Tips for Starting a Semester Online

Between a full online year, a semester back in-person, and now another online start due to rising COVID cases, we can all agree that the start to the spring 2022 semester is less than ideal. But by leaning on each other for support I believe we can make the best of these first few weeks online. 

After two full semesters of online classes last year, I’ve picked up a few tricks that helped me stay sane and be successful. So whether this is your first semester online or you’re just looking to brush up on some strategies for this weird start to the term, here are my tips for starting a semester online 

Get dressed every morning 

I don’t know about you, but something about getting dressed in the morning, even if I’m going to be staying home all day, makes me so much more productive.

It might be the fact that if I’m not sitting in my pajamas it’s harder for me to find my way to my bed, be comfortable, and procrastinate homework by scrolling TikTok. But putting on a real outfit, like one that I would wear to in-person school, helped me feel more put together and feel ready to stay focused in class. 

Make SMART goals 

One of the things I struggled with during last year’s online school year was time management, but making SMART goals helped me combat this. SMART goals are ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific. 

For example, instead of saying my goal for the night is to “learn chapter 4 of my copy editing textbook” I could create a SMART goal: create a concept map for the punctuation elements in chapter 4 until I can talk about them in my own words from 1-3pm on Tuesday. 

Start and end at set times

In in-person classes we have a pretty set schedule and routine, and although most of us will be attending Zoom classes at the same start and end times multiple days of the week, being at home can make it feel like we’re not in school mode.

Giving myself a set start and end time for my school day at home helped me feel like I was getting more accomplished because it put me in a school mindset. I think this also helped me stay off my phone during the times I was in my “school hours,” because I knew that once I hit a certain time for the day, I could relax, put my schoolwork away, and then use my phone and other distractions as much as I wanted. 

Set expectations for yourself in terms of in-class participation and turning your camera on 

Don’t get me wrong – I am definitely not the type of person who has my camera on all the time, in every online class. But I do think that having my camera on and participating in certain classes that I was more comfortable in helped keep me accountable during class time and made it easier to focus.

So while my tip is not to always have your camera on in Zoom classes (Zoom fatigue is a real thing!), my advice is to create a set of expectations for yourself in terms of your in-class online presence, and stick to it.

I say this because it’s easy to feel super disconnected during online classes, knowing that all you have to do is click the end button and pretend the class isn’t happening. Whether it’s the expectation that you’ll always turn your camera on for breakout rooms, you’ll participate in your two favourite classes instead of all of them, or that you’ll pick specific camera-off days, find what works for you and stick to it. 

I wish you all the best during this strange online start to the semester, and although it is not ideal, I hope you are able to make the best of it anyways! 

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