Written by Sini Salatas
So, you’ve found yourself as a university student during a global pandemic, and your studies have shifted online—what now? Don’t panic—as Deakin students, we’re in a better position than most, as Deakin has heavily invested in online infrastructure over the years. Having said that, transitioning to a new mode of study can be difficult, especially in times such as these. Below are a couple of tips and tricks to get the most out of your online study experience during COVID-19 (spoiler: you’ll need snacks).
- Set up a good study space
A perfect study space isn’t necessary, but having a dedicated place to take class and do assignments is a great help if the option is available to you. If a desk isn’t an option for you, a kitchen table or a kitchen bench are both good alternatives. What’s most important is to have a space that helps switch your brain to ‘uni time’. Decorate it with candles and plants, inspiring pictures or motivational posters, wall planners—whatever helps to make the space a place you actually want to spend your time. If you’re using a public space like the kitchen table, using noise-cancelling headphones (or just any headphones) to block out noise can be a huge help for concentration (see tips 5 and 6).
2. Work out what study routine works best for you
This is one of those ‘different for everyone’ things. Some people study best in the morning, some in the afternoon or evening, others in little spurts throughout the day. Once you figure out what works best for you, use it to your advantage. Routine can really help with getting yourself in the right frame of mind for study. Having said that, some people work best in sporadic bursts, so if that’s you, go with the flow, baby.
3. Wear comfortable clothing (make sure you’re wearing pants for any Zoom classes)
No-one wants to be uncomfortable during a pandemic. Seriously, why subject yourself to more misery than you need to at this time? Now is not the time for fashion (unless that helps boost morale for you, in which case, please carry on). Winter is coming, and there’s heaps of knits and jumpers out there in the online shopping sphere ready to be purchased and worn to uni-at-your-desk. Just make sure to purchase from Australian retailers. Otherwise, they will take forever to get to you, and you’ll be left obsessively tracking your ASOS parcel on Australia Post until the end of time—yes, I am unfortunately speaking from experience here. Bonus: you’ll also be doing your part to keep Australian businesses afloat during these times—yay! Most importantly, please wear suitable pants for any Zoom classes. There’s a couple of stories about pants-less folks turning up to online classes and forgetting the camera is on. You don’t want that to be you.
4. Have snacks
Snacks are essential. They help boost morale and get you through your two-hour lecture. Luckily, people don’t seem to be panic-buying snacks (praise the quarantine gods). All the snacks. All the coffee … or tea … or kombucha … or whatever your drink of choice may be.
5. Do (most) of your readings
Boring, I know, but it’s very easy to fall behind in classwork when studying from home. This a good time to employ the aforementioned snacks. I think everyone can agree that getting through your weekly readings can be difficult on a good day, let alone during a global pandemic. It’s totally okay if you don’t get through everything. Really, if you do most of your readings, you’ll be just fine.
6. Employ the use of a study playlist
When we can’t change up our physical environment, using other cues to help signal to our brains that it’s study time can be a huge help. Study playlists are great for this. Spotify has tonnes of study playlists, from jazz to classical to lo-fi. There’s even ‘background noise’ playlists available if that’s more your thing. Grab a coffee, press play on a café playlist, and you’ll feel like you’re back at the Corner Café … sort of.
7. Get appy.
Our phones are a great source of outside connection right now, but they also have the potential to distract us from our studies. Luckily, there’s an app for that (or several). Forest is probably the best study app out there. Choose how long you want to study for, and the app will grow a tree of your choice. Exit the app though, and your little tree will die. It’s great motivation (we don’t want to kill those little trees, y’all), and for every tree you grow, you earn points to put towards buying new species of trees to grow and add to your (hopefully) thriving forest.
Similar to Forest—but exponentially cuter—is Study Bunny. Set the timer, and your little study bunny will study alongside you. The app awards you coins for your study efforts, which you can spend on music or objects for your bunny. If you’re finding it hard to focus, you can even pause the app. When you do this, the bunny will give you motivational advice, and it really is the cutest thing.
If neither of these up your motivation, there’s also an app called Loffee for lo-fi study beats and tonnes of apps to help you apply the Pomodoro technique (thirty minute chunks of study) to your study practice. Have a browse in the app store and see what tickles your fancy.
8. Have a socially distant study-date with friends.
Make use of apps such as Skype, Zoom, Facetime, and House Party. Studying with others can be one of the biggest motivators. Just try and keep on task. Snacks will help with that (snacks help with everything).
9. Make use of your government-permitted walk around the block.
Studying at home involves a lot of time spent sedentary, and if you’re anything like me, you’re likely to get antsy. If you find your concentration waning, get yourself outside for some fresh air. A walk around the neighbourhood is one of the few activities we’re actually allowed to do right now—use it to your advantage. It’ll help a lot with focus and give you something else to look at other than a screen or textbook. Just be sure to keep that 1.5 metres between yourself and others.
10. Be gentle with yourself.
This is probably the most important. This is a stressful time for many. We’re concerned for ourselves, our loved ones, and the world-at-large. We’re all having to adjust to a new way of living and studying. Go easy on yourself, take breaks, and remember to set time aside every day for your hobbies. Call a friend, have a Netflix binge, run a nice long bath, play some video games—whatever helps you switch off and unwind. You deserve it, especially right now.
So, go forth and study, my friends. Hopefully, these tips will help make your transition to online study a little easier. And remember, it is totally okay to feel a little less productive than usual right now. With a little bit of diligence, a lot of self-care, and plenty of snacks, you’ll ace this trimester like a champ.
Read more of Sini’s work in WORDLY’s Atmosphere edition.