UBC has recently announced that, in addition to 2020W Term 1 taking place mostly online, Term 2 will be delivered online as well.
Although online programming may mean less rainy commutes, transitioning to distance learning can be quite difficult. If you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone! Here is how I struggled to transition into working and studying at home, and some tips regarding study space, keeping track of assignments, and maintaining a daily routine.
Setting up your study space – The placement of your laptop screen is more important than you think!
When I had to join work meetings online, I was sitting on a couch with my laptop on my lap, so that my coworkers could see a plain wall instead of all the KPOP posters in my room. The problems were that my mouse was so low, my wrist started to hurt, the couch was so comfortable I didn’t have the mindset of working, and the computer screen was so low, my neck hurt!
My solution was to create an office space in my own room. I turned around my desk so that it was in the middle of the room rather than right against the wall. I gathered my old yearbooks and put my laptop on top of them, so that the laptop screen was at my eyesight level, and I bought a vertical mouse so that there was less strain on my wrist.
My workspace went from the space on the left to the space on the right:
The setup for my workplace felt much more comfortable – putting my desk in a new spot felt like I was working in a new office despite still being in my room and I’m able to focus more since my neck is comfortable.
For optimum comfort, see if you can achieve one of the ergonomic office space set ups pictured here.
For students, I recommend this setup because the camera will be parallel to your face, making it easier for you to watch lectures and participate in tutorials, while taking notes on a flat surface.
Write down all your assignments and deadlines!
When you have a full course load and multiple learning platforms (Canvas, Piazza, Zoom, BB Collaborate, etc.), it’s hard to keep track of all your lectures and assignments. Although you will see your important deadlines on your calendar on Canvas, you might still have a fear that you have missed something. Here is the most important tip I can give you so that you do not miss any of your assignments – pull out all your syllabi at the start of the term and write down all your assignments on Microsoft Word, Excel, or even on a sheet of paper you can refer back to!
For example, here is my layout for the summer course I took online:
with the instructor’s contact information, where and when the lecture and the tutorial would take place, and a schedule of when the assignments are due. Of course, some of these are optional depending on what you want to record!
And here are my layouts for my five courses last year:
The setup in the first picture is great for keeping track of your grades, how many assignments you have for the course, and how much each assignment is weighed. The setup in the second picture helps you visualize how many assignments are due on the same day and how close the deadlines are to each other.
Although this may seem time-consuming, having all your assignments organized in one document will save you time because you won’t have to scramble for your syllabi or check out the numerous pages on your online learning platforms! I keep this document in my bullet journal and I always look at it the day before every class, to make sure I haven’t missed any deadlines.
I like bullet journaling because I have a bigger space to visualize my deadlines and important events and I can customize each page to what works for me. To learn about the basics of bullet journalling, go to this link. For inspiration, you can also search “back to school bullet journal” on Youtube or Google to have a look at what kind of spreads other people have made.
If you’d prefer a spreadsheet online (or you want a template to print), here are the grade and deadline trackers that you can copy onto your own Google drive and customize.
Learn what works for you and create your personalized daily routine
Some people work well with a rigid schedule, some use the Pomodoro technique, some force themselves to start something. Some people are morning people, while others work best at night. Which of the above do you identify with?
For me, I work terribly with a rigid schedule, I prefer to work in long chunks while I’m still interested in the material, instead of taking a break every 25 minutes, and I force myself to answer at least one question, start brainstorming for an essay, or watch the first 5 minutes of a recorded lecture. I work best in the mornings.
In the first few years of university I thought I had to be super focused and able to follow strict times to succeed in my studies. For some people, like Matheus, they are able to block 50 minutes in their schedule for a specific task. For me, I just need to know how much I have between now and another activity (like work or eating) and I just force myself to start the first step of a task, until I get bored or tired, and then switch to another task.
That being said, I agree with his tip about maintaining a daily routine to help you stick to the mindset that you should be working, not staying in bed all day. Every morning, I try to wake up around the same time (don’t worry if you sleep through your alarm the first few times, you can try again!) and then I brush my teeth, wash my face, and get ready for the day as if I actually had to go out to work/attend school.
Keep in mind that now that we’re working online, what worked for us back when we had in-person classes might not work for us in this online learning environment. I used to wake up only an hour before I had to leave the house for class, but now I stick to waking up at the same time so I don’t lose track of time and I don’t sleep in too much.
Think about what worked for you in the past – did you work best when you had a rigid schedule? Did you work best at 5am, while everyone was asleep? Try to think of a schedule that works for you and stick with it. But if you find that what worked for you before didn’t work this time, you might have to experiment with what’s best for your online learning. If you still don’t feel quite productive, try another method and see if that works. This new online learning environment is challenging to many of us, and don’t worry if you already feel behind and overwhelmed. As you may have already experienced, online and in-person learning are quite different, so it’s okay if you need to explore new ways of learning or new routines.
I hope my experience was able to give you new ideas about how to control your study space and study-pace in this new online learning environment. In the end, what’s important is finding out what works best for you and trying out different things until you conquer your online courses! Let us know in the comments if you’ve had to change your study space or study-pace in this new environment!
Photograph used in cover graphic by:
Montgomery, C. (2020, April 29). Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://unsplash.com/photos/smgTvepind4