For some students, learning in an online environment comes naturally or is at least familiar. But for others, the most experience is in an occasional online discussion group. So how do you manage doing everything as a student remotely? Below are some helpful tips for succeeding in a remote learning environment.
Make a Plan for the Rest of the Semester
In order to keep on track with your assignments, it is important to have a plan. Using and regularly updating a planner, whether paper or digital, is a great strategy and the first step is to fill in all significant events and due dates from all your syllabi. You may have already started this process at the beginning of the semester, but as papers, exams, presentations, organizational meetings, job or internship interviews change with the move to remote learning, updating a planner will be key. This information will allow you to know when many assignments are due at the same time and when you might be overwhelmed if you don’t plan ahead. Looking ahead also ensures that you have key deadlines and dates in mind as you plan.
Breaking down major assignments into pieces and setting deadlines for each smaller goal also prevents procrastination or feeling overwhelmed at the last minute. The stages for a paper, for example, might include, research, outline, first draft and final draft. The Rhetoric & Writing Center is available to help you with planning your writing projects. Setting specific goals and deadlines for each stage will help you keep on track.
Create a Schedule that Works for You
Taking classes remotely may give the illusion that you have more time to study, but planning out your day will help you stay efficient. Here are some tips for planning your day well:
- Write down blocks of time that are pre-scheduled and will not be available for studying on your weekly calendar.
- Think through the number of hours you need for each class in study or prep time. The general recommendation is to allow for two to three hours outside of class for every one hour spent in class. Write this down into your weekly schedule for each class as well.
- A good practice can be to give each project a specific time slot, almost as if it was a scheduled event. This approach can help eliminate time spent trying to figure out what you should work on during the study time you have. Do your best to see it as an appointment that you don’t want to miss.
To-do Lists are Your Friend
Depending on your personality, you may love to-do lists, or you may struggle to use them. Either way, there’s good evidence that they can really help when it comes to breaking down projects and accomplishing tasks. If you use Google products, Google Chrome offers an extension called Google Tasks. This useful app allows access to your list on multiple platforms such as your smartphone, computer, or tablet. Oregon State University also has a great article on how to schedule your time – including a recommendation to color code!
Set Realistic, Personalized Goals
Only you know what works best for you. Time management and planning ahead gives balance to your priorities, responsibilities, and well-being. For example, if you are a morning person, try not to schedule late night study times.
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time a project or task can take. It’s important to give more time than you think you need for complex tasks, and leave some open space for time with friends, personal needs, and spiritual enrichment. In this new season, you may have new responsibilities like cooking for yourself or family obligations, so setting aside time will be key.
Create an Inviting Space
Depending on where you are currently, setting aside a space for study and coursework can make a big difference. We know you might be limited on space, but try to find a small place that can be a study space for productivity. If you study in the same place as you sleep or watch TV, you may be tempted to do those activities rather than focus on your studies.
Eat Well-Balanced Meals and Get Regular Exercise/Sleep
When completing classes remotely, it is important to schedule time for good meals, exercise, and sleep. Check out these resources from Sleep Week! You may need to get creative if you have limited space, but exercise, healthy eating, and eight hours of sleep per night can dramatically improve your mood, help you concentrate, increase your energy level and reduce anxiety. Getting outside in nature also has demonstrated health benefits.
Use Time Between Scheduled Events Effectively
Social media is amazing and useful for connecting with those you love during this season, but it can easily make time disappear. If you usually jump on social media when you have a 20-minute break, consider spending that time reviewing, editing and revising your notes from a recent lecture. Turning off social media app notifications or removing apps might help.
Reward Yourself and Practice Rest
If possible, limit your blocks of study time to two hours for any one course. Rotating subjects and courses can be helpful to your concentration and focus. Quick breaks between these blocks of study time will re-energize you so that you can re-engage for the next course. Consider this schedule: two hours of uninterrupted studying, a brief break, then two more hours studying, followed by a great FaceTime chat with friends will be more fruitful than four distracted hours of study.
Rest was created by God for us. Provost and Senior Vice President, Deborah Taylor, wrote a piece in the Biola Magazine about "God's Invitation to Rest." that speaks to this beautifully.
As you navigate these changes, know that Biola is here to support you. For more information and resources on remote learning, visit Biola’s COVID-19 website.