Because of COVID-19, school has looked different this year. We spoke with our Fairbanks School of Public Health Student Services team to understand how we can prepare for the spring semester. Through a Q&A, Rachel Forster, Amelia Hurt and Kayla Rinker share their advice for adapting to our unusual circumstances.
How can I make meaningful connections in my online courses?
Set a goal to keep your video open when you can. Seeing your classmates faces and their expressions will help you feel engaged and more connected. Everyone has occasional off days, but try to stay on screen when you can.
Don’t be shy! Utilize your instructor’s virtual office hours, and if none are posted reach out to schedule an appointment. This is also a great opportunity to loop in classmates to see if they want to attend a group session to ask questions. This will maximize your instructors’ time, help you connect with your class and get answers to questions you may not have thought of.
Lean in on your peers. Take comfort in the fact that you aren’t going through the semester alone. Just as you might utilize your instructor or TA office hours, consider creating virtual peer study groups for your courses. You have access to a Zoom account and can create recurring meetings to connect with your classmates to study. You might also consider a GroupMe chat for additional support.
How do I balance school, work, home and other demands?
Online learning is much more self-directed, and you may need to revamp your study habits. Your old schedule and even how you managed your time, may no longer be a good fit with your quarantine lifestyle. If you loved heading to your local coffee shop to prepare for a test, try sitting at your kitchen counter rather than your bed. Download a white noise app for your phone or try a classical music playlist on Spotify. This type of background noise has been shown to improve focus, creativity and productivity. Changing your environment, even if it is just where you sit can make a big difference.
Are you feeling pulled in a million directions? Trying to balance time with family along with everything else? Make a phone call. You might be wondering why you should call someone with all of the digital options available, but sometimes old school does the trick. Just hearing someone’s voice can improve your mood. Call your grandparents, they would love to hear from you. If you live on-campus this semester, call your parents, a family member or a friend. Asking someone how they’re doing and redirecting the focus to them can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your next task.
What day-to-day habits should I create for a better semester?
On Sunday, write a daily affirmation for each day of the week on sticky notes. Put that sticky note on your mirror, in your car, on the fridge (somewhere visible that you will see it) the night before and then read the affirmation before going to class or work. Or, if you prefer, download a daily affirmation app and set a reminder for it to pop-up every morning. Some app recommendations are ThinkUp, Shine and Happify, just to name a few.
With screen time increasing this semester, think about getting a pair of screen glare glasses to help reduce eye strain and even get a better night’s rest.
Trying to keep your hands clean even when you aren’t near a sink and soap? Along with your hand sanitizer, think about adding hand-sanitizing wipes to your stash.
Or if you want to avoid touching surfaces during COVID, get a no-touch door opener. It can hook to your backpack, keychains or purse strap and lets you open doors, press elevator keys and mostly anything you touch without contaminating your hands.
What steps can I take to prepare for my career?
Networking may seem impossible during the pandemic, but don’t get stuck thinking those face-to-face events are your only option. The virtual world has expanded our reach and most professionals and employers have pivoted quickly to find ways to connect virtually with students for networking, interviews, and internships.
FSPH students should set a goal of connecting with at least one alumnus each semester through the Alumni Career Connections program. This is your opportunity to network, find a mentor, or take a deeper dive into career exploration. Additionally, focusing on your LinkedIn account, whether it’s creating one or giving it a refresh, should be on everyone’s to-do list. The Career and Professional Development office is open to reviewing your account just like we review your resume!
Where can I find resources for mental health?
Remember to practice self-care and stay mindful of your mood and emotions! Prioritizing rest, fresh air, connecting with friends or family, and even taking a break to watch funny pet videos (we all need a laugh) will go a long way towards maintaining a healthy physical and mental state.
Most importantly reach out and seek help if needed. IUPUI Students can take advantage of resources through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which provides a variety of counseling and mental health services. Additional campus and community resources are available through the IUPUI Virtual Care Package.
You also might find these online support groups helpful.
Is there anything else I can do?
Establish a routine. While online learning offers some flexibility, having a regular routine helps you stay focused and on task. Treat your day like you’re going to campus. Set an alarm, wake up, and get dressed. A productive day starts with a productive morning routine.
Consider setting “school” hours. What specific times do you want to focus on your online coursework? Do you have synchronous online meeting times? Set them and add them to your phone calendar or planner to stay organized. Be sure to establish break times away from your computer, too. Your brain will thank you. If you need additional support with time management, check out Bepko Learning Center’s time management resources.
Does your brain feel like it has a hundred tabs open like your computer? While multitasking may serve you well in other parts of your life, it can be overwhelming when learning. Take one thing at a time. Create a daily to-do list and prioritize your tasks. Keep it near your learning space to keep you focused.
It’s important to remember to give yourself a break away from technology, social media, the news, etc. Take a few minutes to go for a walk; if you have a pet take this time to play with them; read a non-academic book or take a 30-minute nap if you need to.