Let me give a real world example. My class used to study the principle of momentum, which gave the relationship between the resultant force on an object and the change in momentum of the object. (Momentum is the product of mass and speed.) This is a very useful principle and is used in many different ways.
A student came to my office and asked about the momentum change of a 1kg ball bouncing off the wall. They want to know: If the ball moves horizontally at a speed of 5 meters per second and then bounces back in the opposite direction at the same speed, what is the change in momentum? Is it zero? Do not. It is not zero, because momentum is a vector, and for a vector, direction is important. (Just in case you are curious, in this case, the change in momentum is 10 kg*m/s in the direction of the final velocity.)
In the one-on-one conversations with students, I can see that the problem they encounter is not the principle of momentum. The problem lies in their mastery of vector concepts. Knowing this, I can go back to class, ask some quick questions about vectors, and see what other students think about the idea, and if others need help, I can let them review it. It completes the feedback loop of learning.
But wait! There are extra rewards for asking questions. If your professor explained something to you, then they might make you doubt when grading tests and homework. If the professor knows that you have encountered difficulties in learning these materials, and sincerely work hard to learn it, they may be responsible for any mistakes you make and may not be so harshly graded. Yes, I know I said that grades are not the most important thing-that’s why this is just a “bonus”.
Work with other students
One of the difficulties of learning during the pandemic is that online courses make it difficult for students to collaborate. This is important because working with others is part of the learning process. Solving the problem by yourself is really hard.
Working with other students will make you realize that you are not alone and that you are not special. It’s very easy to think for yourself in the classroom,”Wow. I really don’t understand anything. Everyone else owns it, but not me. I really don’t belong here.“
guess what? Everyone can be as lost as you are. Everyone thinks that the other people in the class have complete control of the material. But once you understand that everyone is in the same boat, you can start to feel better about your position and begin to gain some real learning gains.
So, if possible, start meeting with other students and working with them outside of class. If you can, try to meet them in the real world-but if you can’t, online discussions are better than zero discussions. In any case, don’t just form a study group that shares notes and answers to homework questions. Build a real learning community. Share opinions. Work together. Explain things and let others explain to you. (This is a secret: you learn the most while teaching. So go out and teach.)
Finally, you can even make some friends. This is not a bad thing, is it?
Almost every course has a compulsory textbook-maybe even two. These books can become very expensive, but they are also very useful. Unfortunately, I have seen many students use textbooks in the wrong way. They started to take notes in class. Then, when they start to do their homework, the first thing they do is to open the book and look for equations that can solve certain problems. It’s like homework is a lock and textbook is a box of keys. Sometimes this strategy can provide you with an answer to a question, but it does not always help you understand the basic material.
On the contrary, I like to think of textbooks as “pre-classes.”Have time to read through relevant chapters forward Class. You don’t have to fully understand all the ideas, but it’s really helpful to have exposure to things before discussing them face-to-face. As you read, take notes.Write down two meaningful things and Something unclear. This will prepare you to ask questions in class and help you outline important ideas (even if you don’t fully understand them).