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How to get the most out of life as a Virtual Student

A female student participating in a Zoni's online English course

It has now been a few weeks since Zoni moved all of its classes online to keep you safe from the coronavirus. Our classes are more than just an online English course, we offer students a complete virtual experience, including being part of an interactive class with real classmates and teachers. Another thing to mention, is that our Virtual Presence Program (VPP) is well established (it has been around for almost a year already) and was even tested with the help of the Colombian military – that is how good this program is!

It was not easy to move all of our around 6000 students online, but we did it! We are very proud of how our students have adapted to the unimaginably tough situation created by Covid-19. And although our students are still making exceptional progress, we wanted to use this blog article as a way to give you tips and tricks for getting the most out of your time as a virtual student.

Your study environment

One of the great things about Zoni’s VPP is that you can attend class literally anywhere! As long as you have a computer or mobile device and access to the internet you can take part! However, although you CAN join your classes from anywhere, there are definitely some things that you should consider to get the most out of your online English course.

At the moment you should all be staying at home as much as absolutely possible. Unless your job is an essential job (something we cannot do without) there aren’t many reasons for being out and about. For many of you, finding a quiet spot at home won’t be too difficult. But for students with families, particularly children finding a quiet moment or private space might be trickier.

The best place to set up your virtual classroom is somewhere quiet with a table and a chair and good light. If you have a desk in your room – perfect, but if not, the kitchen table or any other table will do just fine. Studies show that working near a window helps to boost motivation and productivity, so if you can sit near a window great! If you are anything like me, access to drinks and snacks are also important! Keep a water bottle nearby and some quiet snacks – remember, no one wants to hear you crunching during your lesson!

Try to stay in your chair and not move around too much during your virtual lesson. A very important thing to always remember is that when your camera is on, ALL of your classmates and teacher can see what you are doing (and wearing – more of this in a bit). It is good manners to turn your head away from the camera and mic if you need to blow your nose or cough and if you need to use the bathroom, please do not take your classmates with you!

A female student studies at home

Dress for success

When you are at home it is very tempting to stay in your pajamas! But for your online English course this is maybe not the best “look”. I’m sure seeing you in your pajamas would be very funny for your classmates, but is it the best thing for your motivation and learning? There have been a lot of studies done on the optimal outfit for working from home and many of these findings are also true for studying from home. The bottom line is, if you stay in your pajamas you are signaling to your brain that it is sleep/relax time and therefore are less motivated to do things that require brain work! A lot of studies recommend getting up and acting exactly as you would if you were going to class. So maybe that is taking a shower, eating something and getting dressed. However, comfort is also important, and you are at home, so instead of your skinny jeans, go ahead and wear some sweats or comfortable pants instead. The point is, to be able to do your best in virtual class you need to get out of your PJs and signal to your brain that sleep time is over.

Practicing English after class

You are attending your classes and things are going well, but you are missing your friends and practicing English in the ‘real world’. So, what can you do? Obviously, keeping in touch with your friends and classmates over whatsapp, skype, Zoom and all the other platforms out there is really important. Not just to discuss class work and practice English but also to not feel lonely. A really good way to combine catching up with friends, practicing English and having fun is to use the free app, Houseparty. Houseparty has a number of games that you can play with friends. You can do quizzes, draw pictures for your friends to guess and a few others too. The nice thing with Houseparty is that you can have multiple people on the one call! So, you can have fun and play games with your entire class if you wanted to!

Museums and other virtual activities to fight boredom Since the corona crisis began, museums and cultural institutes around the world have created a range of wonderful virtual experiences and fun classes. These are a great way to fight boredom and also practice your English reading, listening and comprehension skills.

If you are thirsty for knowledge, many of the world’s top universities are offering courses free via edx.org. There are all kinds of courses, from fun things like photography, to languages, music and everything in between. Why not do a course at Harvard? Or MIT? Or any of around 50 international universities. Most courses are in English, but the English level needed largely depends on the course you are studying.

If you want to take a class but don’t want the pressure of serious study, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan has just started offering a range of art-focused courses. These courses look at various aspects and styles of art and offer you glimpses into the lives of real-life artists in their studios with live interviews and instruction. Find out more on their website

Art hanging in MoMA - museums offer great virtual activities to complement your online English course

Obviously at the moment visiting museums is pretty hard. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the internet to experience some of the world’s most beautiful museums from the comfort of your own home. Just be sure to choose English as your language on the homepage before you get started!

Here are a few museums that are offering free virtual experiences:

Vatican Museum – Vatican City, Italy
See the Sistine Chapel and the various other masterpieces on display at this very special museum.

Acropolis Museum – Athens, Greece
Visit the home of some of Greece’s most treasured artefacts.

The Lourve Museum – Paris, France
The Lourve is the home to the Mona Lisa and hundreds of the most famous pieces of art in the world. During the Coronavirus lockdown, the Lourve is also hosting a number of virtual concerts, streamed via their website.

Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Highly recommended – this tour takes you through the Rijksmuseum as if you were there in real life. Listen to the audio guide – spoken in well-paced, clear English.

British Museum – London, UK
This museum in London is actually most famous for its collection of Egyptian artefacts – check them out on the virtual tour or in the online galleries.

The Metropolitan Museum – New York, USA
A New York favorite – even if you have visited this museum before, their virtual platform and online activities offer you a range of really cool experiences. Take a virtual tour, listen to stories, take an art class or listen to lectures on the museum’s many pieces.

State Hermitage Museum – St Petersburg, Russia
One of the most famous museums in Russia and in Europe! With millions of pieces of art and artefacts, this museum is a must see. The Hermitage offers an extensive virtual and online program.

Having to spend so much time at home is tough. But together through Zoni’s Virtual Presence Program, by using fun apps like Houseparty to stay connected and making the most out the many amazing courses and virtual experiences available on the internet, we can make this time a little easier and a lot more fun!

If you are concerned about your online English course or anything else, contact Zoni. We are here to help and will do everything we can to make sure you continue on your English learning journey.