With the current closing and moving to online classes of many schools and universities (including mine), I’ve realized the challenge that many of my students will be facing and want to offer some pieces of advice.
(1) Remember that you’re still “in school”
As you head away from campus — whether you’re going home or elsewhere or staying on campus due to other travel restrictions — your mind will shift into “break” mode. It will take some mental gymnastics to force yourself to realize that isn’t the case. Just because you’re changing your venue doesn’t mean you’re not in school anymore.
It’s a location shift, not a vocation shift.
And since for our school, spring break begins early, and then we’re back to virtual school, then a couple days off for Easter break, and then potentially still online (if things don’t change in the next two weeks), everyone will need to mentally shift at least twice.
Tell yourself that as soon as the next “in school” date rolls around: I am not on break! Then tell yourself again after the next break when school is again on your own. I am not on break!
(2) Make sure you pack everything you need
At my school, the students are packing up to leave on Tuesday; I realize many of you at other schools are already gone from your campus. If you’re still in packing mode, remember that this time, you need to take all class materials. Spend a few moments at your desk thinking about what you normally carry to class each day and the materials you’ve been collecting all semester —
- folder with handouts
- study cards
- other resources
Do this for each class and pack these up to take with you.
(3) Create a schedule
It’s not going to be easy to maintain a study schedule when you don’t have to arrive at classes at certain times. Depending on how your prof sets up the online learning class, you may be on your own. If you’re required to log in at certain times, set your phone alarm to remind you. In any case, for all your classes, create a schedule and stick to it.
- For your 3-credit classes, you’re in class for 3 hours a week and you have homework for at least that many hours.
- Create a weekly schedule — if it helps, plan to work during the same time that you would be in class anyway. For your 9:00 class, set aside Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 9:00 and sit down to work on your class assignments.
- If that doesn’t work or if you need to work around your family’s schedule to find quiet study time, do so, but find those needed hours somewhere.
- Remember that you usually sat in class at that time and then did homework, so set aside another couple of hours during your week (at least) to work on those class assignments.
- Give your family that schedule so they’ll understand your need to not be interrupted (see point #4).
(4) Find a quiet spot to work & limit distractions
Again, this is the concept of not being in “break” mode. Make your family aware that siblings can’t be interrupting nonstop; you’re trying to simulate school because you need to keep up with homework. (You may run into the same problem with interruptions at school, so whatever you do there should work at home.)
Wherever your work spot is (and it may well be the kitchen table!), you’ll need to be especially focused. Younger siblings may be home as well with their own school closings. You’re going to be tempted to do what you normally do on break, so it’s going to take focus and discipline to keep up with your classes (see points #1 and #2).
(5) Work ahead & beyond
Realize how many hours you spend on campus going to and from class, goofing off in the dorms, spending time at meals. All of that time is now yours. Don’t waste it. Now is the time to make headway on that end-of-the-year project, do some extra reading or practicing, or get a handle on that one concept that you’ve been struggling with all semester.
Use the online resources your university library offers. If you’ve not been in the habit of online research (beyond Google), now is the time to experience what your school library has to offer through their online portal.
(6) Keep calm
Don’t let this semester get away from you or fall apart because you’re not planning well during this enforced online learning time. This is all part of the adulting you’ll soon be doing. Life often throws curve balls, and you’ll need to adjust and keep moving.
Stay calm. Be organized. Take advantage of the opportunities these coming weeks may offer in terms of revised schedules, time with family, or extra time to do the things you already love.
See you sometime soon! (I hope!)
3 thoughts on “6 Tips for Surviving as a Virtual College Student”
I just sent your post to a friend who teaches at Westmont – thanks for these helpful tips! Also so grateful for your recent personal letter. Miss you, friend! These are truly unpredictable days.
Indeed they are! And thanks for sending it along. Hope it proves helpful to others! Miss you, too.