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How to Transition to Remote College During the Coronavirus Outbreak

This article was authored in partnership with wikiHow, the world’s largest “how to” site, and also featured here on the wikiHow website.

COVID-19 has changed the way colleges and universities work, and many of them have moved to remote classes to keep students safe. Transitioning from in-person lectures to online ones can be tough, especially if you’ve never taken online classes before. By staying organized and using your resources, you can get the most out of your online classes and make the best out of a new situation. Be sure to practice self-care and take breaks whenever you need them to avoid getting burnt out.

Grieving Your Anticipated College Experience

Acknowledge the feelings you are having. Not being able to have the typical college experience can lead to anger, frustration, and sadness. Try to label the feelings that you are having and acknowledge what you’re going through to make it easier and less painful on yourself.[1]

  • Labeling your feelings about a disastrous situation can often make it less scary and more manageable.
  • Your feelings, no matter what they are, are absolutely valid.

Focus on the present to avoid ruminating on the “could be.” It can be easy to think about what you might be doing if COVID-19 hadn’t happened, or what you could have done differently to avoid your current situation. However, thinking about the past won’t make you feel any better. Try to focus on where you are now to avoid bumming yourself out and regretting your past actions.[2]

  • Feeling regret is one of the hardest human emotions, because you can’t go back and change the past. Try to remember that you’re only in charge of your own future actions, not those in the past or anyone else’s.

Try to find the positives about your current situation. Although it might seem tough, try to identify the ways in which your situation is beneficial. Maybe you have more free time to work on art projects, or maybe you’re getting more sleep since you don’t have to commute to school every day. Maybe you’re spending more time with your family now that you’re back at home, or maybe you’re focusing more on your school work since you can’t hang out with your friends. Try to write down 2 to 3 things that are good about your situation.[3]

  • Try not to feel guilty for seeing the positive in your situation. Putting a positive spin on things will make you feel better, even if it feels a little weird to think about.

Find an outlet for your grief. Everyone deals with grief a little differently, so your outlet is probably different from everyone else’s. If you like to write, try finding an online support group where you can submit posts anonymously. If you prefer to talk on the phone, reach out to your college resource center to see if they’re offering remote counseling. If you’d simply like to quiet your thoughts, you can try meditating or mindful exercise.[4]

  • Finding an outlet for your grief is very important, as it gives you a way to express yourself in a healthy way.
  • To find a support group online, try searching your college name on Facebook or Reddit to find your peers and chat with them.

Getting Organized

Get dressed like you’re going to class in person. If you stay in your pajamas all day, it’s going to be super tough to pay attention in class. Try waking up, eating breakfast, taking a shower, and putting on real clothes to get yourself in the school mindset.[5]

  • You can even put on a pair of shoes to really trick your brain into thinking you’re going somewhere.

Set up a dedicated work area. If you have the space, try setting up a desk with a chair to put your computer on while you work. This will help you keep your school and personal life separate, and it can also trick your brain into getting focused once you sit down in front of your computer.[6]

  • Not everyone has the space to dedicate an entire area to schoolwork, which is okay, too.

Learn how to use your online platform. Many colleges use similar online meeting platforms to conduct lectures, but they’re all slightly different. Take a few minutes to learn how to set up your webcam, your microphone, and the lecture portion of your class to make sure you know how to use them.[7]

  • In general, if your webcam light is on, that means your classmates and your professors can see you.
  • If you have trouble setting up your online platform, reach out to your professor for help.

Check your class syllabus for online due dates. Depending on the type of class you’re taking, you may have online assignments to complete every class period or every week. Keep track of your assignments on your syllabus so you don’t miss anything, as your professor might not remind you about deadlines.[8]

  • Your syllabus can also help you track when you need to study for midterms or a final.
  • It may be helpful to print out your syllabus so you have a physical copy.

Set a schedule for studying and doing homework. Online classes take just as much work as in-person classes, but it can be easy to overlook that when you aren’t going to an actual classroom. Write out a weekly schedule for your class times, your study time, and your homework time so you don’t fall behind.[9]

  • If you need to, set up reminders on your phone.
  • Make sure you stick to your schedule so that you don’t fall behind in your classwork. It can be easy to forget about assignments when you’re just turning them in online.

