Online College: How I study

Going to school online can be hard. You need good internet access, you need time, and you need a tablet, laptop, or computer to truly be successful.

When I switched to remote learning, it was before 2020. I had teachers who didn’t communicate, and I was truly lost!

These are my tips on how I made it through Community College and into University-all completely online.

Create space in your environment to learn.

For me, great space is clean, colorful, and organized. I have my textbooks within reach, I have journals, and I often have some word document programs open for note-taking. It doesn’t have to be huge! My space is literally a corner of my room. But I started out with a simple desk and fold-out chair, and a tablet.

Schedule your learning in blocks.

Unless you have a required lecture, meeting, or class time you can typically schedule your learning around your own life and schedule.

I hate being up before 8:30AM, and I hate doing any work before 10-11AM. So I typically don’t schedule any meetings before then, and I’m not available to anyone before I want to be. (This is obviously a privilege, which I’m completely aware of, but adjust to your needs and life accordingly.)
From 11AM-3PM, I focus on one subject for an hour and a half before switching to another subject. Sometimes, if I feel motivated or I’m super deep into a project I can work later or into the evening.

I always make time for breaks. Lunch, dog walks, sometimes a nap, and a yoga session.

Listen To Your Body

It’s really easy to want to get ahead, but you can overdo it. Listen to what your body needs and take those breaks! Rest, relax, take a sick day. Trust me, learning happens even when you aren’t studying. I have often found myself pondering a problem or thought while I’m doing something else that I enjoy, and that is where learning truly happens.

Learning happens when we sleep

There are actual studies that have proven we are most effective when we are well-rested, well taken care of, and able to meet all of our functions. Staring at a screen all day will not make you more productive or educated in the long term, and it will be a waste of your time. Staying busy doesn’t make you smarter.

Schedule a meetup and note taking with other students!

If you’re struggling, or just not able to make all of the lectures. Reach out to some classmates and share notes. Create a shared OneNote or Google document where you can each provide information, and fill in each other’s knowledge. Combined knowledge is power and you’ll be more likely to pass that test. I have actually done this with a fellow student in one of my classes and we both wound up passing because of it! Seriously, I wouldn’t have been able to succeed without them!

If the quiz is open note, keep your notes open!

This is pretty self-explanatory, but even in the “real world”, you’ll always have access to information and knowledge. This is the era where knowledge is available. Obviously, for practical exams, this doesn’t apply, but for more theoretical work, it’s often the case.

Reach Out to Your Professors

Contact them to let them know what is going on in your life. Not everyone will be accommodating, but you might be surprised by the ones that are. Quite a few times I have had my computer crash, or internet crash and I would lose my progress and work. This once happened during a final, and I mad-rushed emailed the professor with who I had built a good connection and communication during the quarter, who allowed me to retake the quiz. This saved my grade.

Utilize Disability Services

Each school has a different method for disability services, but if you have a disability (and can often prove it), then you can get accommodations. Some that I request are: Additional test-taking time, Note-taking, Allowing notes for finals/quizzes, and I’ve even asked for things like PowerPoint slide documents, or closed captions to be added to lectures. ADA services aren’t a “cheat” or a way to “get ahead of other students”, it’s just a way to make it so you can be at the same level as someone able-bodied. 🙂 There is no shame in it, and the only people who know you use it are between you, the department, and your teachers that you give permission to know. (And they won’t know your condition or why you need it, just that you’re requesting services!)

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Color Code Your Notes

This might be a personal thing, but I LOVE color coding. I actually love to use OneNote (free if you’re a student with a school that has Microsoft Education access!) because I can section things out by course (class), and by lecture, information, or anything else I want!

As you can see from the picture, I have my topics or courses under “Section” and each page I have dedicated to book chapters, lecture notes, and theory. OneNote has become my favorite tool to utilize for school, and I also use SNIPPING Tool (On PC) to clip images from the internet, lectures, or videos so that I can refer back to them later. This also saves space on my hard drive and PC because I’m only keeping knowledge on the cloud server, and can then access this on my phone, or tablet as well!

What I don’t Use:
Flash Cards

I don’t learn well from them. I don’t like rote memorization. I am much better at engaging with a topic, speaking about it with peers or educating someone else on it (to further retain the knowledge I just studied myself), than I have ever been on making flashcards and doing memorization tricks. I also find them to be kind of wasteful in both space and practicality, but I can see them being great for specific subjects and K-12!

Cheap Journals

This is really a personal preference, but every time I’ve bought the cheap paper, I have hated it. I won’t touch it, and I will gift it out because it does not bring me joy. Spending about 6-15$ on a journal that I like, if I want something physical is worthwhile to me!

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