How To Succeed At Remote Learning

Tips and Advice From an Experienced Remote Learner

Greetings Walnut Hill College!

With an unprecedented move to remote learning, many of us have been challenged to adjust to nontraditional classrooms and with that, we’ve had to adjust our approach to the way we learn. I’m here to tell you that I understand your challenges. I have personally completed two different programs remotely; my Master’s and Doctorate programs. With that, I figured that I was a good resource for reference and advice. So, here I am to share tips and advice that can help you succeed in your current courses at Walnut Hill College!

My TOP 5 TIPS

#1 – The Notion That Remote Classes are “Easier” is a MYTH

Unfortunately, the notion that remote learning is in some way easier is a misconception. Remote learning requires a certain level of discipline and self-learning that may exceed the requirements of on-campus class sessions. More than ever, you need to complete assigned readings, review PowerPoints, and watch a number of demo videos prior to class.

In addition, getting organized and prepping for a remote class session is vital (and sometimes exhausting!). You have to make sure to have your notebook open, your favorite pen, get that PowerPoint ready, have questions prepared, and set yourself up for success!

#2 – Dedicate Your Workspace

Unfortunately, your bed is not the best workspace for your zoom session, nor is it the ideal space to write that paper. Speaking of unsuitable locations, neither is your couch, dinner table, or back porch.

My tip is to create a desk area that is ONLY used for attending class and for completing classwork.

Our brains are wired to make associations and reward us when we stick to a routine. If you don’t select and stick to a proper location, your brain may go into sleep mode in your bed, tv mode on your couch, or food mode at your dinner table. However, if you choose wisely, your brain will recognize when you’re at a dedicated workspace and will have an easier time focusing so you can earn that 100% on your next quiz.

#3 – Participate in Your Classes and Engage with Your Classmates.

Whether on campus, via zoom, or even Schoology, participating in class sessions is vital. “Why,” you ask? Well, I’ll tell you! Engaging in conversation and participating on the discussion board increases recall of information and your ultimate academic success! 

So, participate, participate, and participate!

Don’t forget to engage with your classmates! Sometimes the support we need is a classmate who can explain an assignment in a way that helps you understand it better. They may have a unique perspective and offer a new way of looking at a topic. Support each other and succeed together!

#4 – Make Sure to Self-Advocate

When completing classes remotely, students have to find their voice and self-advocate. More than ever, it’s imperative that you raise your virtual hand and get the information and support they need to be successful.

What does that look like?

First, you must communicate with your instructors and academic team (Deans, Student Success Advisors, and Librarian) on a consistent or as-needed basis. Second, don’t be shy to ask for clarification on assignments; ask follow-up questions on course materials, and communicate your concerns. 

Do not hesitate to contact the appropriate staff members when you need help! If you do not know who to contact, contact a Dean or Student Success Advisor and we can direct you to the appropriate staff member.

#5 – Build a Routine

To succeed in almost anything, you need discipline! The same goes for schoolwork. A good tip is to schedule specific days and times for each course. You can schedule days to complete assignments, study for an upcoming quiz, and work on a timely project. For example, on Mondays set aside time between 10 am to 12pm to concentrate on Math; Tuesdays from 6 to 8 pm can be for English, and so on. Again, our brains work better when we stick to a routine and focus on a single topic at a time.

Another tip is to work in 15-minute increments. Human brains can only focus on a single task up to 15 minutes before we need a reset. So, take a walk around your house and come back and hit another 15-minute study session.

Quick Recap

#1 The myth of remote classes being “easier” is a misconception. Discipline, organization, and being prepared is key to your success.

#2 Your workspace. Set up a desk area that is only for attending your class sessions and completing coursework.

#3 Participating in your classes and engaging your classmates will support your recall of information and increase understanding.

#4 Self-advocate. Support yourself and reach out to WHC staff when you have questions, concerns, and/or need clarification on assignments.

And finally,

#5 Build a routine. Schedule specific days and times for specific classes which will increase your discipline and ability to stay focused.

I hope that these quick tips on how to succeed in your remote classes have been helpful and result in a better experience. And, as always remember that your instructors, your academic team, and the staff at Walnut Hill College are here to support you!

Until we can see all of you on campus again, this is Dr. Seery signing off and remember…

YOU GOT THIS!

