Most engineering students agree that online learning is far from ideal. From virtual labs to group projects over Zoom or any other platform, there are many shortcomings that aren’t normally present. However, we need to adapt to the online environment as this is how we will be learning for at least the next four months. Keep reading for my guide to a successful online semester that I’ve found helpful over the past six months. Remember that everyone is different, so some of these tips may not be useful to you, but hopefully you’ll at least get some inspiration from them.
- Have a varied routine
Establishing a routine is helpful because this will help you attend live lectures and accomplish all of your tasks. I recommend waking up and going to bed at the same time everyday. This helps your body establish and maintain its sleep-wake cycle. At the same time, it’s important to incorporate some day-to-day variation to prevent you from feeling bored or burnt out. Some of my favourite ways to vary my days are by hanging out with friends, visiting a bakery, and (actually) studying at a coffee shop.
- Discipline, not motivation
If you wait for motivation, you will never accomplish anything. Discipline is what allows you to complete deadlines on time, balance different aspects of your life, and will ultimately help you the most with academic success. Motivation is unreliable, which is why you need to instill discipline.
- Go outside
Going outside is a great way to refresh yourself and improve your mood. Whether you’re in a park, a trail, or your backyard, it can help you increase your focus and mental health as well as reduce stress and anxiety.
- Keep your academic life separate from your personal life
Avoid studying in areas that are used for relaxation, such as bedrooms and living rooms. If studying in another area isn’t an option, you can try rearranging your room in order to differentiate between studying and relaxation. At the very least, do not study in your bed. Many studies have shown that individuals who study in bed have diminished quality of sleep, and also decreased focus and productivity due to associations with sleep.
- Take active breaks
Active breaks are my favourite way to maintain focus during long days. Some examples of active breaks are stretching, doing a few laps in or around your home, and going up and down the stairs a few times. Even if you have back-to-back classes, most professors still operate on Ryerson time, which you can use to take these breaks.
- Watch pre-recorded lecture videos during your scheduled lecture time
It’s easy to fall behind in classes with pre-recorded lectures because you think “I can just watch them on my own time”. Before you know it, the midterm is one week away, you’re still on Week 1’s content, and have no clue what’s going on. You can easily avoid this just by watching these videos during your scheduled lecture period as shown on RAMSS.
- Make sure you’re actively listening during lecture
Having the lecture play on your computer while you scroll through Tik Tok doesn’t count. It’s easy to get distracted because you aren’t in a physical classroom setting, but again, this is where discipline comes in. Make sure you take notes and ask questions, just as you would if you were on campus.
- Do not overstudy
You may find that you have more time to study when all your classes are online. While it’s great to take advantage of this additional time, you need to make sure you don’t overstudy. When Ryerson transitioned to online learning in March, there was a brief period where I was overstudying. If I wasn’t watching a lecture or exercising, I was probably studying. I began to feel tired and unenergetic, and realized I needed to rebalance my academic and personal life. As soon as I did this, I felt more like myself and was well-rested and energized. If you notice yourself overstudying as I did, take some time to think about why you’re overstudying, and replace some of your study sessions with activities like your hobbies and walks.
I hope some of these tips help you adapt to the online environment! While online learning is no easy task, through trial and error you will find what helps you succeed. Good luck!