Learning Effectively

Record your lectures, if you can. It can be easy to zone out during lectures, especially when you’re sitting in your own home. Try using the record feature on your laptop or computer so you have easy access to your lectures in case you miss anything.[10]

  • Your professors may also record their lectures for you and upload them online.

Ask questions via your online learning tool. Most online learning tools have a “raise hand” feature or an “ask question” feature. If, at any point, you need help with something, use this tool to talk to your professor for clarification.[11]

  • If you can’t figure out how to use this feature or your platform doesn’t have one, you can wait until after the class is over and email your professor instead.

Participate in class virtually through your online learning tool. Participation is still required for most online classes, and it can take the form of attendance during lectures, online discussions, or submitting assignments. It can be easy to forget about participation, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your grades up.[12]

  • If you aren’t sure how your participation is being graded, check your syllabus.
  • Staying motivated to participate online can be tough. Remember that online classes still affect your GPA, even though they seem different than in-person classes.

Use fidget toys or doodle to improve your focus. Although it can seem counterintuitive, keeping your hands busy as you listen to a lecture can actually help you retain more information. Try drawing on your notes, using a fidget spinner, or squeezing a stress ball to help you learn while avoiding distractions.[13]

  • Keeping your hands busy can also help you avoid the temptation to pick up your phone and check social media or your texts.

Proofread your work carefully before you submit it. Since all of your communication is happening online, it’s important to double check your assignments and emails before you send them in. Make sure your work is free from typos and grammatical errors to get your point across without detracting from it.[14]

  • Remember that plagiarism, or copying other people’s work without credit, can often result in an automatic expulsion from your college or university. Always submit your own work, never anyone else’s.
  • Proofreading your work can also help you make sure your assignments and questions sound professional. Try not to use any shorthand, and treat your online class like you would a normal, in-person class.

Reach out to your classmates if you need help. Study groups don’t have to be in person! Try setting up virtual meetings or an email thread to ask questions and help each other out. Chances are, you all have a lot of the same questions, so you can help each other figure it out.[15]

  • If you don’t have your classmates’ contact information, reach out to your professor to see if you can get a class list.

Email your professor if you have questions. Instead of office hours, you’ll have to rely on email communication if you have questions or you need help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professor like you normally would during an in-person class.[16]

  • The sooner you email your professor, the better.

Caring for Your Mental Health

Hang out with your friends virtually. Not being able to see your friends during college is super tough, especially if you still need to socially distance yourself. Try to hang out with your friends online through virtual meeting platforms to get some social interaction while staying safe.[17]

  • Zoom and Skype are both free virtual meeting platforms that can host multiple people.

Set boundaries with the people you live with. If you were living on campus, you may have had to move in with roommates or back into your parent’s home. Try to let the people you’re living with know that you’ll need some quiet hours during the day to study and pay attention during class. If you have your own room or space, try to shut the door to eliminate any distractions while you’re doing schoolwork.[18]

  • Some people, especially older parents or relatives, may not understand that online classwork is just as tough as in-person classes. Try to explain that you need some peace and quiet to work on your studies and keep your grades up, even though you’re still at home.
  • Try saying something like, “Hey, I’m in a couple classes this semester that are pretty tough. I’d appreciate it if on Mondays and Wednesdays, we could try to keep the place quiet from 12 to 2, just so I can get some studying done. Does that work for you guys?”

Use your online resources. As colleges transition to online classes, most of them have set up online resources to help with tutoring, studying, and course work. Check out your college’s website to see what resources are available to you and if they’re helpful for your area of study.[19]

  • You may be able to do virtual tutoring or form virtual study groups online through your college’s website.
  • You may also be able to get free counseling online through your college website.

Take breaks if you need to. Online learning can be tough, especially if you’ve never done it before. If you’re having an off-day and you just can’t bring yourself to pay attention, it’s okay to take a break and veg out by watching TV or texting a friend. You may have to do some extra studying later, but it will be worth it for your overall well being.[20]

  • Online learning is tough for a lot of people, so try not to get discouraged if you find it difficult to adjust.


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