Since most learning is now online, many of us have left UBC campus and are living in places where there are major time zone differences with the time zone where UBC is in. For this reason, it is impossible for some to avoid not having classes and exams during their typical sleeping hours. This not only can lead to having undesirable sleeping schedules or if not, losing many hours of sleep, but also lowering our chances of taking exams at our best possible states.
This is a very big concern for a number of students as sleeping hours are not the ideal time for executing high-intensity focused activities, such as taking an exam. In hope of restoring equal academic success opportunities, I would like to share some tips that might be helpful for you in tackling this problem. Although I don’t have personal experience with taking exams at a different time zone, and am lucky enough to not have had any exams during my sleep hours so far, DON’T WORRY, I’ve got you covered.
I asked some students at UBC from different year levels and faculties about their challenges and tips to maintain their well-being and academic success while living in time zones in which their synchronous classes take place during their regular sleep schedules. Here are some of their most common challenges that you might be able to relate to:
- Maintain the motivations to get up or stay awake for those nighttime classes
- Overcome the drowsiness and stay focused during lectures
- Get in the “study” vibe during the night/early morning
- Bad internet connection, limited access to certain websites or tools, and other technological problems
The students I chatted with actually used, and are still using, the strategies I talk about below in their courses. I strongly believe that they can help you too! I also want to note that in order to achieve the best possible results for your exam, it is not about preparing for the exam a few days ahead but to be well-prepared from the moment you registered for the course, and these tips will reflect that.
1. Create a routine which prioritizes your sleep quality and health-promotion activities
It is often a good thing to have a routine, especially when you have a lot going on in your life. When there is a routine, you won’t have to question what to do next every single time, which would save much of your precious time and keeps you always moving and productive.
I, personally, created a routine by literally drawing out a weekly calendar, and first, write down all the commitments that have a fixed schedule, for instance, class from 10am to 11am on Monday. Then, I chose a reasonable time periods for my daily must-do activities such as eating, sleeping and added those in my calendar. Finally, I wrote down the estimated time slots for activities that can be done at flexible hours but should be completed on that day, such as doing the readings for tomorrow’s lecture. I, then, followed my calendar very closely and for a long enough period of time, it became a routine. This is my own way of doing things but you can see more suggestions on how to start a routine here.
And why prioritize sleep and health-promotion activities? Most of us would probably agree that with good health, we can accomplish so much more.
Want more health and well-being resources? Click here.
2. Change completely to Pacific Time (PDT or PST)
If I were in a different time zone, this would be one of the first options that come to my mind. Stressing out over time zone differences? No problem, I just need to sleep when people in Vancouver sleep. Would it just be like a jet lag, and then things will eventually go back to normal? Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
You probably have other commitments that run in the time zone you are living in, which can fall in Vancouver’s nighttime. I guess no one wants to be forcing themselves to sleep when their family is having a feast. So, I acknowledge that this might not work for everyone (including the students who I interviewed and said they tried but didn’t work out), but you can still give it a shot, and see if it works for you.
3. Actively seek out for appropriate support when needed
UBC has truly gone beyond my expectations in accommodating students during this difficult and full-of-uncertainty period. They have made most resources available online and easily accessible. Not only that, UBC instructors, advisors or staff in general, are always willing to help and do their best to provide equal learning opportunities for all students. However, they won’t always know you are struggling if you don’t seek their support directly, especially in an online learning environment. So, don’t hesitate to talk to them about your concerns and propose ways in which they can better accommodate you.
You can try reaching out to your professors via email at the start of the term to let them know what time zone you are joining from, to see what options they have for you to access the course and exam materials. If you have exams during your regular sleep hours, from my personal experience and the experiences of the students I interviewed,
most professors will accommodate you, for example, by having the exam open for the period of time you requested.
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4. If you haven’t already, update your Canvas time zone
If you don’t want to miss an exam because you thought it’s at another time, activate this function and it will show you all the exam dates in your time zone!
5. Next term, consider asynchronous courses or a smaller course load
If, at this time, making changes to your course selection is no longer possible, you can always try this tip out for the upcoming term. Reducing your course load and taking asynchronous courses are great ways to gain some flexibility in your schedule. They will not only lower the chances of having too many courses that run during your regular
sleep schedule but also give you some extra time to find a routine that works best for you, actually get used to it, and return to your usual productive level.
Taking a smaller course load will allow you more time to truly learn, absorb the course materials, and enjoy the process rather than trying to push through the term, while leaving time for self-care activities, which all bump up your chances of nailing your exams. Quality over quantity!
Not only keeping a smaller course load matters but it is also important to choose the time of your class and the way the course is being delivered wisely. Try keeping an eye out for courses with asynchronous lectures, or lectures that are recorded so you can view them on your own time. If you are required to take a course that is synchronous, try finding the time that supports your productivity and fits well with your routine.
I want to acknowledge that these tips are purely from students’ personal experiences and so, they might not always be beneficial for you. I encourage you to test these and see what works and what doesn’t, and maybe share the tips you find useful to those who are in similar situations. Help one another and LET’S ALL ROCK OUR EXAMS!