College students, in general, rarely have the need to prepare for an emergency. College is a time of exploration and learning. One makes friends, explores subjects of interest, tries things for the first time and slowly builds a foundation for a good future. It is a time of assignments, classes, sleeping through alarms, sharing memes, fretting over submissions, coping with some boring classes, and looking forward to other invigorating professors.
The Unexpected Turn
Trouble rarely comes announced. As the semester progressed, students who read the international news might have become aware of the Corona virus making its way across land and water. Others were in for a surprise. The Coronavirus closings of colleges has brought in unexpected breaks (some are happy and many others are not so) in class schedules as students have had to go home. Technology has come to the rescue. Colleges have announced online classes and shared new protocols with students. Professors are deciding on how to manage attendance, digital obstacles, and assignments while using the internet which is making the world a smarter place.
This was mostly meant for students who took online courses while working. For a whole bunch of regular students, to sit at home and take a class in front of a screen can be hard. You could actually say it was a change in lifestyle. They miss college life, the camaraderie of friends, the social independence when one is away from home. The new normal takes some getting used to. Returning from college on a break made students love visits home, but in this new normal with so many returning unexpectedly for so long, there could also be a sense of uncertainty. Could they return? If yes, when could they?
When students have to be self motivated to switch on a device and sit in front of it to take a class, things might seem weird and difficult initially. Although students are exposed to a lot of technology in their everyday lives, here are three study hacks to cope with the new life of the full time college student having remote classes from home:
Manage the Procrastination
This is by far the hardest. The effort to wake up on time while at home, when it all seems like a nice unexpected holiday, can seem harsh. In college one could keep snoozing the alarm; not possible when your parents wonder what’s happening!
You could miss a class here and there, for no particular reason, but at home you might be under the magnifying glass. You might have trouble starting your day, and wish you weren’t so lazy. So understand that procrastination is about emotions; it does not point to your laziness. You procrastinate because of your perceived association with something negative that might happen. If you take the class, you might perhaps be asked a question, which you might not answer correctly; this will then make you feel bad. How do you overcome this? Try one or all these tips:
- Create a schedule and STICK to it.
- Your goal should be to attend classes and finish the work you are given. Don’t worry about getting the perfect answer down.
- Separate what needs to be done and the result of doing it.
- Have a life like you did in college. Include things other than class and studies in your daily routine, which requires minimal human interaction. This is the time you should start that long pending project you have been pushing because of a paucity of time.
Lasso in some Extra Help
Don’t have the usual access to your faculty members or other friends who helped you? Feeling a bit lost not being able to access everything on campus; the library, chat with a faculty member, a textbook you had lent a friend, etc? It happens to many. Follow one or all these tips:
- Call the friend and ask for photographs of the pages you don’t have.
- Lent a textbook to a friend? Ask for it to be sent over.
- See if you could borrow a textbook from a local student doing a similar course.
- Get a subscription for some homework help; occasionally the best of us need a hand to cope with academics.
- Set up some online help (if available) from your online writing center; some colleges include peer tutoring help too.
- Ask a senior from college for academic help if you have a good rapport.
- If you have a family member/friend who can help, just ask. They may be very willing to help you understand the topic you are having difficulty with.
Form a Virtual Study Group
This is by far the best plan. Students might already be a part of a large virtual group. If this is uncomfortable, form a smaller group. After class, perhaps 2-3 of you could study together virtually. Maybe one who understood best, could take the others through the difficult bits.
With devices being what they are, even our phones have a lot of technology students could use. Podcasts, visuals, screen sharing, tools to study and chat, creating flash cards; all or some of this could make studying and preparing for exams more fun!
Don’t lose your cool when your parents walk in unannounced with a plate of snacks. Entertain yourself with the Zoom memes and don’t fret over missing out.
In the history of modern education, this is not the first time colleges have had to close because of an emergency of this sort. In 1665, Isaac Newton was a young be-wigged man in his 20s at Trinity College, Cambridge, England. When he was sent home as a part of the public health measures, scientists did not know much about the plague (they learnt more in the 1800s), but they knew social distance would result in self-isolation, and this would slow the spread.
Tragically, London lost a quarter of its population in 1664-1665 as the plague went on to ravage many parts of the world, raising its ugly head for a couple of centuries (yes, it was that long!)
Newton returned to his college in 1667. Did he have remote classes? Doubtful. Did he while away his time? Definitely not all of it, for when he returned he had enough scientific work down on paper, for that year to be actually referred to as Newton’s annus mirabilis or the “year of wonders” in Latin!
He had spent his time coming up with seminal theories in optics, gravity (remember that apple story?), calculus and motion.
While at home, did his parents keep checking on him?
Was he a sloth lying around in bed?
Did he worry about when he could go back to his friends and college life?
Where did he turn for academic help? (Not cool to ask. This was Sir Isaac Newton, albeit without his knighthood.)
Did he procrastinate?
Newton did use the unexpected time free of schedules to do some great work. Two years after he returned, he was a professor.
This is 2020. Social distance/self isolation is still a public health measure. Buckle down. Enjoy your remote classes and make the best of it.
PS: Author enjoys blogging about STEM.
Tell us how we can improve?