Hello friends! I know we were all disappointed to discover that the fall semester would be held completely online. There is no right way to feel about it. We are in a very unique situation, and it’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling at the moment.
At first, I was extremely disappointed and frustrated that I would have to complete an entire semester in my tiny childhood bedroom. But after feeling out my discouragement, I decided to focus on the positive aspects of an online education. So, I am here to share with you my tips for making the most out of this semester!
I would first like to acknowledge my privilege within these recommendations. I realize that not everyone has the same access to resources as I do. Most of these tips are very achievable no matter what resources you have, but may need to be adapted to your circumstances.
1. Maintain a routine.
I know you’ve heard it throughout self-isolation, and it’s definitely easier said than done. Studies have shown that maintaining a simple routine throughout self-isolation benefits those who need structure to survive. This was the only reason I survived the latter half of the spring semester. Before establishing a routine, I felt sluggish, unmotivated, and irritable. Once the routine was established, I found it easier to complete my work and stay productive. It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed; keep it simple, and I promise you’ll see results.
2. Create a dedicated work space.
Whether that’s at your kitchen table, a desk, or even a closet, having a space dedicated to work (NOT YOUR BED!) is essential for productivity and motivation. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not doing work in your bed. I know it’s tempting, but your bed should be a sacred space just for sleeping and relaxing. By bringing in the stresses of school, you disturb the separation between work and relaxation, thus making it more difficult to actually complete your work.
Communicate with those in your household about when you have class. This ensures limited distractions during lectures from the people you live with. But also, communicate with your professors about any issues you may be having. Whether you’re having an issue with technology or with absorbing the material, your professors are there to help you. Don’t be afraid to talk to them outside of class; they want to get to know you, and they’re experiencing many of the same difficulties as you.
4. Stay connected with your classmates.
Just because classes are online doesn’t mean you can’t make new friends. Reach out to at least one person from all your classes and ask for their phone number or snapchat. This way you always have someone to talk with about assignments and material in case instructions are unclear. Take it a step further and form a study group over zoom to review material before a big exam.
5. Use technology to your advantage.
Apps like Notion, Zotero, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and OneNote are great resources for organizing course materials. There are countless videos on YouTube on how to most efficiently use these apps, so I definitely recommend checking those out if you’re interested. This semester, I’m trying out Notion for all my planning and notetaking. As someone who has always preferred physical notebooks to take notes, this is definitely an adjustment for me. But I’m excited to see how much more efficient it will be in keeping me organized, especially in a fully online environment.
6. Limit your screen time during lectures.
With an online education comes the endless distractions and temptations of the internet. Using apps like Forest for your phone and Cold Turkey for your laptop to help block websites and apps that may be distracting during lectures and study time. By eliminating the distraction altogether, you’ll find it’s easier to be productive and stay focused.
7. Utilize on campus resources.
Just because campus is closed, doesn’t mean campus resources are unavailable. Resources like the Learning Resource Network, the Writing Center, the Office of Career Education, Disability Support Services, the Office of Study Away, and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentorship are all still available through online platforms. If you’re struggling with new material, go to the LRN! They even have new resources for staying focused during Zoom lectures and tips to get the most out of an online learning environment. If you’re struggling with a paper, come to the Writing Center! They offer online consultations and can help you at any point in the writing process. Just because we aren’t on campus, doesn’t mean these resources are unavailable.
8. Get involved!
Like I mentioned before, just because campus is closed, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. Arcadia has a plethora of clubs and organizations that will be meeting over Zoom throughout the semester. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but by joining a club you will be able to meet friends who you may not have met in classes or in your field of study. I promise it’s worth the extra time not binging Netflix.
9. Know this is only temporary.
I know we are all frustrated and disappointed to be learning in an online environment, but this is temporary. Most of you still have years at Arcadia left, and I know it seems impossible now, but you will get to see that castle everyday. Hang in there—this is not the new normal.
10. Stay safe.
Keep in mind that Arcadia will be there when we get back. We are hopeful for an in-person return in Spring 2021. But that won’t be possible unless we all do our part to stay safe and healthy. The pandemic is still very real, and you are not immune to it just because you’re young. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and please social distance. We are in this fight together.