With the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, schools and universities across the country have unexpectedly embarked on the largest online learning experiment ever. This is probably not how any of us envisioned our semester going, and the transition has maybe been easy for some, but we’re guessing it’s been rocky for most of us. With that in mind, here are some tips for making the transition to remote classes go a little more smoothly and making sure that you are still getting the most of your education.
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
Now that we are trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our daily routines are looking a bit different. Instead of waking up, eating breakfast, drinking coffee (or whatever wakes you up in the morning), walking/biking/busing/driving to campus and then going to class, our routines are limited to inside the house. It might be tempting to set your alarm for 10 minutes before your first class, roll out of bed, and hop on your computer at the start of class, still half asleep. Don’t do this.
So, make a schedule and stick to it. We recommend using Google Calendars since any Zoom meetings on your professor’s schedule can be added to your calendar with one click. You can then incorporate your daily routine around any classes you have, and all the Zoom links you need throughout the day will be in one place. Schedule a time to wake up, walk the dog, make breakfast, do a non-gym workout, or whatever you normally do before class. Also, schedule yourself 10-15 minutes before class (think of it as your digital “passing period”) to get prepared for your Zoom meeting.
Which brings us to our next tip…
2. Environment matters; be prepared.
Pay attention to how you work and concentrate best. This is different for all of us, but please don’t use your bed as your desk, if you can avoid it. Not only can going to class in bed mess with your sleep schedule, but for most of us, it is probably not where you concentrate the best.
Try to make a space in your room or apartment just for classes and school work. Tailor it to what personally works best for your concentration, but also make sure it is a workstation that is ready to go. Have all your class materials, like textbooks and notebooks, on hand. If you are using a laptop, keep it charging while you are in a class session and always use headphones to avoid audio feedback. Keep water and snacks on hand, and make sure you are comfortable enough to sit for an hour or more.
3. Make the best of a bad environment.
Not everyone has an ideal place to work and go to class in their home. With Boulder’s high rents, a lot of us share rooms or live in places without room for a desk. Not every student has access to a laptop or computer either. For those in less-than-ideal circumstances, remote learning might be hitting you the hardest.
If you don’t have a computer and primarily use your smartphone or library computers, now might be the time to get a device for your home. Unfortunately, due to the campus closure, the CU Book Store cannot rent laptops to students. But with all classes going remote, investing in a cheap or refurbished laptop for the coming few months might be worth it.
If you share a room or live somewhere that is not ideal for online classes, here are some tips for making your environment as conducive to learning as possible. Share your class schedule with your roommate. It’s easy to do in Google Calendar, and this way you both know when the room needs to be quiet. If you aren’t already doing this, use headphones. It might seem like common sense, but do what you can to be respectful of one another’s education and needs.
If you don’t have a desk or a space that can be converted to a school station, convert your bed into a workstation by day. Place something sturdy or hard on your bed (like a cutting board or a large book) to turn it into a makeshift desk. Place a pillow, stool or chair on the ground to work. This might seem like a funky setup, but it will help you mentally shift gears from being at home to being ready for class.
4. Zoom-iquette, or best practices for Zoom
Like anything, there are good ways and bad ways to act when using Zoom. With online classes, using best practices for remote learning is important for your experience and that of your classmates.
If your instructor hasn’t done so already, mute your microphone whenever you are not talking. You can hold down the spacebar on your laptop to unmute yourself if you are asking a question. Try to find a place where no one is walking behind you. This will minimize distraction for you and your classmates. Use a pair of earbuds or a headset so you don’t disturb anyone around you. This will also help your classmates hear you better. And, WEAR CLOTHES! Maybe that seems obvious, but you wouldn’t show up to class in just your underwear, and chances are your classmates don’t want to see that over Zoom either.
Get used to interacting with your professor and class digitally. It might be weird at first, but asking questions and volunteering answers will help you feel more engaged with the class and will help you from getting lost in the lesson.
Use the “raise your hand” function in Zoom to let your instructor know you have a question. Click on the “participant” tab of your Zoom controls, at the bottom of your screen. Next to your name will be a hand icon; click it. This tells your instructor you have a question or something to add without interrupting the class.
Or, if you find yourself getting lost in the lesson, use the “chat” option. You can send a message or ask a question to the whole class or any individual member of the class. Think of this as the digital equivalent of turning to your neighbor to ask them if they understood something or wrote down the last line on a slide.
6. Use office hours.
Professors and instructors tell us this every single week, but now especially, USE OFFICE HOURS!
This is a new teaching format for most of us as students, so if you feel yourself falling behind or in need of clarification, don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructor. They probably want to know what parts of the class aren’t translating as well digitally, and talking to you beats sitting at their desk in an empty Zoom session. Bonus points if you add their office hours to your well organized and gorgeous Google Calendar.
If you have any of your own ideas about remote learning, tell us about them!