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Tips for Navigating Online School in 2020

9 practical tips to help you succeed with remote learning
Published by Julia Lane

The world is heavy right now. In the space of a few short months, people have become witnesses to not only a global pandemic, but also how said pandemic can leave even the most introverted feeling lost and disconnected. It is a lonely time during which we must dig deep to find the joys in everyday living, even in summer when such joys are usually easier to find in outside escapades and sunshine-filled adventures. 

Compounded with these globally-shared challenges, I am finding that this time of self-quarantine becomes even more complex when you add in the role of being a university student. In an ideal world, universities are places for invigorating conversations and collaboration of ideas: places in which peoples from varying backgrounds have the chance to meet, to learn, and to work together. 

Today, however, such advanced dialogues have been shifted to a small square in the corner of your laptop, and everything feels different. 

So, what can be done to better situate yourself in this new online world? For this answer I have complied a list of tips and tricks for online learning. 

Find (or create) one specific area in your home for studying

Our whole realities exist in the parameters of our houses at the minute, so distinguish between the personal and the professional by separating your spaces as best as possible. For myself, it is something as simple as knowing that my desk in the corner of my room is where I work. My bed, which is admittedly a place of social media scrolling and Netflix watching, tricks my brain into thinking its time to relax, inadvertently making me much less productive. 

Focus on your posture

This may seem like a rather trivial tip, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to stretch your body. If you have been sitting at your desk working away for a prolonged time, take a minute to readjust your back and roll your wrists! Your body will thank you for it, and its also a proven way to re-awaken your body, as it gets tired sitting in the same position. SFU Health and Counselling has compiled a number of free, short movement videos that can help. 

Open the windows and throw up the curtains

Essentially, create as much natural light and air as physically possible! The fresh air will do wonders for that pesky headache and being able to catch a glimpse of the outside will likely boost your mood- maybe you will even catch the neighborhood puppy walking by.

On a personal level, both these actions simply help to remind me that whether it feels like it or not, there is a world beyond this one assignment I am stuck on- life goes on!

Personalize your study area

It is hard to feel motivated when your laptop is rested on a bare desk and a blank wall. It can take little to no money to customize your area- things like pictures of your loved ones, silly doodles, a vase of flowers, all work to make the space less intimidating. 

You’ve heard it once, you've heard it a hundred times... but here it is again: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

And no, coffee doesn't count. 

Make a separate, offline calendar

I don’t know about you, but right now my entire life exists on my laptop. While it is great to have the reminders set on Canvas, and the Calendar app is handy, there needs to be a piece of your academics that extends past your computers. I just bought a big yearly calendar that I pinned to my wall above my desk: that way I can just glance up and see my due dates, as opposed to searching through my very busy laptop. 

Try to categorize certain subjects with certain days

An easy way to keep track of your progress in classes is by coordinating your homework in, say, English 100, with the day of the week you have an English 100 class. That way, in your head you know that Mondays are for this subject, Tuesday is for this, etc. As an added bonus, this can help you keep track of the blur of days... 

Relax, take a breath, and realize that these are unprecedented times

There is no right way of navigating the online world. This is an adjustment period for all members of the SFU community (and so many people around the world), so take the time to make mistakes and learn. 

Book virtual consultations with the SLC

We want to help you achieve your goals this semester! You can book a consultation here. It is never too early to get started. 


I wish you the best of success this semester, and hope to see you in the virtual SLC space! 

- Molly M. 

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