Adapting to University Online
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
A panny, pakurumo, pain au chocalat, panasonic, pandemonium, panoramic - whatever you call this global pandemic we are living through, university has moved online. With this being the case, the way that we learn has changed and has meant higher education has just got a lot more independent and harder to complete. Within this article, I have some tips on how you can excel in your degree. There are 4 components to excelling in online university, building a routine, excelling in virtual classes, completing assignments and utilising university support.
Routine is paramount in excelling at university and securing your degree during these unprecedented times. Without a formal timetable requiring you to be on campus, it’s easy to fall into unstructured days and remain unaccountable which can result in a straight fail. In order to build routine I recommend employing 3 different techniques:
1. Set realistic expectations
Include ‘easy’ wins on your task list so you can feel like you’re accomplishing things throughout the day. To understand what’s ‘realistic’ for you reflect on the last term, what were you able to get done within a day - then plan accordingly.
2. Schedule in classes
Use resources like google calendar to schedule in online seminars/ lectures then slot in the extra reading time you need to do assignments. Try and distribute your tasks evenly so that your routine doesn’t vary massively and is easy to stick to.
3. To do list - do it NOW
With universities being online our episodic memory formation, the process by which we remember things as being tied to the location e.g. remembering to plan an essay after being in the lecture, is compromised as we are no longer on campus passing previous trigger locations. Therefore, when assignments are mentioned write them down as soon as you can and do it ASAP.
Excelling in virtual classes
Great, after building your routine it's time to excel at your course! I have compiled 4 tips which will ensure that you are able to excel in virtual classes.
1. Pay attention to time zones!
For all the international students who have decided to stay in their home country, the time your lectures are scheduled into your timetable may be different to your home timezone. Don’t be the student who misses their lecture because of a timezone mishap. There are tools on google calendar and doodle to change the timezone to prevent this
2. Communicate with people on your course
Nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed alone, reach out to people on your course, they could be feeling the same. Your coursemates are likely to be generous with their resources to help you - it’s always worth a try.
3. Break up your day
Usually, attending university means walking between lectures and seminars, catching up with friends and studying in the library. Being at home means that the scenery stays unchanged hence why it's of utmost importance to break up your day. Whether that be a 20 minute walk or moving to a different part of the house to keep your mind energised
Stay engaged, dress up, have your camera on and be punctual, ask questions, look up the keywords said in the lecture and set personal learning goals.
Despite the pandemic the assignments are coming in thick and fast, so I have 4 tips on how you can tackle it:
1. Use focus mode on Microsoft Word
Focus mode on Word gets rid of the margins and leaves you with the blank page - perfect for proofreading. If you are a night owl use the night light feature on your device to eliminate white lights to prevent straining your eyes.
2. Use footnotes to highlight limited access
With restricted university access some of us can’t access resources necessary to complete some assignments well. It’s important to highlight this to the assessor so they can take this into consideration when they are marking your work.
3. Set yourself false earlier deadlines
By setting yourself an earlier deadline you are mitigating the risk of submitting late as you have a deliberate grace period. Don’t leave it to the way of the pandemic - because it remains unpredictable.
4. Give feedback to lecturers
As much as lecturers serve as easy scapegoats, they are also adjusting to online teaching. If the way a lecturer is delivering content is dissatisfactory let them know and provide solutions e.g. more breakout rooms for intimate conversations or ask for a wider reading list.
We have discussed how to build a routine, how to excel in virtual classes and assignments, now all you have to do is remain distraction free. I have 4 tips that will ensure you’re always in the productivity zone:
1. Download productivity enhancing apps
Apps like the Forest app are great to stop you using your phone during study periods and provide the satisfaction of growing a virtual tree. This accompanied with timers on how long you can use your social media on your phone will make sure your phone doesn’t distract you.
2. Block out noise
ASMR rooms are good for blocking out noise if you aren’t in the quietest of environments. Youtube has a range of ‘study with me’ videos, ambiance inside a library or cafe videos to help you block out the noise and plug into productivity.
3. Working environment
Utilise the pomodoro technique of working in 4 x 25 minute blocks (pomodoros) with 5 minute breaks in between, once completed take a 15 - 20 minute break before repeating. This works best with studying, not when you have scheduled seminars/ lectures. You can utilise pomodoro timers such as pomodoro timer lite (android) or focus keeper (iphone) to help monitor the time. Additionally, adjust your sitting position - try propping up your laptop to work standing up.
4. Set up ‘library’ sessions with your friends over zoom/teams.
They will hold you accountable. This can be a great time for a brief catch up and also increase your productivity whilst reducing the likelihood of isolation. You can use websites like doodle to show your availability to easily organise a session with your friends. If you don’t want to study with people you know, utilise websites like focusmate to meet like - minded strangers who want to study.
Whether you implement all of the tips or cherry pick a few which would work best for you, it should make the online transition of learning easier and engaging.