5 Unconventional Tips to Help You Master Online School in 2021

1. Use google docs during break-out rooms.

A guy in my breakout room suggested this, and honestly, it’s genius. You can keep track of what you’ve covered, giving yourself an excellent reference to cover points you might have missed or share with the class later. Using shared documents also means that people without hardware or people who might be uncomfortable speaking can still contribute their ideas. It’s a brilliant reference for future studying- I would seriously recommend trying this.

2. If you’re using your camera in your zoom lectures, hide yourself from view.

I can’t say I love turning on my cam at 8 am after pulling a hoodie over my pyjamas and rushing to make a coffee at 7:52 am, but using your camera in online lectures definitely has its pros. Nonetheless, there’s a good chance that your camera could be hurting your performance.

This article from the Harvard Business Review suggests that seeing yourself on-screen (and watching others) can be a massive distraction and exhausting. When you have several different videos on screen, you can overwhelm yourself with visual stimuli. It may be worth setting the camera window to show only the speaker, or hide it altogether in some situations.

Researchers from Emory University and the University of Copenhagen found that images of yourself from a mirror (or in our case, a webcam) can induce feelings of anxiety, social-awkwardness, shame or embarrassment. Consider hiding yourself from view when using your webcam; you may notice a subtle difference in your confidence when interacting with your class.

3. Connect with nature.

Research suggests that connecting with nature can make us feel calmer, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can improve motivation, focus and performance.

If you can, set up a workspace next to a window, or maybe try and find a safe spot outside to get some reading done. If that’s not available to you, research claims that even just looking at images of nature have a similar effect. Perhaps you can change up your desktop background, print some cool pictures or invest in some lovely houseplants.

4. Bolster your social support network.

Online school can feel pretty isolating, especially if you are not living with family or roommates at the moment. When the workload gets tough, it’s important to have friends to turn to for support! Obviously, it’s a bit tough right now to meet new people and do things together in person. Still, the internet is a brilliant resource for finding new friends or cultivating existing friendships.

In 2020, I joined a Pokemon Shiny Hunters discord, reconnected with some old LoL friends, and formed an online D&D party. My online friends undoubtedly helped me get through the worst parts of 2020.  Online communities are a goldmine of like-minded people that you can de-stress and have a good time with, and thanks to the anonymity of the internet, it’s easier than ever to put yourself out there and make new friends.

If making friends in purely online communities isn’t for you, you can still reconnect online with some of your old IRL friends! Why not make a discord server with your friends from the first-year res, and play some games together?

Here are my recommendations for cheap and simple but fun party games:

  • Among us ($5.69 on PC, Free on mobile)
  • Jackbox Party Pack (~$34 on Steam/Most Consoles but you only need one purchase, and you can play it with up to 8 people using mobile phones as controllers
  • Scribbl.io (Free browser game!)
  • Other online classic board games such as Catan or  Chess (Free, but possibly costs some friendships). This website has a ton of interesting board games to try.

5. Be kind to yourself

It’s ok if online school isn’t your thing, grad school admissions officers or future employers understand that we are dealing with a global pandemic. One year of slightly lower grades is not going to ruin anything.

The most valuable skill I’ve learned in my three years at UBC is to be kind, patient and honest with myself, and to do my best. Put your mental and physical health first, and the rest will fall into place. Hang in there; you’ll get through this- I believe in you!!

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