some quick ways to get more out of online courses
University can be daunting for even the brightest of bulbs at the best of times, and it’s no secret that the new online schooling format has thrown most students for a loop in one way or another. The lack of structured schedules, privacy, and resources has most students feeling overwhelmed. As someone who took online courses through the Spring/Summer semester, this article is my way of trying to help you all by sharing some of the tricks I learned during that time.
The most challenging aspect of online classes for me was figuring out how to manage my time without a class structure to build that schedule around. When there’s scheduled meeting times, it’s easier to be mindful of readings and due dates, because you’re engaging with the material on a deeper level. But it’s hard to be invested in the class lectures when you’re just reading words on a screen (ironic, I know, as you’re also reading this on a screen).
I found two things helped with this, though, and the first has to do with time management (yuck, I know, but trust me). Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is turn on my laptop, log into UR Courses, then unplug my laptop’s charger. I’ve found that I can best focus first thing in the morning when I don’t have much else on my mind, because nothing much has happened yet. I unplug my laptop as a way to set a timer on my study time – I work until my laptop is just about to die, then I save what I’ve done, plug it back in, and take a break.This way, instead of getting sucked into scrolling through Instagram on my phone or getting ready for my day, I dig right into whatever reading or assignment I have to be working on. It also means I’m not constantly checking the time (we all know that makes it feel like time is passing slower – don’t do that to yourself), but I still have a structured schedule in that once I’ve done four or five hours of work I can make a big meal or grab coffee with a friend with the feeling that I’ve already accomplished a lot that day.
The second thing I’ll do is change up the way I’m putting the information from my courses into my brain. Humans can take in information in an astounding number of ways, but two of the most effective are through vision and hearing. All of us are using reading already, but sometimes you’ll have been reading so long that your eyes glaze over, and nothing makes sense anymore. The one thing that’s always helped me there has been choosing to read out loud. If I’m having trouble figuring out what the writer is trying to say, reading out loud helps me get a better sense of the tone they intended, so I’m more likely to catch on to their direction. Reading out loud also means I’m also hearing the information, which may not consciously register in the moment, but just being able to get the audio allows your brain to encode the memory in a different way than it would with visual information. Double whammy, baby.
I know these seem like small things, even just common sense, but they do truly make a difference, and I hope they’re able to help you find some structure amid the chaos.