The Technology You'll Need for Distance Learning
The age of distance learning is here. Colleges and universities are increasingly incorporating online education into their offerings, and many professors are using the Internet and the latest learning tools to create a curriculum that inspires students no matter where they live. Schools all over the world are also offering distance lectures as an option for students with emergency circumstances so that everyone can keep up with their coursework.
Distance learning also presents a unique set of challenges, though, including staying focused at home while also ensuring you have the best technological tools for success. Many of today's courses rely on cutting-edge conferencing technology, interactive apps and even tablet-based tools. With the right computer and some smart habits, you'll be ready to learn remotely and never miss a lesson.
Smart Practices for Distance Learning
Learning from home can be a grind if you haven't developed the right habits. For instance, you'll probably be working in your bedroom or on the kitchen table, while your parents pester you to take out the garbage or walk the dog. And if you have a younger sibling who wants to build forts while you're watching an important lecture, the distractions may become too much to bear.
So first, take a deep breath. Distance learning isn't an ideal situation, especially if you're used to being independent. But it's definitely manageable, and you may find that the remote learning process actually has its perks (like the ability to watch lectures at your own pace). To help adjust to this new academic lifestyle, here are a few smart practices:
Create an Engaging Remote Learning Environment
It's crucial to have a nurturing space where you feel comfortable studying for hours at a time. This might be a home office, a desk in your bedroom or even a patio table in the backyard, but you should create a learning station and make a habit of studying there. This will help keep you focused when videogames, social media and pestering parents take you out of a groove. You might also want to play light instrumental music in the background while doing homework if it helps you focus. Find out what works for you, and then stick to it.
Schedule Time to Complete Assignments
With a normal school schedule most students are out and about during the day, taking classes and studying in the library. That's not the case with distance learning, so you'll need to be more disciplined about your weekly schedule. We suggest using a calendar or planner and penciling in all the lectures that you need to watch for the week, while also setting aside plenty of time for homework and reading. As a remote learner, you'll have more time than you know what to do with, but that time can quickly disappear if you're not using it wisely.
Check in on a Regular Basis
Many distance education classes are set up in weekly or biweekly modules, with assignments due for each module. Still, changes can occur. Check in at least every other day to see if there’s anything new. In addition, professors often require regular participation in online discussion forums. If so, check in at the beginning of the week to make your first post, then come back a day or two later for a followup.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
It might seem weird to ask questions when you're not face-to-face with professors, but it's an invaluable part of the learning process so don't shortchange yourself. Almost every distance learning portal will allow you to submit questions on a course discussion board, and if that isn't an option, you can always get in touch with professors via email. In fact, when it comes time to ask professors for a letter of recommendation down the road, you'll already have correspondence and rapport over email, so it won't feel like a big ask.
Take Advantage of Every Resource
The beauty of online learning is that you're a web search away from virtually anything. Plus, distance courses typically have online study groups where you can share notes, virtual office hours where you can connect with instructors, and more. All of these resources can help you make the most of the distance learning experience.
Keep in Touch with Classmates
Finally, just because you're learning from your childhood bedroom in the suburbs doesn't mean you should stay isolated from friends and classmates. In fact, many distance learning courses are designed with mandatory study sessions where peers can help quiz each other and pool their knowledge. We recommend scheduling video chats with at least a few classmates every week to study and socialize.
Chromebooks: The Ideal Distance Learning Fit
You don't need much to learn remotely. Having a cutting-edge student laptop is great if you can afford it, but it's more important to invest in a portable device with amazing battery life and enough processing power to handle livestreams. Enter the Chromebook. Designed around Chrome OS, these affordable PCs offer a streamlined laptop experience that mostly takes place in your browser, but still gets the job done. With a Chromebook, you can log into online classes, take notes, host video chats and reply to emails without skipping a beat. Many of them are also designed with rugged frames that can even weather a drop from a school desk. And with the extra money saved from not buying a high-performance laptop, you can invest in a quality monitor for a more expansive learning experience.
Here are three of the best options for distance learners on a budget:
Lenovo 100e Chromebook
Built with a tough housing that includes rubber bumpers and mechanically anchored keys, the 100e Chromebook is ready for the rigors of remote learning. It boasts up to 10 hours of battery life, so you can take it around the house or the backyard patio. And since it has Chrome OS, students get access to the full G Suite, including Google Classroom and a wide range of interactive learning apps. Finally, the built-in HD camera makes video-conferencing a breeze. It's the perfect solution for students, teachers, and first-time laptop owners.
Lenovo Chromebook S340
Booting up in seconds, the Chromebook S340 has everything you need for virtual coursework. The 15" HD display looks incredible, and there's an available touchscreen for even more functionality when doing homework or zooming in on a digital textbook. Weed out distractions with the simple, yet effective Chrome OS, which has all the apps you need to stay productive. And when it's time to unwind, the Google Play Store offers a massive library of TV and movies as well.
Lenovo Flex Series
Finally, if you absolutely need a Windows PC, any of Flex Series laptops offer tremendous value in a lightweight package. These laptops boast an Intel processor that's ideal for productivity software, videoconferencing and web research. These affordable, all-purpose PCs offer up to 10 hours of battery life. And if you like taking notes digitally, the available digital pen lets you jot ideas directly on the touchscreen. The Flex Series PCs get their name for their 2 in 1 functionality, so you can switch from Laptop mode to Tent mode when videoconferencing, or go all the way to Tablet mode for a more hands-on experience.
And for those who want the power to handle more resource-intensive tasks:
Lenovo IdeaPad S940
The IdeaPad S940 offers the best in style and power. Measuring in at a sleek 2.6 lbs, the IdeaPad S940 is the world’s first laptop featuring a curved Contour Display for smoother edges that minimize the appearance of already tiny bezels. With the IdeaPad S940’s IR camera with facial recognition, your face is your password. The IdeaPad S940 uses AI to learn from experience and anticipate your needs, while eye-tracking Glance software lets you shift content from your laptop display to a connected monitor with just a flick of your eyes. When you step away from your IdeaPad S940, the display automatically darkens and content is saved to protect both your privacy and your work.
The IdeaPad S940 comes loaded with either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro for the best in speed, security, support and user experience. Windows 10 comes with a host of powerful productivity and media apps, with thousands more available via the Windows Store.
Whether you're a college student trying to keep up with assignments while on leave or a middle school student just dipping their toes into online learning, there's an impressive laptop out there for every age group. At Lenovo, we have the tech that will inspire your studies and never hold you back. Stay curious, and good luck on your distance learning journey!