My name is Rachel, and I am one of the off-campus advisors here in Contemporary student services. I am a junior Computer Science student who lives with my family here in Northern Virginia. In March, at the beginning of the first week of 100% online learning, I was asked to create the below social media post with some tips and tricks to help my fellow students get the most out of their online classes. I had taken a handful of online courses by that point, so some of the tips that you see listed come from my own experience. That being said, I had never taken a fully online semester, and my previous experiences could only take me so far. So, I turned to other resources like Mason’s Stearns Center, picked out tips that would be achievable but helpful for most, if not all, students, and added them to the graphic in hopes that it would be of some help to other students.
I didn’t get the chance to try out all the tips listed before my post went on social media, but I did make a conscious effort to follow those tips as closely as possible for the rest of the semester. Now that summer is here and the fall semester is quickly approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the tips from March’s social media post and share some of the new tips that I’ve come up with since then.
Make reminders of important due dates and deadlines- This was a life-saver for me, especially since social distancing made it easy to forget what day of the week it was. I’m super forgetful, so I put reminders in my phone, wrote important dates on a mini whiteboard in my room, and put post-it notes with reminders on my laptop. I will definitely continue this habit in the fall, and recommend this technique to any other student!
Block off parts of your schedule specifically for school work- I gave this a try, but had a hard time sticking to it. A few of my friends really liked this method, though, and said that it was really helpful for them. I think that this tip will be particularly helpful for students who find comfort in having a regular, daily routine. I’ll definitely be giving it a second shot in the fall!
Make goals and deadlines for yourself- It can be harder to keep track of time when you’re not going into school every day, so I found it particularly helpful to break larger assignments up into smaller, more manageable, chunks and give myself different deadlines for each piece. One of my professors also suggested giving ourselves “false deadlines,” meaning we convince ourselves that a project or assignment is due a few days before it actually is. That gives us a little wiggle room if things don’t go exactly to plan. These tips were really helpful for me, and I would recommend them to everyone, especially those who struggle with time management.
Reach out to your instructor if you have questions- This is true for all classes, not just online courses! Your instructors are there to help you and to answer your questions, so be sure to take advantage of this.
Choose a quiet area to do your school work- If possible, choose a quiet and distraction-free area to attend online classes and work on school work. If you’re living with family or roommates, it may also be a good idea to ask them not to disturb you while you are in class or doing work. If this isn’t an option for you, I also found that the time of day matters- for example, I live with younger siblings, so I found it helpful to wake up early so that I was guaranteed an hour or two of quiet time before they woke up.
Turn off your phone and put it away- I can’t over-emphasize how important this is! Studies have shown that just seeing your phone, even if it’s turned off and the screen is facing down, is enough to distract people. I always try to put my phone out of sight when I’m studying, and it’s definitely a game-changer. I highly recommend that everyone give this a try, or at least put their phone on do not disturb while studying.
Some more tips I picked up:
Find out what resources are available to you- Many classes are being held online, but that doesn’t mean that offices are closed. Lots of student resources, such as the Math Tutoring Center, Career Services, and CAPS are still open and offering online services.
Keep in touch with your classmates- A simple group chat can go a long way! Staying in contact with your peers can help to foster a collaborative learning environment, and means that you’ll always have someone to turn to if you have questions about an assignment.
Online learning can be a challenge, but I hope that these tips will help to make it less so. If you have any questions about the resources available to you, or just want to speak to an off-campus advisor about your experience thus far, please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. Best of luck, Patriots!