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Life is pretty crazy right now. That should go without saying, but it’s important to acknowledge that fact. It’ll make it easier to move forward into what this spring term will hold. I’m sure many of you have a lot of questions and even some concerns about what exactly the next few months will look like for you both socially and academically.

The Academic Skills Center & The Tutor Clearinghouse is working hard to figure out how we are going to support students this spring term. Specifics like the potential for tutoring services, study groups, ASC workshops/meetings, and details about accessing our office/resources are all currently being discussed. In the meantime, we thought it would be beneficial to share some tips on how you can best tackle your upcoming online classes in order to enhance your understanding and overall academic success. 


Tip #1: Try to Create a Study Space

Getting into the mindset of taking online classes can be a challenge. One of the most important things that you should keep in mind is that it is essential to maintain (to the best of your ability) a peaceful study area. Without the physical prompts of moving from class to class, the ability to walk into the library, or the stimulus from seeing friends, time can blur together. 

This can be incredibly difficult depending on where you are. Some of you may not even have the luxury of having your own study space. You may be dealing with the very real realities of having multiple siblings/family members under one roof, a restricted amount of computers/wifi access, and/or your home just may not be a conducive environment to complete work. 

Eliminate distractions when you decide that it’s time to do work.  Do your best to ensure that your area is quiet, organized, and available for use during your class/study sessions. If necessary, speak to your family and friends beforehand about the importance of respecting your “work mode”. Along the same line, respect your own “work mode” by limiting your time on your phone or daydreaming while studying.   


Tip #2: Treat Your Online Class Like a Real Class

Circling back to your mindset, it’s important to apply all of those positive steps that you take when you approach your in-person classes on campus to these new online ones. This includes actively participating, taking study breaks, and building a study plan. First, figure out how you will best learn during this time period and then build upon that. Are you a morning person or would you work better later in the evenings? Do you need a desk or would you prefer to work in a comfortable armchair? Do what makes you the most comfortable but also allows you to be the most focused. 

Do all of the things that made you feel the most productive when you were in those physical classes. Although office hours may look a little different now, continue to ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to send a quick email to your professor asking for assistance on a concept or research idea. Now more than ever, your professors want to see you succeed. There will be a learning curve for them as well, so keep that in mind and as the term starts off. 

Another thing to consider: just because your classes will now be online, doesn’t mean that all of your learning has to take place there! Don’t shy away from taking notes with a notebook and pen or using a physical version of your textbook to study. Try to keep your study habits in line with how you have always achieved success.

I personally love to create to-do lists and set calendar reminders for important projects. I also use the Pomodoro method (which I’ve detailed in one of my earlier blog posts, “How Planning Can Lead to a Successful College Experience”).

Take some time before the term begins to figure out a plan. This could include a schedule of how you want to complete your assignments each day, how long you would like to spend on schoolwork, when you want to go to bed and wake up every day, etc. There will be a lot more accountability placed on your shoulders now, and it's up to you how you want to manage it. Discipline yourself to stick to your time limits; for many, awards based systems work really well. 


Tip #3: Note the Differences and Embrace Them

Accept the fact that online classes will feel inherently different than learning on the Dartmouth campus. There will be different aspects that you will need to take into consideration. Do your best to stay as mentally engaged as possible. If your professor gives you a PowerPoint or a youtube video to watch, review it multiple times and take notes. Don’t let the fact that you are not in a physical classroom allows you to drift off and stop paying attention. 

Limit your use of social media and eliminate your use during class discussions. The temptation to check Twitter and Instagram will be all the higher during this next semester. Fight the urge by turning off your phone or deleting the apps for a certain amount of time. The more tech-savvy professors will be able to tell if you are on your phone during class. And even if your professor doesn’t notice, you will only be doing yourself a disservice by not paying attention. 

Finally, make an effort to build connections during this time. It will benefit you to come out of your comfort zone in the long run. “Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons (Northeastern University Graduate Programs)”.

Join a virtual study team. Engage in the online discussion boards. Reach out and discuss assignments. You will feel more connected to your online student community, and hopefully, some of these relationships will last into the next term when you can meet in person. 


Hang Tight and Make the Most of Your Term

This will be a huge adjustment for all of us. But If you're willing to put in the work, adapt, and ask for help when you need it, you'll be on track to having a productive and engaging spring term!

Keep in mind that all 20S undergraduate courses will officially be taken on a credit/no credit basis. So use this opportunity to dive deep into your classes and enjoy the learning process.



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