As the spread of COVID-19 becomes increasingly widespread and in many places, showing no signs of stopping, many schools and universities and have begun to announce their plans for the upcoming fall semester. Students have been eagerly awaiting the news, and many of them want to be able to return to campuses, having been away for months amidst a sudden closure due to the pandemic. Many universities are doing a hybrid semester, consisting of both in-person and online classes, while others are going fully online. 

As someone who has done online schooling in the past (even before corona!) for several years, here are some things that helped me to stay on task and be more motivated to do work at home.

  • Buddy System

Having someone you know in a class always makes it better. Whether it be to rely on notes, help with homework, or just a similar topic between two people, making friends and joining class group chats can make a class infinitely easier. In this age, getting a hold of a person over text is much faster and convenient than shooting an instructor an email, which can take at least a day to get a response.  This doesn’t have to mean that you have to become friends with the people, but just having that companionship throughout a class can really help you out in the long-term. Additionally, they can hold each other accountable and remind each other of deadlines. I would recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and joining class group chats; I’ve found them to be extremely helpful. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone if you can join – and if you can’t find one to join, try making one yourself! There’s bound to be people happy to join and help each other out. 

  • Knowing When to Log Off

Students can find that it’s hard for them to differentiate between when they should continue working or take a break. With your entire school occurring over the internet, it can be difficult to know when to step away, log off, and “leave” school. It’s easy to stay cooped up in a room, hunched over a screen for hours, and not realize how different this routine can look from an on-campus routine, where you would be moving from class to class, getting exercise and sunshine, and not be spending every minute logged on. To combat this, try taking your work outside and working in nature – if anything, it’s a much better view than from a bedroom window. Try creating a workspace, and avoid studying on your bed! When you train your mind to think of some places as “work,” some places as “sleep,” and others as “recreation,” then you’ll find that your focus is better when it’s time to be productive

  • Watching Recorded Lectures At A Set Time Each Day

It’s easy to let a recorded lecture go unwatched, and then another, and then another, and then… suddenly you have a whole week’s worth of lectures to watch! With large online classes, many of them are bound to be recorded lectures. Watching them at the same time every day can emulate “going” to lecture and thus reduce your workload than if you let them pile up. This not only leads to better retention of information but is less likely to make you feel overwhelmed since you would be taking it day by day, just like you would have been if it weren’t online. 

  • Taking Notes in a Physical Notebook

We’ve all heard of how writing information down is better for learning, but with online learning, that can be hard to put into practice. After all, if everything is online, then it’s very convenient to pull up a word processor and type notes. However, writing down notes with a writing utensil (pen, pencil, even an iPad pencil) leaves you with notes you can flip back on, which can help with studying and overall retention. 

  • Staying Healthy Despite Screentime

Online education means a lot of hours spent well, online, which means you’re staring at a screen for multiple hours in a day. Additionally, you’re spending time on your phone, whether it’s for conversations, school, or recreation. Maybe you play on a PS4 to recharge at the end of the day. All these activities include staring at a bright screen for way longer than is healthy.. Much of that time is unavoidable, for sure. You can’t exactly send an email, submit work, or watch a lecture without a screen, though there are ways to reduce strain and make it less stressful for your eyes and mind. For one, you can use an app like Moment to reduce unnecessary screentime or enable Night Mode to reduce eye strain. While this is an aspect of online schooling that is unavoidable, it’s important to keep your health a priority. 

It’s safe to say that this will be a new experience for institutions all across the world as they try to adjust to CDC guidelines while also trying to provide an education of the same quality. For many students, the closures in March were their first instances with online schooling, and many hoped that it wouldn’t have to resort to the same structure in the fall. However, as nations deal with the pandemic, getting an education right now means adjusting to a timeline that has no definite end in sight – and we can only adapt to the circumstances.