How to Make Online Learning Work for You

Jess tells us about her personal experience of studying a Masters degree in lockdown, and how she adapted to online learning at home. Her tips will be valuable for students everywhere, as hybrid learning is clearly here to stay.

Photo by Chris Montgomery, Unsplash

Like many I imagine, finding out I got into a Master’s program during 2019 felt like a dream come true, as I had worked so hard towards it. In reality, the course and virtual learning could not have been further from the norm, as we approached 2020 and the years of pandemic and lockdowns that followed.
Whilst most things in the world are gradually easing up, it seems online learning is here to stay, especially for some international students. Over the two year degree course, I developed my own personal methods to help not only my mental health, but also concentration during online learning.

Exercise before work

One of the best routines that ticks both boxes, is to incorporate some form of movement before the workday starts. Often this would involve a brisk 20–30-minute walk. On other days, I would opt for a yoga or Pilates class via YouTube. But whatever form I chose, I found that it really helped prepare me for the day.
An early morning routine is a great way to have some form of exercise, especially on those days where you are glued to your screens with deadlines fast approaching. I have had countless occasions where it hits 5pm and I haven’t had any fresh air because there was no good time in the day. So, by allocating protected time in the morning, it ensures you’ll have a bit more balance to your day. You’ll find it can help concentration levels too.

Limit caffeine intake

Another tip I learnt whilst working from home was to keep an eye on how much caffeine I was drinking. It became too easy to stand up, walk two steps and make yet another coffee. But, come 6pm I would be wondering why I felt so jittery, and then subsequently be tossing and turning at bedtime. Everyone will have their own caffeine tolerance, but it’s wise to stick within the NHS recommended caffeine limit of 400mg per day (the same as 3-4 caffeinated drinks). Consider whether herbal tea, a smoothie or a soft drink might be a better pick-me-up.

Relish the positives!

There were some key positives of virtual learning, which I grew to appreciate more when talking to friends doing the same course as me in the year above, who did not have the online learning experience. For starters, you save a lot of time and energy not having to commute in for classes. I calculated my commute would have been nearly one hour each way. So I felt very grateful for the additional two hours of ‘free time’ each day, as the journey could also be very tiring. Not having to commute inevitability saves a lot of money too, especially if your university is based in the city. Another benefit is that I felt I had more control over my personal time. I was able to plan more things outside of my studies, such as part-time work to earn money, socialising with friends, and exercise, which is not always feasible when you’re having to go to a specific place each day.
Towards the end of my course, I had a 6-month placement in a hospital, where I worked 9-5pm Monday-Friday. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was a complete shock to the system. After a very relaxed year of virtual learning, this was the polar opposite!   However, it was such a good experience, because it gave me a taste for what working will be like once I have qualified. But, as I was charging around hospital wards with loads of patients to see, I felt grateful for all the times I had been able to throw on some comfy clothes and join my online lecture with a cup of tea in hand. However, amongst all the craziness of the busy workload, I found that it was still possible to incorporate the tips that had helped me before, such as eating well, doing some form of daily exercise, and ensuring I got enough sleep.


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