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Tips to boss studying at home

By NjeriRLA 10 Feb 2021

After doing online university for two months, it’s safe to say online is a very different experience from in person. 

Doing university online has both advantages and disadvantages, some are subtle and others, glaringly obvious. This article will focus on three skills which I think are key to performing to the best of your ability while doing online university.

These skills are not new.  However I do think they are challenged differently when doing university online, and maybe learning to optimize these skills for online learning is what we need to work on, in a future that seems will be mostly online.

I will give some tips, and also share advice from some other Residence Life Assistants (RLAs). I do hope this exposes you to something you may not have known or at the very least, encourages you to keep at online university.

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Communication is key to doing well in university. You have to talk to your course-mates, lecturers, your personal tutor, and a myriad of other people. All of us know how to do this in a normal setting, however, online university does change how we communicate.

The greater part of our communication with others is via calls and written communication such as emails and texts. These forms of communication were previously secondary to speaking in person. The major difference between in-person communication and virtual communication is the lack of body language. This can be a barrier to communicating effectively because a significant part of our communication between humans is our non-verbal communication. With online communication, non-verbal, body language communication is limited. So now it is harder to assess whether the other person is joking, or if they are engaged in what you are saying, leading to awkward silences and miscommunication.

However, there are ways to overcome these challenges;

  •  Explain yourself extremely clearly in written communication.  The absence of tone and body language means that the other person only has your words to understand what you mean.  Make them clear.
  • Prepare what you want to discuss in a video call before making the call, whether that is an agenda for a group meeting or writing a question down before a live lecture. This will ensure that you are using the time spent on calls more effectively and you focus on what you wish to communicate with the people.

One of the other RLA’s Praise has a tip that has worked for her in terms of communication in a virtual world, she says:

“Stay in touch with your course mates so that you can talk to figure things out together”
- Praise

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Time Management

Doing online university means that we have all our time in our hands to plan. Time that used to be organized strictly by the university through us being given lectures is now in our hands to do as we wish. This can be difficult to get a handle on and may feel overwhelming.

It is important to give your day a structure and this can be done by following the timetable as provided by the university, and thereby planning the rest of your day around that. Most people know how to plan their time well so I will not go into that in too much detail, I will instead talk about executing the plan you have already made.

A great way to increase your productivity is to...

  • Reduce your responsiveness. By setting regular intervals at which you check your phone or email, instead of every time you get a notification (or feel bored) you can drastically increase the amount of time you spend on work.
  • Spend less time organizing work or planning the order of completing tasks and instead take a short time to plan general importance then start the work. Spending too much time planning can be a way of wasting valuable time.

In terms of planning tips, another RLA, Shardul, has this piece of advice:

“Online university is comfortable but gets overwhelming at the same time. Planning out your day is the best way to go but spending too much time on planning doesn’t help.  Making a quick mind map every morning of the things that need to be done helps me stay on top of all the material. Making the mind map every morning also helps me find the motivation I need every day!”
- Shardul

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Motivation becomes an ever-elusive thing as we go through the academic year, and it can get difficult to work up the energy to do university work. The fact that you’re doing university from your room can also mean you feel less motivated. You are not alone. This is normal because as humans we get some of our motivation from doing things with others. An awareness of the activities that give you energy is important, and then taking the time to do them regularly more so. This can be cooking, working out, some outdoor activities, reading, whatever it is, the key thing is to make time for it.

Sometimes a lack of motivation may be a result of an underlying issue. Talking to friends and family can help you figure out what is going on. You can also reach out to university support services if you are struggling; we as a Residence Life team are here to support you and can signpost you to any services you may need. You can also access support and wellbeing services through the intranet by Student Connect (the chatbot at the bottom-right of the screen).

Mulisa, an RLA, has something to say about this:

“I’ve found that planning in my social time has been a huge game-changer since working online. I’m intentionally making time for friends and family, and that motivates me to get my work done early on in the day so my evening can be social time. Surrounding myself with loved ones, (even virtually) has helped me fight the quarantine blues and feel more motivated about work overall.”

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Organizing your room for online university

For most of us, our rooms are our study space this year, but also the place we eat, sleep, do all other social activities. So organizing this space is key. Ensure you have sufficient lighting and good circulation while doing university work, as this improves concentration. Put ‘to-do’ lists in visible places. Choose an appropriate background for formal zoom calls. Clear your space of clutter. A messy study space can be a distraction and makes it tedious to be going through piles of stuff to get that one thing you need constantly.

Manoj, an RLA has some things to say about doing online university from your room:

“Make your study space. Use keyboard shortcuts like alt+tab and windows+right key/left key. Be in touch with your colleagues. Go for a walk and don't mix work and leisure time”

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You are doing fabulous as a student in a weird and difficult time, and the purpose of this article is to remind you, that you are not alone, and keep at it.

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