My Transition to the Online World

UAlberta international student Gurbani Baweja shares her top tips for succeeding in the transition to online learning.

Gurbani Baweja - 04 August 2020

Change is believed to be inevitable. Ever since I have moved to Canada for my undergraduate degree, I try to embrace the changes in my life, but sometimes I simply go with the flow. With COVID-19 being declared as a pandemic and the University cancelling in-person classes, I could anticipate some inevitable changes in my life.

I remember I received an email stating that all classes were being cancelled for two days. I was extremely happy to have some unexpected time off from classes, but I never imagined not being able to attend any classes in the University lecture halls for months to follow. While the transition happened, my initial strategy was to simply go with the flow. As a student living away from home, the only family I have is my friends, and not being able to go to classes or group meetings or parties with them for an undetermined time was desolating.

I was hardly productive during this transition in the beginning. I was starting my assignments a couple of hours before their deadlines, attending all classes lying in my bed dressed in my night suit, binge-watching Netflix and weeping over this awful change. I accepted my life to continue this way until I resumed going to University.

I had my first online midterm a couple of weeks after the university moved to online classes. I was expecting that the midterm will be cancelled, or its syllabus will be reduced. However, neither of these happened. I started studying a day before the midterm, and I had a substantial amount of portions to cover. I did not have a clear understanding of any concepts because I was treating online classes as a joke. The night before my midterm, I was hit hard by the realization that I can't just simply go with the flow in this transition to the online world because going with the flow led me to pull an all-nighter before my midterm and I couldn't cover all the portion for the test eventually as I wasn't studying like before.

After pulling off an all-nighter before my midterm, I acknowledged a few facts. Firstly, the world didn't stop functioning because of COVID-19 and nor should we. It can be challenging to adapt to sudden changes like such a transition, but the sooner you adapt, the better. Secondly, studies are still important, and they require an equal amount of hard work as they did during in-person classes.

So here are a few solutions that I used to adapt to this transition:

1. Follow "The Four Step Prep Plan"

Waking up just a few minutes prior to my online classes was mainly unproductive. To improve my habits in the online world, I started following "The Four-Step Prep Plan". According to this plan, I followed four steps before the beginning of my online classes every day.

Step 1: Shower and dress like you would while going to in-person classes.

Step 2: Have a breakfast that will keep you active for the rest of the day ( You can follow this link for ideas)

Step 3: Keep all the necessary study material and stationery on your study table so that you don't have to get up in the middle of your class to grab them.

Step 4: Check your wifi connection and make appropriate arrangements. Join the online class 10 minutes before it begins.

2. Avoid distractions and take help to stay on track

Distractions can make it difficult for any individual to stick to their plans and schedules. While distractions can differ from person to person, I bet that plenty of us must have faced these two distractions: binge-watching Netflix/Prime and eating junk food.

The best way to avoid eating junk food that I followed was simply not to buy it in the first place. Alongside that, my friends and I helped each other to stay on track by recording how often and for how long we studied and watched Netflix/Prime. This way we helped each other avoid distractions and stick to our schedules.

3. Reach out to friends and professors for help

Studying online classes is a different learning experience for all of us. We may or may not have more doubts and questions than usual and that's completely okay. Whenever I had a doubt, I would instantly email it to my professor or message my friends. Keeping a doubt for later just creates a pile of queries and confusions which adversely affects our learning experience. Alongside that, I would also attend office hours of my professors via Hangouts or Zoom to clarify my doubts. My friends and I would also occasionally work on homework together or study together via Zoom.

4. Change your room decor

I changed the interior of my room from comfier to more uncomfortable. For instance, I changed the spot of my study table and started cleaning my room every couple of days. This made me more active and motivated to work. The biggest thing that helped me stick to my routine was the changes in the interiors of my room and my house. I had a changing environment around me, bi-weekly, which broke the monotony. Not that I did a lot of frequent shopping for the interior, I just changed the spot of the furniture I already had in the house very often.

5. Indoor workout

Staying at home all day naturally makes me lazy and so I started practicing yoga for 15 minutes every day. It not only helps me stay motivated to work for the rest of the day but also helps me stay optimistic. However, an indoor workout doesn't necessarily have to be yoga, it could also be Zumba or just simple exercise. A little physical exercise adds to all the hard work we put to stick to our schedules while staying at home.

My experience transitioning to the online world taught me that change is indeed inevitable, and you can adapt to change as soon as you convince yourself to come back to a routine even when the environment around you has changed.