TROY students share their best tips for working online

Troy Univeristy students sharing their home work spaces. We want to see how you're working! Share your set up with @TroyUniversity on Instagram.

Troy Univeristy students sharing their home work spaces. We want to see how you're working! Share your set up with @TroyUniversity on Instagram.

Troy University has joined colleges and universities across the nation in transitioning physical classrooms to an online format to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

With more than a century of academic excellence and as a pioneer in Alabama’s online education space, TROY is equipped to help students continue their studies through this unprecedented time.

While some students may be used to this format, which allows them to complete courses on their own time, many students are still trying to figure out exactly what it means to be an online student. If you are in this category, you are not alone, and you are not the first to need help. TROY has a number of resources available online to help you, but who can give better advice than your peers who are dealing with the same issues you are? 

I surveyed students at TROY for their best study tips and tech suggestions for online learning. Here are their favorite tips for staying focused as an online student:

Designate a work zone

Keep your recreation and work areas separate. You’re more likely to get distracted or drowsy if you’re studying in bed or on the couch. Try to complete your readings and assignments at the kitchen table or another area where you don’t usually relax. If it’s a nice day, take your work outside. Sometimes, a frustrating assignment is easier to handle with a quick change of scenery.

Set a schedule to check your email and canvas

For classes that don’t typically require an online component, logging in to canvas every day may not be necessary. But for online classes, checking in on your classes daily is a must. 

Here’s how often one of our online students is checking in:

Emma Daniel: It helps me to assign times I have to check Canvas. I check when I wake up, around noon, around dinner, and before I sleep.

Logging on multiple times per day may not be what works best for you, but I encourage you to set a reminder to check in at least once a day. You can use your phone to make note of it, or set an alarm dedicated to checking your online class until it becomes second nature. This way, you’ll be sure to never miss an assignment, discussion post or announcement from your instructor.

The TROY Office of Civic Engagement connecting with students via video chat.
The TROY Office of Civic Engagement connecting with students via video chat.

Use a planner

There are many planner formats in production to help you stay organized. Hourly, daily, weekly and monthly are the most common formats available, but you can also use bullet journals and other more customizable options to arrange your due dates.

Sydney Dodd: If you don’t have one already, I’d get a planner so you can write out all your due dates to help plan how to manage your time. Being organized is just as, if not more, important for an online class vs an in-person class.

Take advantage of the calendar tool in Outlook 365, which is accessible from your TROY Email. You can create calendars for each of your classes and even share them with teammates for group project reminders. You can also use you Notes app in iOS to create to-do lists and make them collaborative with your contacts.

If you haven’t found a planner solution that works for you, keep trying! Ask your friends what they use and check the app store for the latest digital planners options.

Download apps to be more efficient

The app store is full of helpful tools to increase your productivity as an online student. 

If you’re looking for helpful note-taking apps, EverNote and AirTable have free versions available for basic use. They allow you to organize your notes in dozens of formats and access them from multiple devices. All notes save to a cloud server so you never have to worry about losing your content to connectivity or crash issues.

Here’s an app suggestion from another online student:

Reagan Leighann Robinson: I use goodnotes to take notes on my iPad and it’s a lifesaver because you can open them on any device with the app!!

TROY offers other helpful tools to keep up with your work online, too. Word Online and Excel Online are very helpful for collaborating on projects with your classmates in real time and across multiple devices.

If you’re struggling with editing your paper, utilizing the Grammarly browser extension is a great place to start. While you should not rely on it for your final paper submission, you can get some initial insight from the tool and then reach out to TROY’s Learning Center for more help.

Take breaks and get rest

It’s very important to set a schedule to work, but it’s equally important to set a schedule to recuperate. A vehicle can’t run on an empty tank, and your brain needs periodic refueling in the same way. Schedule a facetime call with a best friend over lunch or set a timer for 15 minutes with your favorite video game to let your brain shift gears. In the same way that a change of scenery is helpful for frustrating projects, a change of pace is helpful for monotonous tasks.

Incorporate other forms of self-care, like physical exercise, listening to podcasts, dancing and artistic expression. Trojan Outreach shares some tips for mental health on Instagram to help you manage social distancing without feeling isolated. It may help to share your self-care strategies with your friends and family online, but you may equally benefit from logging off for a few hours and getting away from social media. 

If you have an iPhone, utilize your Down Time function in the Screen Time settings to turn off apps that are distracting while you work or while you’re resting. If you are new to being an online student, I encourage you to try out some of the tips mentioned in this post. Yes, working online requires discipline and motivation; but with the right tools and a plan in place, you have the power to harness this alternative classroom format and emerge as a more resilient student.