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Top 10 things I wish I knew when I began online classes at U.Va.

Online classes are new to most of us — here are some things I have learned

<p>When you click on a Zoom link and slowly watch the number of participants rise on your screen, it is natural to feel disconnected from your classmates. Having experienced this feeling myself, I’ve realized through the importance of making small connections with people in class.&nbsp;</p>

When you click on a Zoom link and slowly watch the number of participants rise on your screen, it is natural to feel disconnected from your classmates. Having experienced this feeling myself, I’ve realized through the importance of making small connections with people in class. 

1. Online classes appear more overwhelming than they actually are

We all know the feeling of opening a syllabus, peeling through the pages and experiencing a sudden rush of stress come over us — this feeling can be even further intensified with an online class. We feel as though we won’t have as much guidance from our professors or that we won’t be able to easily connect with our peers virtually. An online class is much different from an in-person one, but most of the time the stress we experience exists because of our unfamiliarity with a new process. Next time you open up a syllabus for an online course, take a deep breath and relax because nine times out of 10 that class won’t be as bad as you think. 

2. Feeling out of place and lost in the process is completely normal

Searching for an online class that you feel suits your academic interests and learning style can be tough — especially when classes are virtual. A class could interest you, but it runs asynchronously and you have trouble with this style of learning. Little things like this that factor into online classes — such as structure, format, teaching style and material — make the process of choosing virtual classes stressful. When you feel lost in this process, remember that you always have people to turn to on Grounds who will help you through a difficult time. For example, you can contact University advising, and they will assist you in any way possible. 

3. It is important to make a schedule — especially if you have asynchronous classes

When I first began online classes, I had a mix of both asynchronous and synchronous courses. Since my asynchronous classes didn’t meet at a designated time each day, I found myself struggling to keep up with the material and stay organized. As the semester progressed, I decided that I needed to integrate these classes into a fixed schedule and set a designated time each week to watch and review the lectures. Ultimately, this technique helped me feel less overwhelmed and more in-tune with my lectures. If you feel that you’re scrambling at the last minute to watch your lectures, I encourage you to make your own schedule in order to help you stay organized and ease the stress of keeping up with asynchronous classes.

4. Teachers and TAs are more available than you think 

Online courses mean we can no longer walk up to professors and TAs after class to ask them questions or discuss anything regarding a course. However, I eased myself into attending office hours via Zoom and discovered my teachers and TAs were just as engaging and available  as they were before the pandemic. Just remember — while it may not feel like it at first, your instructors are there for you and willing to meet when you need them.

5. It’s important to take breaks like you regularly would during a school day 

Online classes can be really tough on your mental health. When I began, I always felt like I was missing a deadline for an assignment, so I was constantly checking Collab throughout the day. As I got more in the groove of online classes, I realized that taking breaks throughout the day increased my level of focus towards my school work. So, if you find yourself having free time during your day, I recommend taking intentional breaks that give you the time to decompress. In the end, our mental health is very important, and integrating small activities — like walking or journaling — that make you happy throughout your day will prove to be extremely beneficial.

6. Changing work locations can be healthy 

Being in the same location all day can be very draining and exhausting. This past semester, I realized that changing work locations made me feel more productive and rejuvenated. It can be as simple as moving from your dorm room to a table outside your dorm or from your apartment to a library on Grounds. Get up and find a new spot to start off your classes — you may find you really enjoy it!  

7. Social interaction is important

Nowadays, we spend so much time cooped up on our computers with social interactions limited to the online world. As a social butterfly, I felt my lack of in-person social interaction weighing on my mental health. I missed seeing people in and outside of class, and this pushed me to be more intentional about interacting with others. Whether it’s doing a fun activity with roommates, going to lunch with one of your friends or calling that special someone in your life, these small moments with others are so important to our life experience and happiness. 

8. Take proactive steps that will help you to not feel so divided by a Zoom screen 

When you click on a Zoom link and slowly watch the number of participants rise on your screen, it is natural to feel disconnected from your classmates. Having experienced this feeling myself, I’ve realized through the importance of making small connections with people in class. A new trend that seems to be evolving across the University is the creation of GroupMe chats with your peers to get in touch and connect. Consider also reaching out to one of your classmates via the chat function on Zoom.

9. Don’t be so hard on yourself 

We are used to regularly attending in-person classes with our professors and classmates while learning material firsthand in a classroom setting. But with the pandemic, this has all changed. We are forced to adapt to new styles of virtual learning, less interaction and often, more review outside of class as learning becomes more difficult. Throughout this process, we need to remember not to be so hard on ourselves and that even our professors are encountering these same challenges. Remember to reward yourself for the steady effort that you continue to put forth throughout your online class experience. 

10. This is not a “forever” — this is only temporary 

One of the most important things to realize during this time, but also one of the hardest, is that this is not forever. While it may seem as though we are going to be endlessly stuck in a pandemic, that is not the case — especially with highly effective vaccines being distributed. Although it is hard to adopt a positive mindset during these times, it is necessary to do so in order to foster positivity. It’s hard to be positive about the circumstances, but by encouraging a mindset in which we recognize that the pandemic is only temporary, we can make the most out of our experiences during this time.

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