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5 tips for acing a semester online

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Contributor Simi Juriasingani

2020 is weird… to say the least. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been told to stay home whenever possible. We no longer have to go to class and the internet has never been as necessary as it is today. As we dive into semesters without any in-person courses, it is becoming increasingly important to think of new ways to stay on top of everything and learn effectively. 

Here are five tips to help you ace your online classes this term: 

1. Keep track of your deadlines.

Have you ever found yourself rushing to get on a Zoom call or complete a quiz on OWL because you didn’t save the date and found out about it from a friend/colleague? There’s nothing worse than showing up late or missing an important deadline when it could have been avoided with some planning. 

With so many deadlines and no in-person classes to hold us accountable, having an organized calendar is essential for success. Try using the Calendar app on your phone/computer to keep track of all your classes, quizzes, exams and other deadlines. You can add important links or details to the notes section of the appointment. Additionally, if you use devices with multiple different operating systems, consider using Google Calendar or other virtual Calendar platforms to be able to access your schedule easily on any device. 

2. Incorporate offline resources/study techniques in your routine.

Excess computer usage can lead to many problems poor eyesight, reduced work-life balance, a sedentary lifestyle, etc. With the switch to online classes, the incidence of these issues will likely rise. As such, it could be useful to try incorporating written/oral study methods that do not require computers to boost learning and retention. 

Some of you may already be in the habit of writing your notes by hand instead of typing them. In addition to doing so, you could try referring to physical copies of textbooks when possible rather than reading them online. Additionally, you could print lecture notes to review them rather than looking at a computer screen for hours on end. You could also try to call friends and ask each other questions to prepare for assessments rather than just typing, reading and writing. The bottom line is that switching up your learning techniques could help enhance your retention, prevent boredom and, most importantly, reduce the amount of time you spend on your computer! 

3. Find virtual study groups. 

One of the worst aspects of studying from home is the sense of isolation that comes with it. While most of us know how to study on our own, the lack of human interaction throughout the day can take a toll on mental health and learning capacity. In order to avoid loneliness and burnout, try finding people to study with.

Although the pandemic prevents us from studying with others in person, scheduling Zoom work sessions may help you boost your learning and productivity. If you work with people in your classes, you could combine your notes and go over difficult concepts to improve each others’ understanding of the material. Additionally, you could test each other to prepare for tests and exams. If you don’t enjoy group studying, you could just work independently while being on a video call. Feeling a sense of companionship as you work through dense material may help you feel motivated when you aren’t in the mood to study. The main point here is to find ways to incorporate social interaction into your day so that you don’t end up feeling lonely for extended periods of time.

4. Practice for virtual exams. 

If you’re used to in-person exams and you find that the atmosphere of such tests induces a sense of urgency that helps you perform better on exams, transitioning to online exams might be difficult for you. As someone who has had to give multiple online exams in the past few months, I have one major piece of advice for you: PRACTICE! 

Get comfortable in the spot where you’ll be taking online tests, and adapt to sitting and working there for long periods of time. Find/create practice questions, maybe with the help of your classmates, and try answering them within a set amount of time that resembles the timing of your test or exam. It may be difficult to take this seriously if you made the questions and you somewhat know the answers, but timed practice in ANY capacity will greatly improve your performance. 

5. Create a work-life balance. 

I’m tired of Zoom calls. In the past six months, I’ve been on too many Zoom calls with colleagues, friends, family, etc. and I’m absolutely tired of it. Now this may seem like a first world problem (and it is), but working from home has made it almost impossible to create boundaries between work and personal life. The laptop is always sitting close by and it routinely taunts me with all the work that’s left on my to-do list. 

Creating a work-life balance in the current environment is challenging, but it has never been as important as it is in these times. Although I haven’t been able to maintain a work-life balance consistently, I do my best and try not to feel guilty when I fail. I try to exercise 3-4 days/week and go on walks to get some fresh air on the days when I don’t work out. Additionally, I try to prepare healthy meals and make plans that help me stay off my computer such as reading, creative writing, cleaning, reorganizing, etc. There are going to be weeks where you spend too many hours working and studying, but being mindful about your work-life balance will help improve it over time. Remember, small steps taken consistently are enough to create big changes!

I hope these tips help you ace your online course load this year. Good luck! 

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