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Working from Home

 

One of the things we lose in a distance education course is a sense of "going to work." It's really easy to fall into a pattern of doing all your schoolwork in bed, wearing a bathrobe, and balancing a cup of coffee. I've done it myself. It's a poor idea.

Your emotional health

You really need a sense of separation between your work life and your home life. When we had classes three times a week and you could do your writing in the library or a computer lab, you could go back to your own room and be sort of done for the day, but when your office is your bed, you are always in your office. More to the point, if your office is your bed, you never have a sense of going TO work. Schoolwork becomes one of those annoying tasks like cleaning the bathroom or hanging up your shirts. You lose the "I am a student" identity.

Your scholastic health

During this whole Corona virus thing (beginning about March 10) I had to work from home—my Ashland office was off limits. When I'm working from home like that, I don't work from my bed—it's more likely to be an easy chair. I get settled, then realize I can't find that note I wrote. Then I get settled and need to get up again to find a book. I really don't have any place that I can write things. Stuff gets lost. It's just really annoying, and I suspect that at least an hour a day is wasted on looking for a pen, getting up to locate a book, getting up again to get a legal pad, etc. In the bed-office (or easy chair office) the days sort of blend together, and I'm not sure if this is Tuesday or Thursday. Not good for deadlines (or required Zoom meetings).

If you are like me, you would really benefit from the structure of knowing that you have tasks which must be done and a place to do them.

Your computer's health

The combination of computer plus bed plus food is a recipe for disaster. Even if you manage to avoid spilling your breakfast on your keyboard (you'll need a lot of luck for that one), computers generate a lot of heat, especially when they are dealing with videos, and nestling the thing down in the blankets is very likely to cause it to overheat. I lost a laptop that way. They are made to sit on a hard surface (like a desk) so air can circulate under as well as around.

Best Practice Advice

1. Find a place

The ideal spot is a well-lit desk of some sort with a good chair and an electric outlet for your computer. Your back and your eyes will thank you. You want a spot which is away from the crowd, a spot to which you can go and say, "Well, I'm at work now." If you can't find such a place (if you're on campus and you must cruise around for an empty table), you still need a sense of going out to work and coming back from work.

2. Get organized

Your emotions tell you that a distance education course is less work than a face-to-face course, but that's wrong—a distance ed course is more work because you have to do so much for yourself and because teachers throw in little tasks just to make sure (and be able to report) that you are still participating in the class.

You will need some sort of briefcase or back-pack or something so that you spend as little time as possible searching for missing stuff (the assignment for the next paper, the handout from the last class, etc.)

You also need the organizing attitude which says (now that you are at work doing your primary task of studenting) that this is Monday, so I will do the Monday things first. And leave YouTube, Twitter, and text messages aside for a while. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Get a schedule

Loss of schedule is one of the worst things about our hybrid course. You won't see my shining face, looking at you three times a week and making you feel guilty if you aren't keeping up. It's too easy (especially for the Friday cohort) to say, "Well, I don't have to do anything for English 100 until Friday morning, so I get the rest of the week off."

Recipe for disaster.

You need a realistic daily schedule which gets you doing some of each one of your courses each day. The more detailed, the better. If your personal English 100 schedule says things like "Monday: Read America Now. Tuesday: Write the short response. Wednesday: Read grammar items and take quiz. Thursday and Friday: Work on larger essay." you will have a much easier time in the long run.

A good first step is to go back to your course schedule. The university set aside three one-hour blocks every week for our class, but we will only be using one, so you have two hours which are reserved for English 100 anyhow. Use them, perhaps to do the heavier reading, then spread the "homework" time around the rest of your week.

Remember the two-for-one rule: For every credit hour, you should plan on two hours of homework, so for English 100 you should plan on one hour per week in class and eight hours of homework.

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