "Location, Location, Location" or Magic FM on in the background isn't going to help you.
11. Above all, make sure you show up to your online class dressed appropriately. This covers various bases. If you're going to be taking part in something physical, don't wear a suit or a ball gown... on the other end of the spectrum, please be sure to wear SOMETHING. Trying to teach someone in the nude is incredibly distracting and I promise won't earn you extra credit!
So, there we have it... just some tips to help you take part in online learning in the most efficient and comfortable way. You don't have to literally rebuild your house to look like a school classroom, you just need to accommodate a few things and make slight adjustments to ensure you and your teacher have the best possible experience!