The transition to all-virtual classrooms has taken place, and now only a handful of days stand between Virginia Tech students and a well-deserved winter break. Now is the time for Hokies to capitalize on the lessons learned during last spring’s move to online learning to ensure general well-being and a strong finish to the fall semester.

TAKING CARE OF GRADES

Virginia Tech’s Academic Advising Initiatives has a flurry of tips, strategies, and resources for students. Here are a few tips they shared on having success in an online environment:

Focus on your time-management

Online learning can be a challenge for students who procrastinate, are unable to stick to routine study schedules, or are not able to complete assignments without daily reminders from a teacher. Some tips to help curb any of those issues include:

  • Review the revised syllabus for each of your courses. Develop a plan for completing the remainder of your assignments on time.
  • Some classes will meet in real time, others will not. Understand each of your course’s time requirements in a virtual format.
  • Make a daily "To Do" list. Check things off the list as you complete them.
  • Develop a daily routine with scheduled course time, study time, and free time. Research has shown that students with a structured daily schedule are more successful academically.

Enhance your communication with your professors

Faculty are willing to help, but they are unable to pick up on nonverbal cues they usually use in face-to-face courses. Some tips for helping overcome this hurdle include:

  • Determine how your professor would like you to communicate questions. Some prefer e-mail, discussion groups, chat room office hours, or Zoom meetings. If your teacher is offering online office hours, don't be shy about using those tools to communicate and seek help.
  • Check your Canvas Account Notification Settings — adjust it to be more frequent.
  • Use professional language in communications. Moving to online courses is likely to cause frustration for both faculty and students. Given the online environment, sometimes people’s communications take on a tone that would not be conveyed in face-to-face interactions. Before sending messages, take a moment to reread your communications to ensure they convey respect and courtesy.

Design a good study environment

Here are some tips for a healthy study environment:

  • Ensure connectivity. Have a plan for internet access as well as 2-factor. Consider printing a list of DUO passcodes just in case. 
  • Get some peace and quiet. You will need a quiet place to work without distractions from things like television, family, or roommates.
  • Avoid games. Consider uninstalling any computer games to avoid temptation. Or keep the games on a different computer in the house.
  • Turn off your cell phone. Let friends and family members know the hours that you will be "at" school.
  • Beware surfing the black hole of the Internet. It is easy to lose track of the time as you wander from site to site.
  • Consider ergonomics. Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen so that you are comfortable. Forearms and thighs should be level and parallel to the floor. Wrists should not be bent while typing.
  • Set up good lighting and comfortable seating. Lighting in the room should be at least as bright as the computer screen to avoid eye strain.

TAKING CARE OF YOU

For many Hokies, the transition to the virtual environment also accompanies a transition from living and studying on campus to doing so at home. The move might not be easy and may necessitate having  challenging conversations about COVID-19 and boundaries.

Hokie Wellness provided this guide to have tough conversations with friends and family.

Swathi Prabhu, Hokie Wellness’ Mental Health Initiatives, also shared these tips on developing skills of resiliency, which are critical during uncertain and stressful times.

Feel the feels

  • During times like this, it is normal to experience several feelings at once. Setting aside defined periods of time to reflect on thoughts and to hold space for the feelings that arise may be helpful. In doing so, be gentle with yourself and invite self-compassion as you experience the changes that may be occurring around you.

Focus on what you can control

  • In times of uncertainty so much can feel beyond our control; however, we should remind ourselves of the actions can take, such as getting a full night's sleep and incorporating movement into our new routines. Establishing structure around daily activities like these can help us create a sense of normalcy.

Communicate effectively

  • For many, this is a time of significant changes – even within our personal spaces. Whether your home is filled with family members who are trying to pursue work and educational goals, or you live alone, chances are that you feel more isolated than usual. Actively communicating with friends and family can help each of us adjust more smoothly as we transition. Effective communication involves clearly stating your needs and wants, while also considering those of others in a mutually supportive way.

Tap into your resources

  • With changes in environment, it's easy to feel like you have to navigate this alone. Remember, though - we're all in this together, and there are resources available to support mental and emotional well-being. Consider checking out resources in your community and those continuing to be offered by Virginia Tech. These include but aren't limited to the virtual offerings found at www.well-being.vt.edu.

Virginia Tech is currently following public health guidelines, which include advising people to stay at home and to practice social distancing, so many of Hokie Wellness’ usual offerings have been modified and made available virtually.

Written by Travis Williams