Hi everyone...what crazy times we are living in right. As I am writing this, we are currently facing the COVID-19 Pandemic. Due to this pandemic, businesses, restaurants, parks, and schools across the country have shut down to keep people in their houses and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
What does that mean for us students? Well the University of Maryland, along with other universities in the state and many more across the country have shifted to being online for the remainder of the spring semester. Stress, despair, and uncertainness took over students as our world was changing day by day with new information.
I know that these changes have caused students a lot of stress to think about being academically successful while switching online, being in a new learning environment, being potentially in a not ideal home, concerns of taking care of their families, losing their on-campus job, dealing with the emotions of having events and graduations cancelled, and the loneliness of being away from classmates and friends.
If you are a students feeling this way, just know that I relate and we are all finding ways to cope with this unprecedented situation. Of course, we all care about the health of ourselves, our families, and our communities, we know that it is more important than our academics. But, that doesn't mean your feelings aren't valid! They are! And just know that we are all in this together.
So today, I wanted to write a blog about being successful with online classes, but first I just wanted to address everything that has happened. I may do a "COVID-19 Chronicles" series where I basically journal this experience and maybe share some information about the virus....writing can be therapeutic and this blog has always been my platform to connect with others so it is something I am considering.
Now, let's get into todays topic: ONLINE CLASSES. Today, I will share my experience with online classes, some tips, and how I plan to handle this change to the semester. So if you'd like to learn more, just keep reading.
What do I know?
Before I jump into some tips, I want to share my experience with online classes. This past winter was the first time I took an online class. The course I took was BSCI339I- Cellular Mechanisms of Aging and Disease. It was a three week course and the way it was structured was that we had quizzes, two exams, a final, and a final project.
All of the information for the week was posted ahead of time, our lectures were uploaded as Panoptos and we had chapters/review articles uploaded to read as well as primary research articles. You had 6 days to complete all the quizzes and then the exam would be open for you to take within 24 hours.
This gave the student a lot of independence to how they wanted to work. As you know, I am a very organized person and I work well with structure. So I made my usual Google drive for the course and created weekly schedules that were a checklist of everything I needed to do.
By following this plan, I was able to get through the material and give myself enough time to take each quiz and prepare for the exams. I think something I learned quickly was that I needed to learn to understand the material and focus less on memorization, as you see I really only had one day to study for the exam so it would be impossible to try to memorize everything and our exams were open note. But open note doesn't mean that I could have taken the exams or quizzes without adequate preparation.
This worked well for me, I ended up getting highest scores on quizzes and exams and I ended the course with an A+ and over 100%!
So this was a summary of my experience with an online course and I am planning to merge what I do normally during a semester and what I did during this course to structure the rest of the semester.
Disclaimer....I say this in all of my blogs but I want to emphasize that what works for me might not work for you and vice-versa, I am really passionate about sharing tips for academic success on my platform and about collaboration and support between students.
Going virtual....it's going to be easy...right?
I think one of the first misconceptions that students have about online classes is that it's going to be easier. After all, open notes, comfort of your own room, no more going to class...what could go wrong?
Well a lot could go wrong and that's why I really wanted to write this blog. I believe going online is going to be harder for many reasons.
1. It is an adjustment - even if you have taken an online course like me, you likely only took like one or two courses. Right now I am currently registered for 7 classes and 19 credits which is a lot more than the 3 credit experience I just described.
We also have gotten used to the way we learn and study on campus such as the way we take notes, using whiteboards to study, the study groups formed, the schedule you have, just being on campus in general, it is the way that we are used to learning but now that is going to change which can be a challenge.
2. You need to know this information - depending on how your teacher formats the online class, it may become easy to take exams open notes, collaborate with friends more, and get away with learning the information less than you normally would. However, especially if you are an underclassmen, the information builds on itself. Don't set yourself up for more difficulties in future classes by not trying to learn the content to the best of your abilities now.
3. Online exams may be harder - jumping off of this, professors may make their online exams harder. In the course I took, we had a lot of short answer questions where you had to explain and make new connections based on what you learned. She tested you for understanding of the material rather than memorization of the material. What I am hoping for is that the professors don't make exams impossible just because we are online now, because after all none of us signed up for this.
