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How to listen effectively in an online setting

Because of the COVID-19, students, teachers, and office workers around the globe have been forced into an online setting for their work. Thrust against their will into a new and unfamiliar setting; numerous problems are being faced, the inability to concentrate in online classes and meetings due to innumerable distractions, and disappointment at missing out on college and school life.

While it may be easy (and extremely appealing) to turn off one’s video and audio and zone out during an online class or meeting, in the end, it is the learner who is missing out—the missed lectures will not be coming back and even if we do get a degree in the future—what have we really learned? Hence, it is vital to make an effort to listen effectively and be accountable.

1. Establish your visibility

Moving straight from a familiar place surrounded by peers to an online setting may feel stiff and distant. However, online classrooms come with numerous diversions, primarily since the devices students learn from often double as the causes of their distraction. One easy way to make yourself pay attention is to make sure your face is visible during a meeting or class—not only will it be supportive to the speaker and reassuring to peers as it establishes a personal connection, but it also makes paying attention compulsory. This social pressure may be daunting, but it prevents one from drifting off to do something else or nodding off. Additionally, this connection allows for a more dynamic learning environment and makes learners feel comfortable engaging with their peers or coworkers.

2. Provide feedback, summarize, and ask questions.

One easy way to effectively accelerate online learning is to constantly summarise what the speaker is saying and double-check if what you’re saying is in line with the speaker. This enforces the feeling of a real-life classroom and closes the distance between the speaker and listener. Most online lectures end up being a monologue with the speaker going on and on with occasional yeses—however, this type of communication is detrimental to learning. By actively asking questions and cross-checking with the speaker, not only does it help the listener understand and focus better, but it also reassures the speaker that people are actively listening to them.

3. Group discussions

An effective way to emulate the feeling of a real classroom is to build an environment where a peer-to-peer exchange is a standard. Collaborative discussions help students feel welcomed and heard even in a video conference— they are more likely to listen to each other in a community that encourages the exchange of new thoughts. Asking teachers or speakers to dedicate even 5 minutes of lecture time to group discussions can help immensely.

4. Use in-between time wisely

Often students may find themselves with 1 or 2 hours of free time between classes. If this time is used well, it makes paying attention in the following lecture easier—and on the flip side, if one drifts off to sleep or starts hastily scrolling social media in between, it can make concentrating even harder. Looking at a screen for more than 2 hours at a stretch can be extremely tiring. Hence to relax, it is better to listen to calm music or do some light exercise. Reading up the study material from before also makes it easier to form doubts and understand better.

As the second wave of COVID - 19 subsides, schools and colleges are still far from reopening. Change in our listening and concentrating abilities will not come to us unless we actively make an effort to do so. By employing these methods to listen and focus better, we can prevent wasting time during online conferences and classes and combat the learning difficulties that come with this pandemic.

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