Remember your college experience? Routine was key. Going to class each day, meeting on campus for group projects, and studying in the library were all staples in the life of an undergraduate. With the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, those college rituals have been disrupted. Now, millions of college students are finding themselves struggling to meet the demands of a course load that’s far less structured and entirely online.
As a recent college graduate myself, I can’t even imagine how destabilizing and challenging this experience must be for students across the country. However, even the most dire situations can provide unique learning opportunities, and this crisis is no different. So where is the silver lining?
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the move towards working and learning online had already become a growing trend. According to a study conducted by FlexJobs in February, remote work had seen a 44% increase in the last 5 years, with nearly 5 million adults working remotely full time and 74% of respondents believing that flexible work had become the new normal. Currently, in light of social distancing policies, countless companies are discovering the value and viability of a remote workforce, meaning a massive digital migration of the workplace is likely to occur after COVID-19 runs its course.
Although COVID-19’s disruption is substantial, college students who’ve been moved into online classrooms are now presented with a uniquely relevant learning opportunity. By using this time to develop effective work-from-home (WFH) skills, college students are not only giving themselves the best chance for success in their classes, but also for their future careers.
Let’s take a look at our top three tips for college students who are navigating a new distance learning landscape.
Tip 1 - Don't fool yourself that pass-fail is easy
Many colleges have moved toward a pass-fail grading system, at least for the current term that had been in progress when COVID-19 forced school closures. If you think that means you can sit back and coast through until the grading period ends, you may be in for a surprise. As it turns out, professors typically have a good deal of discretion when it comes to setting the standards for what "passing" is in their classes. Make sure you know exactly where you stand in your classes, grade-wise, and that you understand the criteria for earning that "pass." A bonus for maintaining your effort during a largely pass-fail semester or quarter is that you're continuing to flex that academic muscle that will help you get back into the groove once usual grading systems return.
Tip 2 - Set up boundaries between work and leisure spaces
Another essential way for succeeding in a WFH set up is to create a space that is dedicated to working or learning. One of the biggest mistakes is assuming that online classes or remote work is an excuse to stay in bed all day and attempt to meet responsibilities there. Although it's a super comfortable setting, it’s difficult to be productive in contexts that are usually reserved for relaxation and leisure. Ideally, you should try to allocate an area of your space that will be used for work only. By building a separate spot for productivity, you’ll be able to maximize your own work efficiency and learning, while also ensuring that your leisure spaces aren’t associated with potential stress.
Tip 3 - Organize and structure your work
While keeping your materials in order is always useful, it's also important to organize and track your various responsibilities and deadlines. Having an understanding of when time-sensitive tasks need to be completed not only creates a mental roadmap of major due dates, but also gives you a sense of direction and purpose when you sit down to work. One way to organize these responsibilities is by building out a digital calendar equipped with upcoming deadlines, ongoing tasks, and allotted time for studying and completing work. This strategy is great for planning big due dates, but it’s also particularly useful for keeping track of small deadlines throughout the semester. Seemingly small tasks (like posting responses in a class forum) can be easy to forget but can often accumulate and bring down your grade when they're overlooked.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly created a challenging time for college students, especially those with executive function difficulties. Yet students who work towards improving WFH skills during this time will be positioning themselves for success in the workforce of tomorrow. And that is truly the best return on investment for any college student!
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