Those are just three reasons why I believe that going online will not be easier than in person classes. Depending on the classes you are taking you may face other challenges, I can only speak on being a biology major and french minor.
Tips for Success
Here is what I plan to do to be as successful as possible given the changes and challenges.
1. Getting back to a routine during our extended break
UMD students were given an extended spring break so this upcoming week we don't have any classes. But my tip is to get back to doing some work this week and begin to prepare yourself mentally for classes to begin. Think of this week as a test-run, you can use this week to try finding where in the house you may work best and begin to be adjusted in your routine as you get your brain back into work mode. I saw a lot of people say that this feels like school is over, it really does!! So we need to re-wire our brains to accept this new normal that we will face this semester
2. Follow Your Schedule
I know it may be easy to start sleeping in or letting lectures pile up but I think following your normal in-person schedule will really make being academically successful easier. It's the same reason why I attend all my classes, even if they are recorded, it helps you stay on top of the material.
This is a stressful time, so of course be flexible with yourself, as you would during a normal semester. Sometimes you just need a break and that is healthy. But I would advice as much as possible to stick to your semester schedule, this means watching the lectures during your normal lecture times, set up your meetings during your normal meeting times, and do work during the times you normally would.
3. Find a Good Space to Work
This one is personally going to be a struggle for me, I am the type of person who works in the library and not in my room. I've really conditioned myself to know that my room is not the place I focus the best in. When I took my online course, I worked on our dining room table in the mornings, then would move to the office once my family started watching TV, I would take my exams in the basement, and I barely did anything in my room. I also like to work in open spaces thats why I love buildings like ESJ or even Starbucks, having other people studying around me and that quiet chatter helps me to study and it makes the time go by faster. When I study in a space like my room I feel confined, especially given the fact that I often have 10+ hour study days. So yeah, this might be a bit of a struggle.
Right now my plan is to watch my lectures in my room, this will allow me a quite space to watch them or call in. For study time, I will likely move around the house, this way I am not in my room from 9am-11pm...which is how long my usual school day lasts.
You may even find yourself working outside, the fresh air would be good for us so that again, we aren't inside in the same spot all day.
4. Don't Isolate Yourself
College really has its ways of making you interact with people everyday, whether it's your roommates, your classmates, your friends, your professors, there is so much interaction. If you're like me, then you often study in groups too! Don't let moving online take this away. Set up calls with your study groups! FaceTime a friend as you eat lunch! Do a Netflix Watch Party! Whatever you have to do to keep in touch.
I assume professors will keep their office hours and just move them to a zoom call, it might feel awkward but call in! This is our new normal so don't let the change stop you from doing the things you normally would.
5. Get Out of Your PJs
This is another thing I planned to do, but I also saw this tip online for people who work at home so I think it really does have merit. I think this goes back to creating a routine for yourself that is as close to normal as possible.
For me, getting up and getting ready for class everyday is a really important part of my daily routine, it helps me to feel ready to take on the day. You all know that I "dress-up" everyday, I don't ever really wear sweats to class, and putting on my outfit for the day is a really important part of the how I prepare for the day. Honestly the thought of me wearing sweats and pajamas for the next several months feels impossible to me...so I'm not going to.
I know that I am in a minority here, I dress unlike most students at my college and I am aware of it, but I do think this tip is still important. Even switching out of your PJs into some comfy sweats you usually would wear is an important step. Give yourself a morning and a night time routine that you can look forward to, it helps you mark the start and end of every day.
6. Take Care of Yourself
My last tip is for everyone to take care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally during these times. We are facing something we have never been through before and everyone will adjust and cope with it in their own ways. I encourage you to find something you can do indoors that calms you, whether it is yoga, playing an instrument, an indoor workout, or cooking for example. Throughout this online semester, we will continue to feel disappointments as the dates pass by where there was supposed to be some event on campus we were looking forward to...discuss these feelings with friends or keep a journal.
Everything is changing day by day and right now we don't know what the future brings so be easy on yourself.
These are the tips I have for being academically successful but also to just be healthy and happy during this online semester. Other than the tips I mentioned, I will be doing my usual study techniques so if you would like to know more you can read these blogs:
You can also follow me on my instagram @simply_kye for my updates on this online semester.
Thank you all for reading and I wish everyone the best during these difficult times,