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Online learning is the unfortunate new norm for college students around the country during the pandemic. If you’re anything like me, having all of your schoolwork online is not enjoyable. I am definitely a hands-on learner and struggle to find the motivation to complete all of my work online. I had to take my four classes online this spring, and I learned how to actually get my work done and be motivated to do so. Here are five tips for online school.

Take breaks

If you’re unaccustomed to staring at your computer all day, then you probably find yourself tired, stressed and less productive. I found it helpful to download the Pomodoro Focus Timer on my iPhone. If you have Android, you can download the Focus Timer Reborn. The Pomodoro technique lets you set a timer for 25 minutes and take five minute breaks throughout the day. This helps me focus better and increase my productivity during my study and work time. I also encourage you to take longer breaks to stand and stretch, get outside, take a quick walk, grab a snack, drink water, lay down and close your eyes, listen to music, dance or sing. I didn’t find myself tired and endlessly scrolling through Instagram and TikTok.

Get a planner

Planners have helped me tremendously to keep my thoughts and due dates organized. It can be daunting to look at all the due dates and assignments on a course calendar, so write them down in a monthly or weekly planner. If you don’t have much to write each day and prefer an overview of your month, the monthly planner is perfect for you. Alternatively, you could use a separate monthly planner along with your weekly or daily planner to have the books open side by side to see the monthly overview alongside your weekly or daily activities. Writing my daily tasks in my planner motivates me to check them off the list and holds me accountable for doing them.

Set up a dedicated workspace 

Creating a dedicated workspace is tricky during COVID-19, especially if you’re a college student with parents and siblings at home. I found it helpful to make an office area in my bedroom. This allows me to complete online discussions and assignments and study better in a quiet and safe environment. Having a workspace reduces distractions, like social media or Netflix[sccq]. In traditional settings, the school environment controls these distractions you’re in, but at home, staying focused is up to you.

Get to know your professors

Getting to know professors through Zoom classes isn’t easy. It’s so easy to hide behind your screen, turn your camera off, put yourself on mute and tune out. But what good is that doing? Not only are you hindering your ability to learn, but you’re wasting the time and effort your professors spend trying to help you. While it may be tempting to zone out during your zoom lecture, stay attentive, ask questions and let your professor know you’re engaged and willing to learn. Alternatively, visit them during Zoom office hours to discuss an interesting topic or ask a question from lecture. Engaging with your instructors helps them teach better, and it builds lasting professional relationships.

Take care of yourself

Online learning can take a toll on your health. Chances are, you’re looking at a screen all day, which can be harmful to your eyes. Take breaks to rest your eyes and get a snack. Online learning can be draining and time-consuming compared to in person classes. Make sure to take breaks and care for your body’s needs. Stay hydrated,  and try taking small walks during your breaks. You can even read your favorite book, drink some coffee, or do another activity you love.

Online school has been difficult for many of us, but it is important to remember you’re still capable of doing your work. This isn’t forever, so do the best you can now. I hope you can use these five tips to get through this crazy semester. Good luck!

HCXO, Skylar

Skylar Petrik

Maryland '22

I am a junior at University of Maryland. In my free time, I love to cook, explore new places, read bestseller books, workout, and spend time with family.
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