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Should we return to traditional learning?

One of the main takeaways of the COVID pandemic has been that online learning is more than a viable alternative. It’s an effective learning tool that just makes too much sense to leave out of our traditional educational systems
And now that many college and high school students have had a full year to experience online learning, with all of its advantages, it looks like it’ll be hard to put the genie back in the bottle. Will students ever settle for having classrooms as their only learning option again? And should they?

The Advantages of Online Learning

For students, learning from home hasn’t been all sunshine and flowers. Many schools and universities have reported falling grades and reduced ‘attendance’ during the pandemic, as students had a hard time adapting to online learning tools. Just like some people learn better from reading and others learn better from listening, some students took to online learning right away, while others struggled.

However, the number of students who have simply thrived under the new system is far from insignificant. Many find it easier to study from home at their own pace, surrounded by their creature comforts.

Studying from home also eliminates the need for a commute, and reduces downtime between classes, which has allowed students who adapted well to the new regime to have more free time and be more efficient.

Many have been using that extra time to engage in healthy habits, such as exercising, eating better, and taking natural supplements like CBG oil. This means that studying from home not only has a positive effect on their learning and grades, but on their entire life. These students who have been thriving are understandably dreading having to return to the old routine.

Forcing students to go all the way to a classroom and sit still for several hours so they can learn at a pace that is often too fast or too slow for them hasn’t made sense, for decades. Students often put up with it because they had never experienced formal education in any other way, never been given any other option. But the pandemic changed that reality.

And it’s not like students aren’t the only ones reaping benefits from this. Everyone from teachers to administrators is now experiencing, first-hand, all the advantages of a remote work environment. And while some teachers had trouble adapting, others have found themselves able to be much more effective and simultaneously less stressed while managing online classes.

The pandemic effectively forced students and teachers around the world to undergo a one-year trial period of remote learning. And once that trial period expires, it’s safe to assume that many won’t want to go back to the old ways.

What Educators Can Do

Some areas around the world are already returning to some version of normal college life, with classrooms filled to their limited capacities. But at the time of writing, the education world is still very much in a state of flux.

This is a perfect opportunity for educators and institutions to band together and make the hybrid approach (that was forced upon them, due to COVID) a permanent fixture of their curriculums. Why not make it easier for students who thrived on online learning to continue learning that way? While the students who missed classes, get to go back.

Opportunities for change and reform like this one don’t come often, and it’d be a shame to let it go to waste.

Living Off Campus

Dorm living can be fun, but in my experience here it’s not for everyone. As we progress through our university career, there often comes a time when one might want to start considering off-campus housing. Living on campus offers students a degree of comfort, convenience and simplicity, but, off-campus apartments also have their benefits. If you’re on the fence about leaving the security and familiarity that comes with dorm living, here are some of the main benefits that you’ll experience by living off-campus

More Options
Living in a dorm room with a roommate can become pretty cramped. Of course, it depends on the roommate. While it may be part of the freshman experience, as we mature, it becomes preferable to have a little more breathing space, and living space. You’ll find that off-campus rentals are generally more spacious. Furthermore, you’ll get more privacy and a real kitchen space, set up for cooking real meals, instead of instant ramen. Living off-campus doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on the fun, though. It will allow you to party on your own terms, and have a private place to yourself, for study, or for rest. It can be exhausting living in a dorm, let alone a sorority or frat house.

Gain Useful Life Experience
Living in a dorm room provides a certain supportive structure that comes with living alongside your peers. Moving into off-campus accommodation gives many students a much-needed push into adulthood. Firstly, you’ll need to go through a tenant screening process which requires you to have your finances in order through budgeting. It also provides you with some experience when it comes to the obligations involved in signing a legal contract. Once you’ve moved in, it will be a case of troubleshooting the usual housing issues and organizing repairs from time to time. All of this will set you up well for the future, and instil a sense of responsibility and agency in you.

It’s More Cost-Effective
Believe it or not, off-campus rentals tend to be affordable than dorm room accommodation. However, you’ll need to put in some effort when it comes to shopping around for the best deals. Some neighborhoods will be pricier, but you should try to balance rental prices with the proximity of a property to the university. Another way to save money is to split property with a roommate in order to share the cost of rent and bills.

