Teaching Yourself – A Covid (or Otherwise) Guide

Now, more than ever, students find themselves teaching much of the content they’re taking courses for – to themselves. Maybe the professor’s teaching style isn’t compatible with your learning style, you need additional help, you want to get ahead, or you’re doing online school. At one point in the semester, many students find that they have to rely on themselves for one reason or the other – what do you do in this situation? With the current ongoing pandemic, these situations can become even more common. As someone who’s done online learning even before college and corona was a problem, here are my tips for overcoming problems in this situation. 

  1. Gather supplemental material

The number one supplemental material you should have is probably a textbook. In this day and age, this is something most of us try to skip out on – we don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on physical textbooks while paying tuition, which is perfectly understandable. If you’re unable to find a pdf copy of your course’s textbook, find any textbook of that same level. Let’s say you’re studying Physics at an introductory level course. If you can’t find a pdf copy of the textbook needed for this course in class or even an older edition of it, find any brand of the textbook that includes introductory physics. There is bound to be a general, free, online copy of a physics textbook online, and textbooks help a lot in giving you that contextual background that lectures often skip out on. Professors simply don’t have the time or means to go as in-depth, which is what the textbooks can help you with. They also include hundreds of practice problems (which also have answers you can find online) that tend to show up in exams. 

  1. Practice, practice, practice

Once you have the supplemental material and enough contextual information, attempt practice problems. These can be found in your homework or the practice part of your textbook. It’s important to understand the mechanics of a problem, and if you’re stuck and the textbook isn’t helping much, use one of the biggest resources – the internet – for help. Students have been asking questions online for more than a decade now, and you’ll find that these questions are more or less the same (there are only so many problems one can come up with!) but with different values and variables – however, the concepts remain largely the same. 

  1. Youtube, KhanAcademy, StackOverflow, and more

Learning has never been more accessible than it is in this day and age – and the world has adapted to this fact for the better. There are thousands of resources out there that can help you. Many people recommend KhanAcademy. If you’re somewhat outside of the scope of the topics that KhanAcademy covers, be sure to check out Youtube, which can hold the answer you’re looking for. In my courses, I even find the Yahoo Questions forum to be helpful. Reddit also has a couple of sections dedicated to homework help. Take advantage of these recourses, and don’t be afraid to post something on there yourself. 

It’s important to note that the guidelines I have above don’t involve a secondary person – I tried to focus on self-teaching. However, if you’re taking a course, you’re definitely bound to have office hours and tutoring available, which would make your studying process much easier. For example, instead of looking to understand a problem online, you can take the problem straight to office hours, where you’re likely to get a much more in-depth and comprehensive answer. So if you find yourself somewhat half-teaching yourself, be sure to take advantage of the resources that are available to you – I made this guide primarily for those who don’t have those resources and can’t rely on others. 

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