Student blog: tips for online study
2020 has been an interesting year for students, with many new challenges thrown our way. University as we know it in autumn 2020 differs vastly from what we were expecting at the start of the year. Virtual learning platforms are our classrooms and Zoom our window to the world. However, even in these times, there are ways we can make our lives a little easier, a little brighter, a little better. Here are some tips for distance learning in 2020.
Set a comfortable ambience for study
Now that your own room is also your classroom, it would be helpful if you were comfortable studying for long times in it. Have a dedicated space for studying and attending university classes separate from places where you can switch off - like your bed. Take some time to tidy up your desk every other day and keep all your most-used stationery within a reachable distance to the centrepiece of your desk - the laptop. Keeping the room well ventilated and illuminated gives the room a fresher feel and keeps you alert, which helps with learning.
Overall, more than the exact layout, what is important is that you are comfortable in your room and you want to study in it. If background music during long study sessions is what makes you comfortable, go for it. Aim to create a space where you can stay in the zone.
Have a plan and get things done early
Now that we have the freedom to access our classrooms from the comfort of our homes, procrastination creeps up quickly. We seem to have so much extra time on our hands since we don't have to travel anywhere to access our learning, and everything is just a click or two away.
Have a plan that you can follow every week. Find the things important to you and what you want to accomplish in a day and make some kind of list and systematically work at completing that list throughout the week. You can even go one step further and create one for daily use.
Ensure you set reasonable goals for yourself so you can consistently complete your work without burning yourself out. Meeting those goals every day gives you a boost throughout the week as you feel that you have accomplished something, staving off that urge to procrastinate.
Personally, once lectures are released on Mondays, I go through them according to my scheduled timetable and prioritise completing the related work according to which seminar/tutorial comes first. Attend seminars/tutorials in the afternoon (because of the time-zone differences) and then spend the evenings consolidating my learning by making structured notes from the more disorganised set of notes I took during the lectures.
Set aside time for your hobbies
Having the time and space to relax is just as important as focusing on your academic studies. Spend some time on something you enjoy doing every week (and can destress by doing) while staying safe in the current pandemic. This could be things like playing a musical instrument, reading, listening to music, gaming or even safe outdoor activities such as going for a walk or a run alone. Reading fiction while listening to music helps me relax after a long day.
Hobbies allow you to regain your balance and let you refocus on your studies after taking a short break. Some of them could even allow you to keep connected with other people such as gaming online, like some students from Leeds ISC have been doing. 'Among Us', anyone?
If you are interested, you could even try doing one of the many 30-day challenges to make your time as a student more memorable even within the confines of your home!
Reach out to someone
Studying online during a pandemic can be a little lonely sometimes and it would be immensely helpful if you could talk with someone. A burden shared is a burden halved. Try to maintain your existing support network by keeping in contact with the people that care about you, from friends to family, and build new networks with people from the university you have enrolled in. We are not alone.
One of the first few things we did as a class was to create a class WhatsApp group so we could remain connected and help each other if we had any difficulties regarding university life. The distances separating us only make us feel like we are alone, but we are not. There are others just like us, a few clicks away, who we can connect with if we just willingly take that first step.
Tutors are friendly and are there for you via email or Zoom if you need help with anything. They are invested in our learning just as much as we are and do their best to ensure that we are on a path to success. For subject concerns, we could approach our subject tutors and schedule an appointment for a face-to-face zoom session if we need the extra help. For general progression and welfare concerns, we could approach our Academic Success tutors. If they are unable to help us fully, they would at least be able to point us towards the direction we can head for proper help.
We just need to reach out and there will be a hand there to help. Doors will open when knocked.
Overall, let's all remember that no matter how tough the situation is, we can overcome it - together. Even this will pass and we can all look forward to a better future where we have all learnt valuable lessons from this experience. Till that time, let's all try to make this journey as memorable as we can because you are only young once.
This blog was written by Muthu, an International Year One Biological Sciences student at Leeds International Study Centre (currently studying online from Singapore) who is hoping to progress to the University of Leeds’ BSc. Medical Sciences next year.
Find out more about the programmes on offer at Leeds International Study Centre for progression to the University of Leeds.