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How I Write and Learn

Silver Linings from Online School

By Sig, a Peer Tutor

In the Spring 2020 semester, two weeks of online school sounded incomprehensible, and now I have completed over a year of online classes. I had my fair share of positive and negative experiences that came along with online class. But, as I look forward to the prospective in-person classes next year, here are some of the lessons I’ll be taking with me into the future.

I Am Adaptable

With little notice and time to prepare, we all had to adjust to online school. From professors struggling to learn how to screen share and students forgetting to mute their microphones, we’ve come a long way. Although some transitions were smoother than others, we demonstrated how to struggle through and adjust until everything worked out. These lessons in flexibility will be extremely useful. For instance, this past semester I had to complete a group project and we communicated through email, GroupMe, Zoom, and Google Docs/Slides. Despite never meeting in person, we were able to pull off an amazing presentation. If a group project needs to be completed next semester and all the members can’t meet in the same place at the same time, I now know how to make sure all the work can get completed despite logistical struggles.

Prioritizing Health

The reason we had online classes in the first place was for each of us to prioritize our health, and the health of others, during a pandemic. In the past, I would frequently find myself prioritizing school, work, or other less important endeavors above my own physical and mental health. Quarantine gave many people, including myself, the time to step back and analyze myself and my values. One way that I cared for myself was sleeping more. Rather than pulling all nighters when I was stressed, I would specify a time I wanted to be in bed by. Additionally, I focused on finding activities I enjoy beyond school, such as learning new recipes. I especially wanted to learn more about baking and decided to make Yorkshire pudding.

Six Yorkshire puddings in a muffin tin on a black stove next to a tea kettle
Homemade Yorkshire Pudding

Recognizing My Distractions

Before the pandemic, there were many times I would get distracted, but completing my work was still manageable. Yet, during quarantine, my ability to remain focused and engaged in school started to plummet. This issue, now more severe than before, forced me to reassess my habits and be mindful about my distractions. I realized that it is best if I go 30 minutes without distractions at a time, and then can take short 5 minute breaks in between those increments of 30 minutes. Additionally, I am much less productive in my room, so it is best for me to move to a dining room table, coffee shop, or library to complete my work. Lastly, music both prevents me from talking to other people and creates a positive experience while I’m studying. In the next school year, I will be implementing these techniques that I learned over quarantine so that I can make better use of my time. If you are looking for more suggestions on how to ward off distractions, check out this worksheet from the Learning Center.

Professors Are Not Terrifying

I unfortunately experience a lot of stress and worry about meeting with professors. Before quarantine, I would often intend on going to a professor’s office hours, maybe even walk into the building, and then never actually go. With the online format, office hours appeared a little less daunting and I went to office hours a lot more frequently. By finally going to office hours, I realized how approachable and supportive professors can be! Although I wished I was more comfortable going to office hours before my junior year, I plan to continue going to office hours when classes will be in person next semester.

Appreciate the Simple and Mundane

I am both excited and stressed, but next year will be my senior year! As in most cases, people tend to be more appreciative after something is out of their reach. I had one in person class last semester, and I realized how much I enjoy having something to get out of bed for. My ultimate goal for this upcoming year is to be mindful, even in moments that I might have previously overlooked. I can’t wait until a teacher asks me to consult with a neighbour sitting beside me, I get to meet up with a friend for lunch, or I am able to endure a finals week surrounded by other motivated students studying in Davis. Therefore, I will really appreciate every moment and opportunity that I get to spend in the presence of other people.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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