A list of ways for students to adjust to online classes

The start of the 2020-2021 school year has been an adjustment for many students. This adjustment period may continue into the winter semester now that classes are confirmed to be online. As you start to prepare for midterms and major assignments, here are some tips to help you move forward in a virtual learning environment. 

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Creating the ideal study space

  1. Make sure you have a space that is relatively distraction-free, for example, free from clutter or free from people walking by.
  2. Have a space where you can sit comfortably for a while. Try to emulate key elements of your preferred study space. Maybe this means finding a playlist that reminds you of your favourite café in Westdale or working in the same space as your housemates, just like you used to do at Mills.
  3. Keep everything you need for the day within your workspace, so you don’t have to pause to grab things from all over your house. This also has the benefit of keeping work in one place so it doesn’t encroach on the rest of your space.
  4. Try to work somewhere in your house that has the most reliable internet access. Usually the closer you can be to the modem, the better.


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Attending virtual classes

  1. Familiarize yourself with the expectations for each of your classes, including when to have your microphone and camera on or off.
  2. Get to know the technology you’re using and potential troubleshooting solutions. Sometimes it might be as easy as leaving the call and rejoining, while other times you may need to adjust your settings or permissions for the application.
  3. Be engaged with your learning! Treat your virtual lectures like in-person ones as muyou can. Get dressed and set up your study space for the day. Try to attend synchronous lectures even if they’re being recorded and try to watch asynchronous lectures regularly instead of watching them all at once before a deadline. Be sure to take notes. Try to ask and answer questions if you have the chance. Turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode, limit social media or other online distractions and try not to multitask.


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Keep up your good study habits

  1. Think about how you can adapt your preferred study habits to this new situation.
  2.  Try to be organized and proactive so you’re prepared if something unexpected comes up.
  3. Establish a routine and a study plan. Create a to-do list, and set concrete goals for each day. At the same time, be sure to build in buffer time so you have space to catch up if you need to.
  4. Break down large tasks into manageable chunks, especially if you have asynchronous courses that are largely self-directed.
  5. Spend extra time on courses you’re struggling with, but also don’t be afraid to prioritize courses you’re doing well in. 
  6. Sometimes you can’t do everything and that’s okay. If you can't do all your readings, aim to read the ones you complete in-depth. If you can’t do all the practice problems you’re assigned, aim for breadth in the types of problems you do.
  7. If you hit a wall, change tactics. Don't keep trying the same things if they're not working, but also be aware of when you’ve reached your limits and need to take a break.
  8. Utilize all the resources available to you, including professors’ office hours, the Student Success Centre, educational websites and YouTube channels.


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Ask for help

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk to your instructor if you need extra help, whether it be for personal, family, technological or other concerns. 
  2. Make a list of support services available to you and keep it somewhere visible in your workspace. These resources can include campus services such as the Student Wellness Centre, professors, mentors, family members and friends.
  3. Share your schedule with others in your home and communicate clearly what you need from them and when. For example, maybe you need them to be quieter on Thursdays because that’s when you do your weekly quizzes.
  4. Set up an accountability system to help you both stay motivated and connected.


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Cultivate community

  1. Join group chats and online study groups.
  2. Many clubs and events are also running virtually, so check their social media regularly to stay up to date.
  3. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly calls with friends and family, just to check in and catch up


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Take care of yourself

  1. Have a clear endpoint to your day, when you at least turn off your device and step away from the screen.
  2. Try to leave one day of the week open for other tasks you might need to do, such as grocery shopping and laundry.
  3. Be sure to look after your physical health by maintaining good posture, eating foods that make you feel good and taking movement breaks when you can.
  4. Take care of your mental health by practicing community and self-care
  5. Maintain a routine as best as you can 
  6. Pace yourself and beware of burnout. Find ways to stay motivated. Remember why you’re doing this and reward yourself. Be sure to take some time for yourself to do the things you love.

This year is going to be strange. We’re all learning how to manage this new situation and it’s not going to happen overnight. It will take the time it takes, so be patient and kind with yourself as you navigate your virtual university experience.

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