How I’m Approaching Online Learning

2020 has been a wild ride and a learning experience for us all, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I learn best in an actual classroom with actual people where meaningful conversations about literature and librarianship are easier to facilitate than they are through a zoom room.

To be fair, I’ve known this for a while actually, and it’s why I escaped undergrad without ever taking a single online course.

I was less than enthused with Simmons University’s decision to move to fully remote learning for the Fall 2020 semester. However, I respect the reasoning behind the decision and the desire to keep students safe during COVID-19.I’m now four weeks into my second year of grad school, and I’m actually handling online coursework pretty well. So, without further ado, here are are some of my tips and tricks for online learning!

Set Routines

Every morning (even on the days I work instead of spending my time on homework and classes), I get up and drink a couple of cups of coffee and have breakfast. I read whatever book I’m on with my food and my first cup of coffee, and then I read the news with my second cup of coffee.

Even though my days themself don’t always have the same routine depending on my job, my reading load for classes, and my deadlines for the week, having a routine to start the day with really helps start my days off right before I jump into online learning.

Take Mid-Day Breaks

Taking a little bit of a break around 10:30 and then again around 3:00 helps get me moving a little bit and give me a much needed break from schoolwork. I have a tendency to sit in my desk chair for hours on end and focus on working, and it’s even worse when my kitten settles down in my lap, because I don’t want to move him when he’s being comfortable and love able.

My Zoom classes are in the evening, and don’t start till 4:30 and 6:00 and because I usually let myself be done for the day around 5:00 or 5:30 I always take an hour right before class to read, watch an episode of the TV show I’m on, walk to the mailbox, have a snack, or just veg out. This little decompressing break right before class also really helps prep me to focus during those long two or three hour Zoom sessions.

Blue Light Filter Glasses

I’ve been preaching this one since last November, but when staring at a laptop or a computer for hours on end, the eye strain is rough. I bought a couple of pairs of blue light filter glasses on Amazon last fall and I really felt the difference. Now on days when I don’t use those glasses, I definitely feel so much more tired and exhausted from being in front of a screen all day.

When doing online classes, take care of your eyes folks.

Using a Planner More than Ever

I’ve always used a planner, but I’ve not always been consistent with it. I’ll do a good job for a couple of weeks and then it’ll drop off for a while and then I’ll pick it back up. In undergrad it was a never ending cycle. However, this year I’m being careful about updating my planner every Sunday and making sure I write down my readings, assignment deadlines, and discussion board posts that I need to get done for the week.

So far, I’ve been keeping it up. Taking time once a week to actually update my planner instead of just doing it “whenever” really helps me keep on top of what seems like a never ending stream of assignments and deadlines. I don’t know why online learning makes keeping on top of these things feel so much more difficult, but the planner helps

Schedule an hour for lunch and take the whole hour

This is one of the best things I’ve started doing since classes have started. I genuinely break for lunch from noon to one, but sometimes it’s a little later or a little earlier. However, it’s not the timing that matters, it’s the actually giving myself this break instead of feeling like I need to keep working.

During my lunch break, of course I eat. But I also take time to read a little bit, maybe watch an episode of a TV show if it’s got short episodes, or write a letter to a friend. It’s nice to be able to step back from online learning even more than I can during those short mid-day breaks.

Get Asynchronous Material done early (with some exceptions)

Only one of my classes if sully asynchronous, but all of my classes have asynchronous components. Though class technically spans a week in the weird world of online learning, I try to always get more asynchronous components such as video lectures, discussion board posts, and some readings out of the way.

Of course, every rule has it’s exception, I tend to not due asynchronous items for my Picturebook course until later in the week because so far those things have involved reading picture books or doing small amounts of art to understand the illustration process. I love to do these things over the weekend than at the top of the week because I’m still getting work done but it’s not heavy academic reading.

Find what works best for you!

At the end of the day, while these are some of the things that work for me and help me find some sense of normalcy in the midst of this crazy semester, but you have to find what works for you. Online learning differs depending on your university, your department, your professors, your work-school situation, and how you approach learning. So find what works best for you, and whether that’s something I’ve mentioned here or something else, I’d love to hear about it either in the comments or through my contact form.

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