The COVID-19 health crisis has forced all of us to adapt to some major life changes. Many people have lost their jobs. Others have found themselves in front-line essential service roles, risking their lives to help their community.
Meanwhile, schools and colleges across Canada have closed, turning many children and adults into online students. Not everyone prefers studying online. Many people truly enjoy coming to campus, hanging out with classmates, and interacting with instructors face-to-face.
At Herzing, we’ve worked hard to make the transition as painless as possible for our students—but we know some of you are struggling to adapt.
It can be really challenging to work through courses independently from home, especially if you’re totally new to online learning. The whole approach is different. And some people feel cut off from the campus support systems they’ve come to rely on.
Feeling overwhelmed or stressed out? Follow these 10 tips for studying online at home, and make your “new normal” a lot easier.
Tip #1: Change out of your Pajamas
Staying in your pajamas all day is actually pretty great when it’s the weekend or your day off. It sends a clear message to your brain that you’re in relaxation mode. Your normal work routine is on pause and it’s time to take things easy.
But what about when you’re taking online classes? You’re still expected to attend virtual lectures, do readings, and complete assignments. You have a full day ahead!
You need to be focused and stay on top of things. When you don’t change out of your PJs and get ready for the day as usual, you’re sending your brain mixed signals.
Rule number one of studying online from home? Stick to your normal morning routine. Get up, get showered, get dressed, get to work.
Tip #2: Find a quiet study area
One of the best things about studying online? You never have to leave your home. You can listen to lectures from your kitchen table. You can lounge on your sofa while doing your readings. You can make a snack while you review those PowerPoint slides...
There's just one problem. If you’re trying to do school work in a room that gets a lot of traffic (like the living room or kitchen), you’re setting yourself up for endless distractions.
We’re guessing other people in your house want to make a snack, watch TV, or hang out and talk in those common areas. You need a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed.
Find that spot and make it your designated study area. This will help separate relaxation time from study time, and you’ll get a lot more done.
Tip #3: Stay connected with your instructor
Students who participate in class often learn better, remember more, and feel a higher level of motivation. When you’re asking questions and making comments, you’re engaged...and that helps your brain stay sharp and retain information.
The same goes for online class. If you’re attending a live virtual lecture, you can “raise” your hand to make a comment or ask a question. If you’re mostly watching recorded lectures and presentations, stay in touch with your instructor via email or online chat.
No matter what, take some time each week to connect. Make sure you’re understanding key concepts. Ask questions. Reach out to talk about a topic or concept you find really interesting.
Your online instructor is there for you. Make sure you take full advantage of their expertise and support.
Tip #4: Participate in online class forums
In addition to connecting with your instructor, it’s really important to participate in live chats or online discussion groups with your classmates.
When you attend class on campus, you get to meet and connect with like-minded people who share your interests and professional goals. These connections help you stay motivated and feel supported.
When you shift to online learning, it can feel like all that support has vanished, and you’re working through this process completely alone.
It’s well documented that feeling isolated and unsupported leads to high drop-out rates among online students. Remember that you do have a community of classmates out there.
Promise yourself you’ll ask questions and make comments during live lectures, and participate in any online discussion groups related to your courses.
Maintaining some social connections will help you feel connected and inspired.
Tip #5: Beware of browsing during class time
We know we’re not supposed to be on Facebook while the instructor is lecturing or going through slides. But most of us sneak a peek now and then. It’s human nature.
When you’re studying from home, a few quick peeks quickly turn into a social media marathon.
With no instructor in front of us, and no classmates around, it’s incredibly hard to avoid the temptation of online browsing during study time. You need a plan to avoid this major time-waster.
Maybe you’ll put your phone in the other room while you’re listening to a lecture or doing an assignment. Or, you’ll designate certain hours for schoolwork and make internet browsing totally off-limits during those times.
Whatever you decide, stick with it. Checking every little news update and notification will create endless distractions. The quality of your work will suffer, and completing assignments will take twice as long.
Tip #6: Stick to a study schedule
Human beings love routine. We thrive on repetition and predictability. This is why most people have a fixed daily schedule. We get up at the same time, each lunch at the same time, watch TV at the same time...
Routine is built into almost every part of our daily lives. But if you’ve recently shifted to online classes, you might not know exactly where study time fits into the equation.
The faster you create a study schedule, the easier the transition will be. Put all your live lectures and upcoming assignments on a calendar. Set aside some time each day to work on readings and projects, just like if you were attending class on campus.
Having a fixed schedule creates structure. Structure will help you feel more in control and less anxious about meeting deadlines and staying on track.
Tip #7: Stay energized with daily exercise
When you stop attending class on campus and start studying from home, you immediately become less active. You’re no longer commuting to school. Even if you drive, that automatically means less steps taken throughout the day.
It’s really easy to forget about exercise all together, because you’re not leaving the house much anymore. But less exercise leads to greater fatigue. When you don’t move much all day, your body gets tired and your brain gets sluggish. It can even impact your overall mental health.
Whether it’s simple stretching, basic yoga, a short walk, or quick online workout—make sure you include some movement in your day. Stay energized with daily exercise. You’ll feel more positive, less stressed, and be able to focus better while studying online.
Tip #8: Don’t forget to eat healthy
When you’re busy doing an assignment or going through lecture slides, it’s definitely easier to grab a quick treat than stop to make a healthy meal. Even if you have a fridge full of good ingredients, you’ll probably still reach for a “fast food” option.
Everyone who works or studies from home goes through this. It’s so tempting to get lazy and let your healthy diet slide. But after a few days, you’ll start paying the price with lower energy and reduced ability to focus.
If you want to stay alert and keep your strength up, make healthy eating a top priority.
Tip #9: Take a break when you need it
Feeling exhausted or overwhelmed? The best thing about online learning is the flexibility. Apart from attending live lectures, you can take a break whenever you want.
Go for a walk outside. Take a nap. Adjust today’s study schedule so you can fit in an extra break.
Without the structure of campus classes, some students struggle to create a realistic work schedule. They worry about falling behind and end up pushing themselves too hard.
Be aware of how you’re feeling. Take some time to relax, recharge, and look after yourself. Have you checked out apps like Headspace or Calm? They're great for short meditations and stress-relievers that boost your overall mood.
Tip #10: Don’t panic! Herzing is here for you.
Feel like you’re falling behind on school work? Worried about an upcoming assignment or test? Having a tech issue? Just need to talk?
Don’t panic. Herzing is here for you. Whether on campus or online, we have support systems in place to assist our students. Reach out to your instructor. Email your campus. We’re just a click away.
Follow the tips we covered here, and ask for support when you need it. You may be studying independently from home, but you’re never alone. We’re here to help!
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