Like many students, I was looking forward to spring term classes, as I had been away on co-op for the last six months. Now that I have survived the first few weeks of spring term online, I have gotten into a routine that has helped me focus and perform better in a remote setting. While we may not have the distraction of friends sitting next to us in class, it’s tempting to pull up Netflix or text your friends when you’re supposed to be paying attention in a synchronous lecture. Some of us may even have more free time during the day, since we can’t hang out by the volleyball courts or hit the gym between classes, which can lead to feeling stuck or cramped at home. To combat this, I have compiled a list of tips and ideas to work towards a successful spring term and help make the most of this unprecedented situation!
One of the biggest changes I have noticed is the lack of time I now spend outside. I definitely took walking outside between classes for granted, especially since those 10 minutes were the perfect time to decompress from the previous class and prepare for the next lecture. Now, I rush to exit one online class and log into the next, leaving me exhausted by the start of class since I didn’t have a chance to stretch my legs or take a short break.
This is why I have started to leave my window open during the day or even take a class in my backyard. Obviously, I can’t work outside for all my classes, but I have really enjoyed doing it for my discussion-based courses. Fresh air in any form helps relax the body, clear the mind from over-stimulation and can calm us down in stressful situations. On days when I have longer breaks between classes, I take walks around my neighborhood, which helps get my blood flowing and removes me from my “study bubble.” When studying or working on homework, it’s important to step away for some time to help retain and digest the information before continuing. While we are restricted in where we can go, a walk around the neighborhood helps us forget the fact that we haven’t left our homes in weeks.
Technology has become more essential than ever during this time of social distancing and is one of the key factors in being academically successful this term. On campus, it was easy to meet up with your friends to grind out homework at the library, during office hours or even from the comfort of your dorm.
However, most of us have now resorted to FaceTime as a way to study or compare notes with a friend. I have found it helpful to meet up with my friends over video chat and rewatch lectures, go over class notes or read the textbook together. Zoom also lets you start your own meeting, which means that you can become a host and send a link to your study group; then, everyone can meet over Zoom to discuss coursework. One of the best features of this is screensharing. In classes that require a lot of math work, sharing your screen allows everyone to see what steps you took to solve the problem. There are so many resources out there that can help us feel connected and aid our study efforts, helping us to make the best out of this situation.
I truly believe in the power of scheduling, specifically block scheduling. For example, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I have two large windows of time in between my classes. On Sunday night, I take a look at what assignments I have to complete and what upcoming quizzes or exams I have to study for. From there, I divide these chunks of free time into study periods, where I devote a certain portion of my mornings to complete my engineering homework and a portion of the time in the afternoon to complete my statics homework. I try to maintain this routine each week so that I have a steady rhythm to help me focus.
My professors tend to stick to a general pattern when it comes to due dates for assignments; for example, math is always due on Tuesdays and Thursdays, whereas my programming assignments are due on Mondays. By completing a subject’s assignment at the same time and day each week, I know for sure that I am finishing all my work in a timely manner and I can develop a steady routine. This may not work for everything, but it is definitely helpful during the beginning of the term when you’re adjusting to all of your classes. Establishing your own fixed schedule keeps you from feeling overwhelmed with the amount of coursework each professor assigns.
As we head toward midterms, hopefully you now know some new ways to help stay calm and study during this time of remote learning!