Coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, has paused the college experience for many. While freshmen only experienced half a semester of new beginnings and sophomores were finally getting the hang of things, most juniors and seniors I know of were using this last semester to find what path they definitely wanted to follow. However, in the face of a global pandemic, the world of academia was faced with a difficult decision: close schools completely or go online.
Given that technology has advanced rapidly over the last few decades, we are fortunate enough to have resources that will allow students to continue their education virtually. However, this does come with difficulties. Even though the majority of people know how to work and have access to the internet (even toddlers are included in this generalization), there are students who may not have the solid resources to continue with their education virtually. Internet, computer-access, and time-management are the big three when it comes to taking courses online. When we are faced with a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult for many to have open access to what most would call a basic necessity of survival, as stated by Ben Alonzo of Ultra Techlife.
According to PEW research while an average of 90% of adults (ages 18-65+) use the internet on a daily basis, only 73% have access to it at home. This means that at least 17% of the population relies on outside resources— workplaces, libraries, universities— to use the internet— all of which are now being shut down and closed for an unknown amount of time.
If you are part of the population that relied on public areas for internet access, please note that companies like Spectrum, Xfinity, and Cox are offering two months of free internet (the rest of the semester, technically) if you have a student living under your household. This guide by Rebecca Lee Armstrong will tell you all you need to know about accessing free internet.
Now, aside from the stress of insuring you have the materials you need, taking online courses can be daunting if you have never taken one before. I have taken roughly eight or nine online classes in my three years of higher education (including dual enrollment). It took time to get the hang of them, but eventually they got easier and I began enjoying them more. For the most part they are time-friendly and give you the freedom to work whenever you please (even at three in the morning when you can’t sleep). Despite this, these characteristics can be dangerous, especially when you’ve already become accustomed to in-person classes keeping you on track.
Here are five tips to get you through the transition to online courses:
- Don’t assume they are going to be exactly like your in-person lectures
This will probably be the biggest hurdle for students whose semester has been interrupted. Online courses are not the same as being lectured face-to-face; they require more individual input and participation. While sitting in class, you can normally go the entire duration without saying a word to anyone, letting your classmates do the talking. However,when taking an online class, don’t be afraid to use the discussion board to communicate with classmates or the professor. If you have questions that you were hoping someone else would ask, chances are that person is waiting for another person to ask, too, beginning a never ending cycle of unanswered curiosity. In addition, do not be afraid to email your professors. They may take an hour or a day to reply (so don’t ask last minute) but their input is always the most trusted when it comes to the course assignments and lectures.
- Go through the syllabus religiously
By now you should understand that the syllabus, for the most part, is the final outline of how the course is going to go. If you normally got away with not reading it because your professor generally told you due dates in class, you’ve got a big storm coming. Make sure that you read your syllabus, look out for any changes that have been made in order to adapt to the online format, and highlight the due dates for assignments (discussions, quizzes, exams, essays, etc).
- Write down due dates
After going through your syllabus, make sure you have due dates written down somewhere. You can highlight them on the actual document, as mentioned above, but it’s always best to have it written somewhere you know you’re going to look. If you know you are forgetful, grab a post-it note, write what you have due for the week, and stick it onto the mirror in the restroom so you can see it when you brush your teeth (because quarantine is no excuse for bad hygiene). Another option is to have sticky notes on your laptop/computer, whether physical or virtual, so that they’re the first thing you see when you open it.
- Create a folder for each class
No, I don’t mean a physical folder (unless you like printing out the handouts and work posted online). Create a folder under the “Documents” section of your computer, title it with the semester, then create folders within that folder for each class. I organize mine like this:
Folder 1: “Spring 2020”
Folder A: Class 1
Folder B: Class 2
Folder C: Class 3
Folder D: Class 4
You can then store the documents and downloads in their corresponding folders. This helps you know what you already have downloaded and keeps documents for your classes all in the same place rather than scattered around your laptop. If needed, you can create more folders within your class folders to help you keep track of work you’ve submitted and work that still needs to be done.
- Set specific times to work
Online courses can be intense when you don’t set enough time aside to actually do what you’re assigned. I suggest trying to get at least one thing done per class every day (especially since we all know quarantine means we’re sitting at home doing close to nothing). Assign yourself a specific time and day to sit down and work on one class (ex. Wednesdays I’ll focus on class one, Thursdays on class two).
You can also try and keep your normal routine. If you had class MWF at 10:00 A.M., you can always try to “go to class” at that time every MWF (even though most students will use this time at home to sleep in). “Going to class” includes watching the online lectures/videos provided by your professor. If this is not applicable and your professor does not have videos, try to catch up on the readings. If you do not have readings then see if you can work on another class. The point is to keep yourself on a schedule before you forget that the class exists at all.
This is a strange time for everyone; there is plenty of uncertainty going around and it can become overwhelming and stress people out more. If you are struggling mentally during this time, please use these resources and remember everything is temporary.
*** If you are a UTSA student, check out these online resources provided by the Tomas Rivera Center!
DISCLAIMER: These tips are what have worked for me over the years, everyone works differently. You do not have to be in college to use any of these tips, they can work for parents whose children are in elementary, middle, or high school and have been transitioned to online courses. These are very general organizational tips that can be manipulated to better suit a specific situation.