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How I Write and Learn

How I Transitioned Back to In-Person Learning

By Reagan, a Learning Center Peer Tutor

The COVID pandemic over that past year has introduced a lot of challenges that students, faculty, and staff have had to adapt to. For me, it was difficult to adjust to living at home again and attending Zoom lectures with barking dogs, screaming kids, and TVs blaring in the background. My sister’s room became my makeshift work space and her new bunny, Churro, became my classroom companion. Nonetheless, I adapted and did my best. Now, just as I have adapted to the challenges of learning online, there is a new challenge currently being faced: transitioning back to in-person learning.

I am enjoying living on campus again, but my excitement is also met with anxiety. The days of open-note tests and asynchronous/pre-recorded lectures are now behind us, and I have realized that these accommodations have changed my study habits dramatically. For me, studying for open-note tests has been less about learning and more about making really good note sheets. Until now, the monster that is my procrastination has been fed by being able to say, “I’ll watch that lecture tomorrow.” So, I came up with a plan to make my transition a little easier.

Several street lights illuminate a beautiful brick trail through the woods near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
My beautiful walk to class in the morning which helps me relax and prepare for the day.

Creating a Schedule

The first thing I have done is create a schedule—not just a study plan for each of my classes, but a schedule that blocks out study time, assignments, obligations, and leaves space for me to have fun. A schedule is even more important for me this semester because it helps me create balance. Now, with the added distraction of fun campus events and nights out with friends, I don’t want to miss out on the fun or disregard important assignments to have fun. I really like to use my Outlook calendar through my UNC email. I am able to color code by class and add notes, and it is easily accessible through my laptop or my phone while I’m on the go. I am also able to add the location of events and classes, which I can click on in the calendar and get directions, something I didn’t have to do when all of my obligations were over Zoom.

An outlook generated calendar depicting a color coded schedule of classes, appointments, study time, and social obligations over one week.
An example of my schedule with each class/assignment color coded.

Keeping Focused During Class

I have noticed that asynchronous lectures have reduced my attention span. I have become used to listening to them at 1.5 speed, pausing them when I need to, and taking a lot of breaks in between segments of the video. This semester, I have found a few things that help me during in-person lectures:

  1. Take quality notes during lecture using my Goodnotes app and follow the Learning Center guide for good note taking. I like that the Goodnotes app allows me to sort my notes by class and download and write on class powerpoints and materials without having to print them before every class.
  2. Draw pictures to accompany my notes or explain ideas as opposed to mindlessly doodling. This will help cement ideas by building connections to concepts I already understand.
  3. Eat a snack before class. If I am hungry, it is hard to focus. Feeding my stomach simultaneously feeds my motivation and ability to focus.

Expecting the Unexpected

There have been many unexpected challenges that I have faced coming into this semester and a few things I did not plan for. One of the things that I hadn’t thought of is scheduling a lunch hour. When I was at home, it was easy to just run down to the fridge in between classes and eat a quick meal. Now, I have to plan my meals to make sure I have time to come back to my room and cook or enough time to grab food at the dining hall. I took a look at my schedule and decided on a time each day to eat, and if I don’t have a break around lunch time, I pack a snack and eat a filling breakfast.

No one could have planned for the terrible events that have happened on campus this semester. I have been making sure to take care of my mental health, including speaking to people when I need to and also taking days off when I need to. I have learned to give myself some grace and time when I need it. If I am not my best, and my work will not be the best. Now, I choose a day a week or on the weekends to just relax and have fun. Sometimes it seems impossible to do that with the workload I have, but I tell myself that it is important and necessary.

Doing Things I Love

Lastly, I want to make sure I do the things I have missed out on during the pandemic like hanging out with friends (safely), relaxing on the quad, hanging out in my favorite coffee shops on Franklin street such as Epilogue, and going to sporting events. I know if I make time to do something I enjoy everyday, I can avoid burning out even if it is something as small as buying myself a coffee while I study.

Lounging on the grass with shoes off and coffee in hand outside Wilson Library on the UNC-CH campus on a warm day.
On the quad in front of Wilson Library.

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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