You Get to Set the Rules
A major downside to dorm room life is that it tends to be full of rules. From restrictions on having overnight guests to curfews, you won’t have as much freedom as you might like. It might even be stricter than your parents back home! Which can be jarring. If you are a bit of a free spirit, then the chances are high that you’ll have a run-in with the Resident Advisor at some point. Some Resident Advisors are kind and understanding, they want you to enjoy your college experience, but others can really put the kibosh on your freedom. There’s no Resident Advisor for off-campus living! While you’ll certainly have fewer rules off-campus, it is important to remain mindful of the fact that apartment blocks and landlords may have their own rules about pets, amenity usage and noise levels. It’s wise to ask plenty of questions and read through the contract carefully before signing it.

There comes a time for every student to say goodbye to the dorms and hello to adulthood. Living in off-campus accommodation will provide a new experience for students but there are benefits to be had too. Enjoy the start of a new chapter in your student life!

Improving the Education System with Gaming

Video games are not generally thought of as anything more serious than a recreational hobby, even despite many people building successful careers in gaming, for many years now. Video games engage the user in a way that is both interactive and immersive, bringing enjoyment, immersion, a state of flow, utilizing active mental engagement, awareness, and fine motor skills.

The past five years have seen a tremendous increase in the adoption of gaming in the United States. The average time played per week has been around seven hours during these years, for certain demographics.

It only makes sense that if the younger generations (who are spending increasingly more years in formal education) and future generations to come, are growing up with video games and actively engaging in them, why wouldn’t that technology be incorporated into the framework of their education?


New Media

Whenever a new medium is discovered (radio, film, television), or a means of engagement becomes available in society (telephone, video calls, multiplayer gaming) it is quickly adopted for use in promoting active engagement and interaction with a broad range of use cases, such as training, research, and even active warfare. US armed drone pilots and submariners famously undergo training using XBox controllers, in a custom-made Department of Defence video game, before using real drones with real ordnance, in the battlefield. This isn’t a new concept, it’s something that every industry makes use of in turn. Video games aren’t the only recreational medium that is being adopted for new uses and new audiences, mediums are expanding their application, to fill every niche. Board games are experiencing a new wave of enthusiasm, with new and wildly popular titles each expanding the horizons of what board games can be. The demographic groups of all of these mediums are changing too. For example, in the case of the aforementioned board game trend, the boomer generation will find a specific pop culture baby boomer game, tailored to their demographic’s interests. While it’s common for us to associate new trends and new uses of technology with young adults and teenagers (rapidly adopting Snapchat and now TikTok, for example), the real world is more complex, and new trends emerge in unexpected demographics, with unexpected use cases all the time.


Underlying Technology

Improving student engagement using active learning is an area that video game technology can immensely benefit—and even better, the approach can be applied to all levels and phases of education. Giving students the freedom to explore and interact with their (virtual) environment, to experience instantaneous feedback when failing and succeeding at any given learning task, would make the learning stress-free, more immediate, and ultimately enjoyable. Gone are the days of waiting two weeks to find out your score on a paper.

The underlying technology behind most video games is highly customizable, can often be updated continuously, and can be updated with new content catered to specific knowledge or skill sets. All of these factors are likely to make it valuable in an educational context, and as part of a formal curriculum.

The same technology can be adapted post-school as well. In certain fields of work, video game technology can be specifically developed as a tool to automate hiring processes. For example, gauging the aptitude of candidates for potential positions in job fields entirely remotely, allowing both companies and candidates alike to avoid the cost and trouble of physically visiting the company for an interview or hands-on trial.

Cognitive performance

With respect to cognitive capabilities, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that action-oriented video games can improve overall learning capabilities in general, and not just the skills taught in the game. This has potentially huge implications for all kinds of professional training, upskilling programs, and continuing professional development.

Along these lines, Daphne Bavelier, research professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, believes that “action gamers excel at many tasks.” She also stated, “And they become better learners by playing fast-paced action games.” Bavelier states that our brains predict what will come next—in conversation, listening, driving, and even in high-pressure tasks like performing surgery. She says that for the brain to sharpen its prediction skills, our brain constantly builds models or ‘perceptual templates’ of the real world.

“The better the template, the better the performance. And now we know playing action video games actually fosters better templates,” said Bavelier.

