Online Learning: Re-Defining the First-Year Experience
I never realized how simple in-person classes were until the pandemic. All you really have to do is be there. At times, I actually feel like there are so many more little things to worry about with online classes because technology can be such a pain; you worry about whether or not the Zoom link will work, or if the assignment really got submitted. Sometimes school seems so terrifying because we feel like every little thing matters, and those little things become more difficult to keep track of on the computer.
Set a Studying Schedule: Studying for tests becomes especially difficult in university because there is so much to juggle all at once. You need to set a designated time/schedule for studying. Figure out how long you would like to study for. Give yourself at least a week in advance to study for the test (or more depending on how difficult the test is). Every day, set a goal as to how much content you would like to have covered for the day. For me, studying in intervals of an hour works best with at least a few breaks every thirty minutes or so.
Listen to Ambience Videos: This is an odd one, but it works. Sometimes, I can’t listen to music because it makes it difficult to hear myself think, but I can’t study in complete silence either. However, I found the perfect solution: ambience videos! They usually have soft music playing in the background with sound effects (birds chirping, rain falling etc.) and they have been a godsend for me when it comes to studying.
Tips for Attending Classes
- Make Sure That You Are Familiar with the Online Platform: Many universities have their own online platforms to navigate online classrooms. University of Toronto, for example, uses Quercus. Others just use Google Classroom. Whatever the platform is, make sure that you set aside time to get to know how to use it. See if you can find any online videos/modules on the platform or YouTube.
- Be an Active Participant: Whether it be via your microphone or in the chat, do whatever you can to get involved and let your professors know that you are engaging with the lecture. Raise your hand if you have questions. Contrary to popular belief, no one is going to make fun of you for asking a question, even if it is something that everyone else seems to get.
- Make Use of Office Hours: If your professor is holding office hours, I would recommend you attend whenever you have the time. Office hours give you some time to have a one-on-one with your professor, and they also allow for you to get any answers to lingering questions you may have. Even if you do not have any questions, attending office hours is a really nice way to get to know your professor and even your peers!
- Set Up a Work Space: One of the biggest challenges that people have had with online school is finding a way to navigate school in a household setting. Personally, I live with seven other people and sometimes it can get quite hectic and loud. I would recommend finding somewhere that no one else seems to go much, whether it be a dining room table or even just your basement. Find the one place where you can spread your work out and focus.
- Take Breaks: Staring at a screen for hours on end is not good for anybody. I have noticed that I have been getting more headaches since I started doing online school. Plus, after a while, you start to lose focus. Taking breaks every hour or so should help. I don’t mean just going on your phone to take a break; walk away from the computer and do something else. Watch an episode of your favourite show, have a snack, or clean. Do whatever you can to help engage yourself and relax.
Managing Anxiety & Isolation
One of the hardest parts about online school is that you are isolated from everyone. If you are making the transition from high school to university, odds are you don’t have any friends in your classes. That can be an extremely difficult thing to deal with, because you feel as if you don’t have anyone to turn to. This is where you need to be brave; try reaching out to your classmates. Usually, there is a group chat for the class, so join in! Ask around for people’s social media accounts, so that if you need help you can reach out. Make conversation. You’d be surprised at how much you can have in common with someone else, especially if they’re in your classes! If you’re feeling anxious, take a step back and relax. If it is feeling especially heavy, talk to your professor about some potential accommodations.
Mental Health America. “How To Transition To Remote College During The Coronavirus Outbreak.” https://mhanational.org/how-transition-remote-college-during-coronavirus-outbreak.
Northeastern University. “Tips for Taking Online Classes: 8 Strategies for Success.” https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/tips-for-taking-online-classes/.