As society slowly adjusts to a “new normal” in the era of COVID-19, students and educators are coming to terms with what that will mean for class this fall. Many educational campuses are preparing for a mostly virtual fall semester, which will put student’s time management and self-motivation skills to the test.

As educational institutes flesh out the support structures they will provide if students are asked to work remotely, we spoke to Mark Leeming, the Learning Skills Coordinator at St. Francis Xavier University, for advice on the best approach students can take to adjust to a new work flow.

“Don’t expect yourself to be perfect,” says Leeming. “All good choices are just habits. So, think of beating a bad habit of being careless about your time, missing things, putting them off…My mother quit smoking. My mother quit smoking about five times, because the first four didn’t work. But she kept doing it. So that’s the thing; when you fail, and you will fail, do it again. Recommit to the process of providing yourself structure and discipline.

“Eventually, you get better.”

A study published by the University of Tasmania in Australia on 67 undergraduate students found that students typically achieve similar test results in online versus face-to-face activities. However, there is a perception of value in face-to-face classes – students simply prefer to discuss course content in person. Part of that value is likely due to the classroom experience: physically being present in the classroom helps students stay alert and pay attention to the lecture content, improving the overall experience.

“It’s not easier, it’s harder for students,” says Leeming about online courses. “The main reason it’s harder is motivation; making yourself get the work done. Despite the difficulty and the hate at the 8:30 in the morning classes, there’s something great about having to go to class. It makes you do things. It provides a certain structure and discipline to your time.”

When you fail, and you will fail, do it again. Recommit to the process of providing yourself structure and discipline.

Mark LeemingLearning Skills Coordinator at St. Francis Xavier University

Working From Home Tip #1:
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to establish a routine

Working From Home Tip #2:
Get ready for the day as if you were going to campus - this sends the cue that you are not simply taking today off.

Working From Home Tip #3:
Create a space that is as free of distractions as possible. This might mean setting up a desk in a little-used area of the house, working with white-noise piped into headphones, or setting a schedule with family or room mates for when you are "off limits"

Working From Home Tip #4:
Set a schedule and allow yourself frequent breaks. A schedule might be 45-minutes working followed by a 15-minute break for three hours, followed by a 45-minute lunch break. Then repeat in the afternoon. There are plenty of interval timers online that can help you stay on schedule.

Working From Home Tip #5:
Make sure you incorporate days off. When you work from home it is all too easy to allow work to bleed into your weekends, but this can lead to burnout. Give yourself one or two days every week where you actively take a break from doing work - it will benefit you in the long run.

Other advice for staying present and motivated to pay attention in class or to complete work from home includes getting up at the same time each day, getting dressed and ready as if you were actually going to campus, and creating a space for yourself that is as free of distractions as possible. Strategies will constantly have to evolve, and it will take time to find the routine that works for you. Forgiving yourself when a strategy doesn’t work and trying a new approach is the only way to develop a tailor made work flow.

“Recommit to the process when you inevitably fail, rather than giving up. It’s okay, but it is still undesirable. So, try again. Try it again.”

Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to the support they need. Click here to find out more.

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