When action gamers were given a perceptual learning task by the researchers, it was discovered that action video game players could build and fine-tune perceptual templates quicker than non-action game participants. Action gamers were even able to do this on the fly as they engaged.

To be a better learner means one develops the accurate perceptual templates at a faster rate, and this leads to overall better performance. The research team found that playing action video games was a performance booster. With more and more formal studies emerging, the relationship between new & interactive media, and learning performance is becoming clearer. While we used to think that playing video games was an idle pass-time, new evidence throws light on potentially huge societal ramifications, and booms in efficiency and cognitive performance, whether in the context of education, or the workforce.


Finding Role Models

Despite being the highly evolved homo-sapiens that we are, as humans we still constantly seem to emulate that which we seek to become. For this reason, we are always looking for examples of what we want to be and we follow in those footsteps religiously. If we are disciplined enough, that is. Often those examples are the people who do well in our chosen field, people who are seen as demi-gods by us mere mortals.

The problem with this is that we never see the entire journey. We do not see the hard work, the obstacles, and the struggles in their journey. We only see the result. What can we learn from them? Just looking at a destination of a journey couldn’t possibly teach us more than convincing us that we want to reach that destination. The plan now is to figure out the route. How do you get there?

Finding your route

Looking at your life and career as a journey will go a long way to help you figure out: ‘What next?’

The first thing you do before embarking on any journey is to take a look at your GPS. When becoming what you need to become in life or your career your coach, role model or mentor would become your internal GPS. Choosing the perfect role model isn’t a game of chance, though. One of the reasons for this is mentioned above. It is hard to know a role model’s journey if you cannot research it or study their obstacles and failures.

Careful consideration is the only way to ensure that your role model will serve you well. Having one that can be asked questions about the steps in their journey is a surefire way of simplifying your journey to success. To use an example, if you wanted to become a voice-over artist you would be better served by making use of voice over coaching from a reputable company rather than just idolizing James Earl Jones or Tara Strong and the like. If you wanted to be a more complete person in your life in general, the Dalai Lama or his monks might be a great fit for you. The point is, a role model or coach will accelerate your journey in a way that you can’t do on your own.

Staying on route

See, by actually having your own professional you can talk to and ask questions about the route you are on, you ensure that your directions to the destination you chose for your life or profession are still on track. You can check back now and again to see if you are still following the track that was recommended for you by your professional. You will learn the best methods of achieving little goals you may have set for yourself along the way. Your role model would help you to set these goals and achieve them. They may even draw your attention to the places where you are about to wander off of your set route. We often do not realize that what we are doing may be counterproductive to what we are trying to achieve.

What to look for

When seeking out a role model we too often get stuck on what we want to become instead of also looking at what we don’t want to allow in our end goal. When looking at someone that does what you do not want to do in your life or career you can learn from their mistakes. Find out why what they did wasn’t appealing to you and why that wasn’t something you’d want to do. Find ways of avoiding their mistakes. People who you see as failures in what you consider your end goal probably didn’t want to portray the failures that you see. Where did they go wrong? Learn to do things better than these people did by finding how your role model succeeded where others have failed.

Remember that no question is a dumb question. A good role model will realize this and be more than willing to provide the answers that you seek. These answers are mini directions that will bring you to your destination. Your destiny, if you will. Ask a positive role model how they beat the obstacles that tripped up a negative role model. This way you will be instructed on ways of avoiding actions that may lead you away from where you need to be in your journey.

Also, keep in mind that every move is not custom-made for everybody who desires to be what you want to be. Because we are individuals we all need an individual plan. You probably will not have the same personality as whomever you choose to be your role model. For this reason, a good mentor or coach will be able to tweak your route to fit you specifically. You will have to do things a bit differently just for the simple reason that you are you. You may even realize on your own that some of the things your role model does may not work for you. This is not necessarily the end of your road because you can find a different approach to still achieve what you need to.

So in conclusion…

Finding your passion or what you want to be in life is already an extremely difficult task for some. When trying to decide on whom you want to emulate it can become confusing but taking the time to find the right person takes an immense amount of pressure off of your shoulders. This leaves you more time and energy to focus on your craft or life goals, whatever that may be because you know that your role model has your route mapped out from start to destination. Just keep your goal in mind.