How to navigate online learning
Hi everyone! We are just finishing up Week 1 and haven’t had much time yet to settle down into this new pattern of learning, but I’ve already found it very different to last year (as a second-year student). I think online learning merits a rethinking of how we study and how we approach classes because of the way it has to be structured. In this post, I will explain how my classes are structured and this is hopefully similar for a lot of you. Then I will share some tips for how to plan and approach preparation (which is a learning experience for me too!). I hope this post can help you guys, as your first year is going to look very different from mine!
As an Economics second year student, I have live or synchronous lectures every week (usually one for each module). Along these I also have asynchronous lectures every week, which is usually a set of videos that we are expected to watch in preparation for the synchronous lectures. In my experience so far, most of the content is delivered through the asynchronous lectures and in the live lectures, the lecturers go through examples, discuss applications of the theory or go through questions. The live lectures provide an opportunity for interaction and to get your doubts clarified but from my understanding, most of the learning is through the asynchronous lectures. This means that you MUST watch the videos and do the readings before the live lectures and come prepared because if not, you will get very little out of the live lectures. From Week 3, we will have seminars (for most modules) and these will comprise of the seminar tutor going through in class problem sets. Here too, you will have a set of pre-class problem set that you are expected to complete before the class.
In my opinion, this is quite different from last year and means that there is a lot of preparation to do before lectures and seminars. Not that this wasn’t the case last year, but it just feels like there’s much more to do this year. Further, I am also balancing academics with my society commitments, internship applications, my part-time jobs and obviously social life. This first week has already been a bit overwhelming for me as I realized the amount of work I will need to put in this year and was worried about managing my time.
Having said that, nothing is impossible if you plan well! Here are my ideas for how to manage online learning:
- Schedule your day: While this might seem fairly obvious, what I mean is, write down everything you want to do in the day and put it in blocks of time. So even if you are meeting a friend, try to estimate how much time you will spend and write it down so that you can plan the rest of your day accordingly. Include your class timings, blocks of study time, any events you are attending, any other work you have to complete and some dedicated time for job/internship applications.
- Use a prioritization matrix or a Kanban board for your to-do list: As you might have seen, I have a lot of things going on so I think I need to do this myself (these tips are what I am planning to do not what I am already doing!). This can help you organize your tasks based on difficulty and urgency. You can then figure out how you want to work on your tasks – I would do high priority (timewise), low effort first so I can get it out of the way and then focus on high priority, high effort then go to low priority, low effort and low priority, high effort.
- Take a break from “online” work/play: It is quite obvious that you will be on your laptop or online a lot more this year so I think it’s important to do a timeout every day so that you don’t spend the whole day on your devices. So even if you want to watch Netflix or Youtube, do that but also find a hobby that you can do “offline.” With studying as well, try to do something that doesn’t require you to stare at a screen – for example, you can do your reading with a physical copy from the library or you can spend some time making study notes from your lecture notes or even just reading your lecture notes. Otherwise, your screen time can become abnormally high for a day!
- Get some fresh air!: even with the blended learning system, a lot more is online and you have lesser opportunities to meet people face-to-face. This can get a bit overwhelming, especially if you are cooped up in your room or flat all day. I would suggest taking some time every day to go out for a walk, just to get some fresh air. You might obviously still meet friends (in groups of less than 6!!) or go to a restaurant etc. but beyond the socializing aspect, do try to just go out to stay active and healthy!
- Be organized and aware of your deadlines and tasks: I think this is the most important tip. There will be a lot going on and depending on your personality, your course, your interests etc, your schedule can get filled up very quickly. My suggestion is to figure out your priorities and manage your time accordingly. Try not to get your foot off the pedal because it can quickly pile up and stress you out!
At the end of the day, you are first years and you will be adjusting to uni life. So, if you feel like your studies are harder than school or that there are so many new things to think about, this is completely normal, and I am sure everyone is going through the same thing. There are many avenues for support so if you need it, do reach out! As always, you can always message me on here for any tips or advice or questions!