– Dr. Seery, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning


Tips From A Food Stylist

Philly-based writer, food stylist, and current WHC student answers your pressing questions about food photography.

Taking photos of your food seems easy enough, right? You point your fancy phone and snap away, sometimes, you even use fancy filters. But, do your photos look like the ones shown above? My guess is that you’ve used every filter available, but still can’t get that perfect photo. We’re here to help!

I’ve teamed up with Lisa Hecht, a Philly-based writer, food stylist, and current Walnut Hill College Culinary student, to answer some basic questions regarding the fundamentals of composition, lighting, prop selection, and what you can do to get your photos to look like they came from the pages of Bon Appétit magazine.

( All photo credit to Lisa Hecht who we featured in last week’s Feel-Good Friday Newsletter)

What are the best props to use for food styling? Give us your TOP 5:

Props are an essential part of food styling, they need to elevate and complement the food you are shooting. The props that I use for photoshoots aren’t necessarily things that I use in my kitchen every day.

To start you need a background to shoot on. Most of us might take photographs on our kitchen counters or at the table we are eating at, but space and lighting can be a big issue in this scenario. Ideally, you want a surface that can be moved around like a cutting board or a piece of marble.

At Replica Surfaces, they sell boards that mimic surfaces like wood, tile, and stone that can be used as backdrops. Until you are ready to make this investment, I would just look for things you have around the house. Currently, these are my favorite props to use for food styling.

My TOP 5 Food Styling Props:

  1. An old wooden crate that I found at a flea market
  2. Walnut cutting board
  3. Dish towels – different colors, patterns, and textures
  4. Vintage flatware, including my set of wood and brass cutlery
  5. Small plates and bowls with simple designs and shapes

Why are “composition” and “framing” so important?

How to compose a great photograph is extremely important because it tells the viewer what to focus on in the image. Keep in mind that your subject does not always have to been in the center of your frame. You might spend a lot of time styling your shoot, but you still need to consider what angle you want to shoot from. Some things to consider when composing a photograph are how the viewers eyes are going to move around the image.

To start you want to have a contrast between the subject and the background. Also think about pattern, symmetry, and repetition. Consider how diagonal or directional lines can lead you into the picture and how framing devices such as trays or plates can help outline your subject. Most importantly, spend time looking at other people’s photographs and try to mimic what they do. Pinterest is a great source for professional food photography. 

What’s the best lighting to use for that perfect photo?

Without a doubt, natural light is the best light for food photography. I try to do most of my shoots by the window in my living room where I have a nice stream of natural light coming through. When I shoot in places like my kitchen or dining room, the overhead lights often create a glare or strong reflections on the food and props which I don’t like. 

Filters – Yes or No?

If shooting with your phone, then absolutely yes! You should always edit the photos you take. This might mean using the contrast and brightness tools on your phone or using one of the built-in filters. Consider if you want the image to look warm or cool. Do you want the color in the image to be highly saturated or naturalistic? Find the aesthetic that works for you. 

Does the equipment matter?

Yes, it does. Ideally, if you plan to go into this profession, you will be shooting with a DSLR camera with a 50 mm lens and probably have a macro lens for close-up shots. If you are shooting with your smartphone, then the quality of your phone still matters. I’m currently shooting with an Apple iPhone 6 Plus but when I see images being shot with an iPhone 11, I can see the difference in quality right away. 

Best Apps for photo editing?

Most professional photographers I know use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to edit their photos. 

Is all food photogenic or are there some foods to avoid?

Not all food is photogenic but there are always ways that you can make it look better. Think about if you had to photograph a bowl of oatmeal. It is mushy, has little contrast, and looks bland. However, if you topped it with fresh berries, chopped nuts, maple syrup, and sprinkled cinnamon on top, then that boring bowl of oatmeal just became a lot more appetizing. Adding garnishes is a way to add color and texture to what could possibly be an unappealing dish. 

Should I have a separate account for my food photography?

If you plan to use your Instagram account as a portfolio for your food photography, then having a separate account will depend on what kind of photos you normally like to post. I currently use my personal account to post all my food photos. This means that if I apply for a food styling job, I feel comfortable sharing my handle with a future employer. However, if my page focused more on images of my personal life and family, then I would absolutely have a separate account. 

So, there you have it folks – real advice from a real-world food stylist. Do yourselves a favor and check out Lisa’s Instagram account where she shares some truly inspiring food photography.