How To Best Prepare For Online Classes in the Fall
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Student Life

How To Best Prepare For Online Classes in the Fall

Online learning has become a new reality for schools and universities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have been working hard with teachers and board members in creating a comprehensive online structure for effective remote learning for students. Although online learning may seem like the easier route, it is not. Yes, it does allow for more flexibility to learn in your own time and space, but that does not change the amount of work and effort you must put in. Becoming oriented to how online learning works, while learning to be self- motivated, and effectively manage your time is key to success in the digital learning realm.

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How To Best Prepare For Online Classes in the Fall
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Familiarize yourself with Canvas.

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I'd suggest making it one of your primary bookmark tabs instead of having to repeatedly type in the website. You will be visiting it often & why not make your life easier? Anyways, the canvas infrastructure has so many different usages whether its to access homework assignments, readings, and complete your quizzes. The inbox feature allows you to message a professor, teaching assistant, or your case study group. Another cool feature is the ability to see the score details for a specific assignment. In other words, if you click on "grades," and the check mark next to "out of" score you'll see under score details: "mean, high, low" allowing you to see the median, highest and lowest grade of the class. This will allow you to see how your grade stands in relativity to those of your peers, and where you stand in the class. Additionally, if you click on the Calendar feature it pre color codes your classes for you and shows you some due dates you have coming up. Although this is helpful, keep in mind that there may be different assignments within one whole assignment and that the due date shown on the calendar is not always accurate. I encourage everyone to play around with the website and make sure you enable your course notification settings! To do this, click on the home page, then click on view course motivations, and then at the top press next to enable notifications for _______ and you should see a green check mark if you did it right.

Establish a regular study space.

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I don't know about you guys, but doing work in my cozy bed is never a good idea. Once I hit the comforter and throw my soft yummy blanket over me, I can pass out in less than a minute- truly. Hence, for me I always like to find an environment that will work best for me and boost my productivity. Oh, and can't forget to mention how important finding a space with high-speed internet access is especially in the upcoming semester where taking most or all online courses is a scary but true reality for most college students.

Stay organized.

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If you like to use a Student Agenda, the one's sold at the Bookstore, where you actually have to make sure you don't lose it every time you take it out of your bag, and do this thing called writing (not typing), I definitely recommend that over using an online calendar. Personally, I tend to take the easy way out and use my Calendar application on my MacBook. I record any homework, quiz, test, AND the time / location of my class. For those of you who are on the less tech- savvy side, it's important to note that when you add an event to your calendar, let's say a class you have on Wednesday every week at 3:00 p.m., that you click under the "repeat" category, the option "every week," so that it is not just recorded as a one- time event. Also, if you have an assignment due at midnight, for example on a Friday, I would recommend clicking on the box next to "All-day" and put in the name of the event category something like: PSYCH 210- HW #4 due at midnight; that way, you know which class the assignment is due in. Further, when you click on "All-day," it is at the top of the calendar instead of all the way down at midnight which may get lost in a host of other deadlines/ tasks you have on a given day.

Maintain and expand your social network.

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Becoming friendly with peers in your class is always helpful. You're not the only student in the class, even though it may feel that way when you're taking the majority of your classes at home, on your computer screen. Reaching out to your classmates and introducing yourself will go a long way in allowing you to get the help you need, if you're struggling, and to possibly be of help to other students who are having a difficult time with a particular assignment. Classmates can also steer you on the right track, in terms of what materials to study for an upcoming exam. Creating a Google Hangout Study Group or scheduling a weekly Zoom or FaceTime with a few classmates, where you can discuss course materials and reading, may leave you feeling better supported, deepen your knowledge on course topics, and better able to communicate and work with people with similar interests from a wide range of backgrounds.

Get to know your professor.

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Send an email introducing yourself. Choose one or two things you're most excited about in the class and state it in the email. Not only will it benefit you to form a connection with your professor, but showing your passion and enthusiasm for the learning to come in the class will make your teacher feel good.

Minimize distractions.

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Get rid of the web browser windows irrelevant to your learning. Delete iMessages - to do this you can go to system preferences, press enable this account, and sign out. Put your iPhone on airplane mode. A distraction-free environment goes a long way in helping you feel more at ease, and concentrating when you study.

Take Breaks.

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Staring at a computer screen all day is never ideal. You may notice your eyes get tired, or itchy. Try and grab a friend, and go for a short walk around your study space every three hours or so to get your blood flowing again, and to rest your eyes. If you're bad at remembering to take breaks or need a little motivation, download an app that'll remind you to take those breaks such as the App Move or Stand up! The Work Break timer. Or, you can just set an alarm that rings every 3 hours if you'd rather not download another App. Just make sure your volume is low if you're in the quiet section of the room. You don't want the whole room turning around and glaring at you when your phone goes off - trust me, i've been there and it's pretty awkward.

Check your email regularly. 

Often times, teachers send emails to their student's in efforts to update them on their office hours, assignments coming up for the week, and tips/ deadlines to keep up with. Obviously, don't spend your time clicking the refresh button every second of the day, but certainly make sure to check your email at least a few times throughout the day. If you are confused about an assignment, or want some advice on how to study for an upcoming exam, make sure you know how to construct an appropriate email to your professor. First, make sure that you make the subject of the email your name, the course title, and your section number to keep the email out of the spam folder. Also, begin with "Dear Professor (Last-Name) and always sing off with a thank you. At the end of the day, your professors have a lot on their plate and it's important to keep the email short and to the point. State your question clearly. Be professional - spell out words fully (no abbreviations!). Read over your email to check for typos before you send it. Lastly, make sure the email is sent from your university email address to signal to the professor you are one of their students.

Take Effective Notes.

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Whether you are presented in your online class with a podcast, readings, audio recording, or lecture video, it is so important to take notes! Make sure you do not write everything down to avoid information overload. If you are more of a visual learner, maybe try creating a diagram or pictures with labels / short descriptions. Microsoft OneNote is a great and easy program (free too!). This digital notebook allows you to divide network into sections, highlight and add annotations, insert online videos and add files, and draw images with a stylus. It is accessible on any computer and even one's I-phone. Personally, I like to organize my notes on Google Drive, creating a folder for each of the courses and then within that folder, I create a page for each Module. You can organize your notes in any way you want and you never have to worry about clicking on a save button because will automatically save your file in Google Drive.

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