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Your online learning survival guide

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If you’re at university or college right now, chances are that the experience is not what you had imagined it would be. You looked forward to lectures packed with fellow students, enjoying debates in tutorials and hanging out between or after class with friends. Covid-19 changed all that.

None of us are living the way we imagined we would be in 2021, but students in particular are feeling short-changed. Full- or part-time online learning is the reality of student life today and it’s impacting the productivity and mental health of many.

The good news is that it is possible to make this situation work for you. Here are some easy-to-implement strategies to get the most out of your studies and protect your emotional health.

Prepare as if you were heading out for classes

It’s important to start your day as if you were attending in-person university classes. This enables you to mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead and will also increase your productivity. Start by showering and getting dressed. This creates a distinction between study and relaxation time.

It’s important to establish a routine and establish a time when you know it’s time to start working. Make this non-negotiable. Follow your timetable strictly and systematically, and use the time in between to catch up on assignments or study.

Practice time management

Time management is important in all aspects of life and is an essential skill for success at university. If you haven’t experienced college-life due to the pandemic, you were fortunately not subjected to balancing classes, assignments, tests and exams, all whilst finding your feet on a large campus. However, deadlines are still a part of online courses, and with being at home all the time, you can easily slip out of that pressurizing mindset. Whilst this provides a better mental state at the time, if you are susceptible to procrastination, eventually it will catch up to you.

North Eastern University provided effective ways to practice time management as an online student.

Look at the syllabus at the start of the semester and make note of major assignments. Mark them on a calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead.

Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to the work that goes along with each module.

When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.

Check in periodically throughout the term and look at how you’re spending your time. Ask yourself: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.

Allocate a specific place in your home to attend classes and do your work

Mixing work and pleasure is never a good thing and is something that applies when you are an online student as well. If you are virtually attending your classes in your bedroom, where you relax and sleep, you are unable to mentally compartmentalize areas of your life where you need to focus, and when you need to unwind.

Decide which environment works best for your productivity, and experiment with different spaces in your house, such as the kitchen, dining room, garden, or if you are lucky enough to have a study. Wherever you choose, make sure there’s high-speed internet access so you’re not trying to take an online course over a lagging connection. Understand that this space will work as your office and organize the space so that it provides you functionality and efficiency. Know exactly where everything is and make a habit of keeping it neat and organized to endure that it is a conducive working environment.

Create community groups with fellow students

Although the primary focus of attending university is to acquire your degree or diploma, there are other aspects of tertiary education that teaches you life skills. Group projects and tutorial groups allow you to meet like-minded individuals who share the same passions and interests as you and create friendships that you carry for many years. With lectures being online, the in-person interactions have been eliminated, but there are ways you can create an interactive environment for yourself.

  • Create WhatsApp groups with your peers where you can share ideas and thoughts on your course work. This also allows you to make sure you are going at the same pace as others and not following behind.
  • Online study sessions with fellow students creates a sense of commandry and reminds you that others are going through the same experience. Seeing each other virtually bridges the gap between online and reality and is an easy medium during this difficult time.
  • If regulations allow it, have weekly social distancing study sessions in an open space. This gives you a new environment to work in and a space to strengthen relationships with fellow students.

Make use of your lecturers and tutors

Part of signing up for a degree or diploma course means that you are at liberty to use your teachers as resources. Whilst it may have been intimidating to meet with your lecturers after class whilst attending in-person lessons, doing it virtually decreases the pressure. Having a private lesson can help you stay on track with your work and create a personable relationship with your teacher, which will help your Continuous Assessment mark.

Stay in tune with your mental health

Studying from home can leave you feeling isolated and unproductive. With no one around you, your thoughts are left to linger and issues from your past can arise. This is normal, especially during such an unprecedented time as the coronavirus pandemic. Some students are away from their families and others are forced to be in a toxic environment, which further contributes to the feeling of isolation.

It is important to take account of your mental health and be aware of how you are feeling. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and see what you can do differently. Speak to someone you trust and who you believe will give you the most effective advice.

Being a student is hard enough and to do it during a pandemic takes extra strength and determination. Staying on top of your work takes a great amount of focus and implementing these suggestions will greatly impact your productivity. Ultimately, make sure that your mental health is always good as it will set the tone for how you are able to work.


North Eastern University; World Health Organization; Continuous Assessment

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