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Tips for online classes during the COVID-19 response


Mercer University President Bill Underwood announced March 15 that classes would be suspended until March 23 due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. Additionally, students no longer have the option to attend classes in-person. The university has moved to online learning until at least April 3, and potentially through the rest of the spring term.

If you’ve never taken an online class before, this new reality could be daunting. However, there are ways to stay focused and keep your momentum from the first part of the semester going.

Take them seriously

The hardest part of online classes for many people is remembering that it’s still a “real class” even though you don’t meet in person. Some may even feel tempted to cheat if a class involves virtual exams. Keep in mind that you’re still paying for your courses, and your professors are putting in just as much—if not more—work to teach you the material in an alternative format. This change isn’t ideal for any of us, but we have to make the best of it.

Find a study space

Whether you’re back at home or hunkering down in the dorms, it’s important to designate a space as your work area. Just because you can do your work without leaving your bed doesn’t mean you should. It’s easy to slip into sleep or struggle to feel motivated when you’re too cozy. Libraries and coffee shops are usually great, but to help prevent an outbreak, we should avoid them as much as possible right now. In that case, you may want to throw it back to high school and make your parents’ kitchen table your study space again. Just make sure it’s somewhere with few distractions, and try to use the same place each day so you train your brain to enter work mode once you’re there.

Create a study schedule

Since you no longer have specific hours that you’ll be in class, it can seem like you have the entire day to get everything done. So, you don’t feel pressured to work on your assignment that’s due at midnight when you wake up in the morning—you can do it after lunch! As the afternoon sets in and you’re two seasons deep into your new favorite show, you tell yourself you can do it in the evening. Then the sun sets and you decide to do it after dinner. But now your best friend wants to FaceTime, and before you know it, it’s 11:03 p.m. and you’ve done nothing. 

To avoid this situation, set up a study schedule to keep yourself on track. You don’t have to plan every second of every day, but if you know you’re a morning person, set aside the first two hours of your day for schoolwork. Or, if your 2 p.m. class plans to meet virtually through Zoom, try to finish homework once you log off, since you’ll already be thinking about academics. You know yourself best, so find what works for you.

Work with your professors

You didn’t sign up for online classes this semester, I get it — but your professors didn’t either. Some of them may be offering virtual instruction for the first time, and we all know that some professors are more skilled than others when it comes to technology. You’ll need to be patient with them and understand that they’re probably feeling uncomfortable too. They had to redesign a syllabus that may include labs, presentations, physical education requirements or field trips, and they only had a week to do it. Keep in mind that they’re still your professors. You can still reach out to them by email or phone to ask questions and get feedback, just as you could before—and you should! Taking the initiative to stay connected with instructors is crucial when you’re taking online classes since it’s easier to get lost when you don’t meet in person.

Mercer University will decide by April 3 whether online courses will continue or if the school will shift back to attending class meetings. No matter how long you’ll be working remotely, you can keep up the good work and power through the rest of the semester.

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