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How to make the most of an online summer course

After more than a year of remote learning, Zoom hangouts, and virtual quiz nights, many people are feeling the online fatigue. Although the prospect of in-person learning is finally on the horizon, most summer programs and courses have chosen to remain virtual out of an abundance of caution. Luckily, there are some key strategies you can learn to make the most of an online summer course, whether it’s a one-week seminar on Victorian literature or an eight-week coding intensive.


Create a dedicated classroom space


You may have heard this one before, but its importance can’t be overstated. By creating a dedicated work space (ideally with a door that closes!), you’re mimicking the experience of physically going to class. If possible, try to only use that space for work so that when you walk away from your desk for the day, you can fully relax and recharge. 


Get a website blocker


Distractions have always existed, but with online learning, they’re easier to get away with. Try using a website blocker, such as Coldturkey or Self Control, to help minimize the potential for distraction during class hours.  


Reach out to the teacher (and other students!) for one-on-one meetings


Although the course may be virtual, it’s still an opportunity for connection and networking. Start by reaching out to your teacher before the course begins and ask to set up a 15 minute introductory call. Whenever possible, also try to reach out to fellow classmates and set up virtual study groups or even after-class social hours. Whether it’s a future job opportunity or a friend for your freshman year, you never know what opportunity might come from meeting someone new.  


Take breaks


Distance learning is not easy, and students deserve huge accolades for not just coping, but thriving during these strange times. While distraction is one possible risk of online learning, stress, overworking, and even physical strain from computer screens are just as bad.


With that in mind, take breaks away from your computer! The Pomodoro method is a great place to start; its simple time management system breaks work into 25 minute chunks with 5 minute breaks in between.


Participate in class


We’ve all been in that Zoom meeting or class over the past year when it becomes all too easy to switch off our cameras and check out. But try to remember that your summer course is a unique opportunity to engage with something of interest to you. This is the time to participate in class discussions---not because you have to but because you want to. When you show up everyday thinking about the course as an opportunity rather than a requirement, it makes participating easier and the entire experience more enjoyable. 


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And last but certainly not least, don’t forget that it’s still your summer break! Enjoy the sunny weather, spend time with friends, go for a hike or swim, and do whatever brings you the most joy. In order to get the most out of an online course, it’s so important to make time for the things that support your mental health and overall wellbeing.