Grades haven’t even come out yet, but I just know I bombed my midterms. With this online learning format, I just haven’t been able to get into a good study routine and I know I’m not getting the most out of my classes when I’m distracted, still in bed or making myself breakfast. It seems like everyone else has it together. I don’t think I can afford dropping my courses this semester, so what can I do to improve my studying habits for the end of the semester?
Firstly, I have to promise you absolutely nobody has it together. As stressful as getting a good studying routine has always been, everyone has had to undergo massive changes with the shift to online learning. It has certainly been very hard for me to stay focused — or even awake — when not under a professor’s watchful eye. While nothing is completely normal, I hope I can help you with several changes in mindset and studying routines to at least make the most of this remaining online semester.
Take advantage of the advantages of online learning. I wish recording lectures was as standard previously as it is now. Rewatching sections of recorded lectures has been incredibly useful for reinforcing topics I didn’t understand the first time around in class, and much easier than parsing through the textbook or scouring the internet for an obscure use of a formula. Beyond this, I found watching past lectures at faster speeds while reviewing my notes has been a strong yet efficient method of reinforcement.
With online classes, more and more servers, resource-sharing and even study groups have taken to the internet too. Seek these out since the advantages in having even one online study partner to keep each other accountable is invaluable. I’ve found being able to check over homework problems or study together has been incredibly rewarding, even moreso when I have to take a day off from class and know I have a study group that would be willing to share the notes with me. You shouldn’t let yourself field these classes totally alone, even if quarantine makes it feel that way.
Take the time that would have been committed to getting ready for school in person for yourself. Whether you’ve saved on a thirty-minute commute, crossed fingers and choice swear words looking for parking in the parking deck or you’re one to dash out from your bed five minutes before in-person class started, I think we’ve all gained a little extra time before or between classes. Take this time to situate yourself, to get yourself comfortable, and to prepare for the situational changes that might have distracted you during class before — like making breakfast.
Even then, especially when the class material is boring, it’s easy to lose focus during online lectures. My attention easily wanders, and I really don’t think it’s as easy as it sounds to have the willpower to turn off your phone and lock it away — unless it does work for you!
. I say be honest with yourself about what is distracting you and make that promise to shut out those sources of distraction, and you may find that you don’t have to limit yourself so much. I promised to myself not to answer emails or go on social media during class, but I’ve allowed myself to listen to music or tap through a mindless game on my phone that wouldn’t distract my attention but help me keep myself engaged during classes.
That being said, I can’t stress paying attention during class enough, even with recorded lectures. First impressions count, especially when learning. Take notes just as you would have during in-person classes. Take advantage of being in a nearly anonymous sea of gray Webex boxes to ask even the “dumbest” questions in the chatbox because it saves you the time in trying to understand it by yourself on test day. Guilty fun, like playing video games during class, is never real fun, so try your hardest to convince yourself to go the next 20 minutes of class paying full attention, and then reward yourself afterwards.
Most importantly, be ready to forgive yourself. “These are unprecedented times,” as everyone has been saying for a year, but they’re right, and that won’t change until long after we get through this pandemic. Break up the monotony of taking classes at home by splitting up studying time and time for fun, whether that’s saving fun hobbies for after completing schoolwork or spending time outside, safely of course. Hard work and little celebrations should go hand in hand, and it’s important we try not to lose that despite all the changes we are facing.