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Tips for Success in an Online Environment

“Please drop some of your tips for making online college fun and successful … Thank you!” Within a couple hours of sending this message to my dear friends, I received many detailed, passionate replies. I had asked something that had been on everyone’s mind since March: maintaining a positive work/study environment online. Here, I am sharing my friends’ kind answers, as well as my own. 

Try out new things or get done what you’ve been wanting to do 

With more time on your hands, now is the time for new activities to make your day unique. It could be something simple like taking walks (figuring out a route in your neighborhood can be fun) or trying out new genres of music. You could start meditating, journaling, cooking, or whatever that makes your day brighter. Take on a project that you will complete over a period of time like going through your closet to take stock of what needs to be donated and create a new shopping list. If there are books on your bookshelf that you wanted to read, maybe it’s time to go through them. 

Have a schedule and take breaks 

It is easy to lose your sense of time and fail to manage your time, especially when some of your classes are asynchronous. Making a schedule to follow can help you get back into a balanced rhythm of everyday life. Even if you do not follow your schedule hour by hour, making a list of your daily goals can give you a sense of which should be done first and which can wait. I personally keep a notepad on my desk. Every morning, I tear a sheet where I write down daily tasks as well as an inspiration from my daily prayer. This keeps me on track throughout the day, and accidentally finding a note from weeks ago in my pocket is a source of joy when I see how much I have progressed since then. But don’t forget to take breaks and make them your priority. Take short breaks in between zoom sessions throughout the day as well as make room for something that you can look forward to during the day, whether that be dinner time with family or an exercise class on Zoom. 

Make a comfortable environment for yourself 

One obvious benefit of online classes is that you can attend them from the comfort of your bedroom. But it is still important to have a space where you feel comfortable spending the majority of your day. Is the desk/table positioned so that you don’t mind showing what is behind you on camera? Can you look comfortably at the screen without having to slouch? Is the space relatively free of noise? Is there room for you to stretch in between classes? One more thing, if your eyes feel tired looking at a screen for a long time, you may want to turn on the night light function or install a blue-light blocker. 

Be proactive; join online meetings and communities 

Be proactive online in terms of both studying and socializing. Make it a point to discuss what you are learning or thinking with others — attend office hours, schedule meetings with advisors or professors, join study groups, or even schedule casual video calls with friends. You may not like all of those online meetings, but it is worth trying if you can find one meeting where you get a lot of learning and socializing. A freshman majoring in math told me that her math office hours have been a positive learning experience: she found her classmates sociable and they developed a sort of camaraderie as they worked through difficult proofs together every week. She said they sometimes send their TA “math teacher memes,” which makes learning a lot more enjoyable. Also, turning on your camera during Zoom sessions can make you more engaged, if you feel comfortable doing so.