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Attending Debate Camp Online: Strategies for Success

Author: Carly Watson

Set Goals – Before camp starts, create goals for yourself. What are you looking to get out of your camp experience? Try to keep them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based). Spending weeks of your summer with a goal to “win more” won’t help you when it comes time to making the most out of your camp experience. A better goal would be “increase familiarity with five Ks I haven’t heard of in the first two weeks of camp” or “do a rebuttal redo for over half of my debates within 24 hours of the debate occurring.” Having concrete and discrete goals will help you get the most out of your time at debate camp.

Engage – You get out of debate camp what you put into it – whether online or in person. Challenging yourself to stay engaged is even more important in remote learning. Participate in the discussion forums, watch recorded Q and As that you weren’t able to see live, ask your instructors and peers questions as you have them. Engagement is important for long-term content retention and maximizing your resources.

Establish a Routine – Carving our five minutes randomly, here and there throughout the day might work for your learning but most people learn best if they have a routine. Set aside a dedicated time each day for each of your debate camp activities. Set a schedule for yourself that plans for what you want and need to accomplish each day and then do your best to stick to it. It’s OK to have some flexibility but planning can help you manage debate camp and simultaneously being home. Brick and mortar debate camp had a rigorous routine (attendance every day at 9am…oof) and you should try to have some of that same time management when attending remotely.

Schedule Breaks – You need both mental and physical breaks to learn best. At a brick and mortar camp that meant your instructor creating a time to walk around and get a break. You should do the same for yourself when you’re at home. Going for a walk, playing a video game, or just talking with a friend is important for being able to focus on all of the content you’re trying to absorb.

Limit Distractions – I realize that at brick and mortar debate camp Tetris et al. is 75% of what everyone is doing at any given time anyway but the temptation to zone out, multi-task, or not focus is even larger at home. Set yourself up for success by creating a dedicated space where you focus on debate camp and try to stay attentive to the online content. Include in that “space” closing extra windows on your computer that could be distracting (e.g. Tetris). Again, you get out of debate camp what you put into it. If you fire up Animal Crossing mid-lecture, you’re technically “at” debate camp but what are you really getting out of that experience?

Interact – I think there’s a lot of concern that the community aspect of camp will be lost in the transition online. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think I’ll miss that too. That said, there are ways to interact with your peers and instructors even remotely. Try to find ways to create small groups with different people in the lab where you work on tasks together. Even though the team-building activities and icebreakers can feel cheesy, maintaining interaction is an important facet of online debate camp.

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