I am a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and I have spent the last few weeks adjusting to online learning. I am currently studying communications with certificates in digital studies and entrepreneurship, and my only virtual learning experience before the pandemic was through a few courses that were half online/half in-person. It was nice to have my own time to complete assignments and learn at my own pace for a few classes but doing it for all of them has been an adjustment.
I moved back to my hometown to work on school remotely and the switch to online classes has been just as hard as adjusting to a life with a lot less independence. I said goodbye to my schedule and hello to game nights. Don’t get me wrong, I love the extra time with my family, but being a college student during the COVID-19 pandemic means that I am even more responsible for managing my own time in an online learning environment. I’ve got multiple technologies to navigate, new learning strategies to adjust to, and schedules to create just to keep myself on the correct track. However, I think I have it under control and want to share some of my tips and tricks to other students for maximizing the online learning experience.
- Stay organized
It is easy enough for a college student to normally get overwhelmed between classes, studying, work, and extracurriculars. It’s hard to believe that right now we’re getting overwhelmed by having too much time on our hands.
Online learning can open our eyes and allow us to understand material even more. My advice to my instructors: Take the time to organize lectures and assignments and figure out how to make them most accessible online. Extending due dates, providing resources, and pre-recording lectures really helps us feel prepared and organized.
I find it extremely helpful to use a planner to map out my week by assignments and studying as well as a little calendar to track big due dates coming up. If planners aren’t your thing, try an online calendar or a post-it note app. I like Antnotes.
- Try to maintain your normal routine
They make class schedules for a reason. One of the best ways you can try to normalize the pandemic situation is to keep your daily routine going. Sure, you can adjust with the extra free time that you have but keeping that time consistency will maintain your motivation. I have been waking up at about 9 am every day and getting started with schoolwork, cooking, and — now that I am staying at home – chores. It might not seem possible, but by not sleeping in and getting an early start, you’ll feel more accomplished and normal.
- Take little breaks
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to working from home. You’re not moving from classroom to classroom anymore, and you might feel trapped. The days seems to be dragging on forever. Try taking little breaks or rewarding yourself when you complete a task. Even if it’s just going downstairs to refill your coffee or taking 10 minutes to scroll through social media. But try not to let your breaks take over your entire day. Ten minutes can turn into 30 easily.
For my instructors, I hope you are taking a break too. Take a breather once you are done with creating content for us. You are doing a lot of work to make sure we are still learning as much as we can. Make yourself a mug of tea, take a walk, or just stretch. Make sure you aren’t wearing yourself too thin.
- Familiarize yourself with the different platforms
No matter where you go to college, all your learning is obviously being mandated online, and you’re probably being introduced to a lot of new technology to help facilitate that. Take some time and make sure your laptop or monitor is compatible with different audio, video, and microphone styles. Don’t wait until right before that call to make sure your video and audio are enabled!
- Figure out your learning style as well as your pace
It’s no secret that everyone learns differently. Some students are visual learners, while others may be auditory, kinesthetic or verbal learners. There even are online quizzes you can take to figure out what kind of learner you are. Once you know what kind of learner you are, use learning features to your advantage. Slow down or pause your video, write notes down, research examples, do what you can to make sure this drastic change doesn’t impede your learning and your grades. For example, I have professors that post continuous videos as well as slides with recorded audio.
I personally am a visual learner. I learn best by reading and seeing demonstrations or examples of topics. I find it best to pause my asynchronous video lectures and really soak in what is being said before I move on.
- Get moving
People always use the excuse that they don’t exercise because they don’t have the time to. What’s the excuse now? You have the time to get yourself in better shape! It can be a walk around the block, a YouTube workout video, or even just some push-ups. Sitting all day can make a person tired or drained, and it’s a good idea to get your heart rate up and your blood flowing. I have been trying to go on what I call “run/walks” and do a little bit of strength exercises to get out of the sitting slump I am in all day. It doesn’t have to be super intense, just enough to feel energized and refreshed.
- Set aside some time for yourself
Can you think of the last time you had this much time to yourself? Probably not since you were a kid. Take this time to do or learn something completely new and unexpected. Read that book you’ve always wanted to read or write that short story on the idea you’ve had stirring in your head forever. Do something creative, even if you don’t think you’ll be good at it. I have been reading “Watching You” by Lisa Jewell recently and LOVING it as well as finishing up Jack Ryan (if you are as big of a fan of John Krasinski as I am you MUST watch).
If you need a list of inspiration, read about what our employees at Mediasite are doing to keep busy here.