Life in the new normal

Phei Shan is a Pharmacy student here at the University of Bradford. In this blog she offers some top tips for studying online and self-care.

Headshot of Phei Shan.

Phei Shan, Pharmacy student

Having been in a global pandemic for over a year now, it is safe to say that our lives have changed drastically. As if the transition to university was not already challenging enough, we are now faced with having to navigate new territory with online learning and social isolation.

It is a tumultuous period, but it helps to know that you are not alone and that there are ways to make the situation more bearable. Read on as I share some tips that will hopefully help you ace blended learning, and suggest some activities you can do if you are in isolation.

How To Adapt to Online Lessons

Wake up early

It can be very tempting to wake up at 8.55 a.m. for a 9.00 a.m. online class, especially when no one can see that you are still tucked in bed with your eyes half closed and your brain half awake. We have all been there before and we know it does not work well.

On the contrary, getting up ahead of time, having a good breakfast before the session starts and joining the meeting at least five minutes early ensures that you are ready to absorb new information. It also helps to have your reading and writing materials within reach and to have all necessary websites open such as Canvas, InteDashboard and other virtual learning platforms.

Read ahead

With more teaching sessions moving to virtual platforms, lecturers often publish the lecture slides and directed reading prior to the live sessions. By going over them before the sessions, you know what to expect instead of feeling lost if the class is too fast-paced. Try to also prepare a list of questions if you have queries about the reading, so that you can utilise the live sessions instead of having to email the lecturer thereafter.

A student sat at a desk, using a laptop in their campus accommodation bedroom.

Ask questions

One huge advantage of online lessons is the chat feature. Most lecturers are happy for students to ask questions in the chat throughout the session, unlike in question and answer sessions at in-person lectures which are often put off until the end. Make use of this by typing questions in the chat to get quick clarification.

If your question remains unanswered or if you still struggle to understand the content, make a note of this and remember to go over gaps in your knowledge as soon as possible. The sooner you clear your doubts, the more likely you are to remember things.

Use the recording feature

Another benefit of online lectures is that they are almost always recorded and include audio transcripts. As students, we often make the mistake of trying to take note of everything that is said during a lecture because every bit of information seems so important. However, multitasking may mean that you are missing out on vital information while you are preoccupied with writing instead of engaging with the class. Although it is more time consuming, it therefore helps to listen attentively during the live session and to only take notes when you listen to the recording later on.

Be participative

Nothing is more awkward than being in a Zoom breakout room where no one wants to unmute themselves. Instead of trying to hide by keeping your camera off and microphone muted, try engaging in discussions and speaking up during online classes. This is a good start if you have stage fright because unlike in-person classes, you don’t see your audience, so the public speaking experience is much less daunting!

Self-care tips during isolation

Find joy in solo activities

If you are an introvert, this point probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but what better time is there to discover new hobbies than when you are stuck at home alone? If you can’t think of anything to do, here are some ideas: reading, cooking, baking, listening to music/podcasts, watching movies, playing online games, working out, dancing, going for walks, room decoration, writing and meditating. You would be surprised how quickly time passes even without company, once you find an activity that suits you.

Three students, each one on their own, walking through the campus Peace Garden.

Reach out to friends and family

Having to be alone when you’re self-isolating doesn’t mean having to be lonely. Remember that loved ones are always a call away and there are online games you can play together as well as movie streaming sites that enable synchronous streaming.

If you find yourself feeling like you can’t confide in family and friends, there is always the option of seeking counselling services at the University. Sometimes all you need is a listening ear, and it is normal to feel upset in such turbulent times.

Be conscious of sleep routines and meals

It is easy to fall into the habit of sleeping late and skipping meals when living alone, but keeping to a routine of waking up early maintains a sense of purpose. In the winter months, it is also important to start your day early to increase exposure to sunlight. Having well balanced meals and adequate sleep will improve your mental and physical health drastically.

A closeup shot of some bedding in a student accommodation room.

Keep a diary

Being in lockdown can make every day feel the same, but by taking note of your mood each day and identifying what makes you happier or sadder, you become more self-aware and can work towards a better mental state. For example, you can keep track of what happens throughout the day, the people you speak to, how much rest you get, what exercises you do, meals you have had and so on. Just journaling itself can be a therapeutic experience and improve mindfulness.

Do not overwork

Working from home can blur the distinction between work life and personal life, so it is important to set boundaries to avoid burnout. Try to set a cut-off time to stop working, especially if working at night affects your sleep. By having an idea of what enjoyable activities to do in the evening, you will also feel motivated to finish tasks in the day. This avoids procrastination as we can sometimes confuse being busy with being productive when we are merely working longer hours to complete the same amount of work.

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