COVID-19 has forced university students to swap the classroom for their lounge room and face-to-face lectures with online video calls.

It’s been a huge change, and one that may continue in the upcoming months with many classes remaining online.

Coronavirus or no coronavirus - sometimes it can be tough to concentrate and to keep above water. We talk to Dr. Susan Carland, UNICEF Ambassador and academic at Melbourne’s Monash University, on how to keep your studies going when the going gets tough.
A teen attends online education. She has set up a dedicated work space at her home in New York. © UNICEF/UNI313132/Adelson

1. Get into work mode

One of the reasons that studying online can be so challenging is because our brains are used to being in different places for different activities. The dining table for instance is where we eat, the bedroom is where we sleep and the classroom or lecture theatre is where we learn.

All of those cues have been confused and taken away from us because we are using the same areas for different things. We no longer have those external cues to get us in the right way of thinking. 

So, as much as possible, while you are studying or learning from home, try to set up a dedicated work space. Make sure all you do in that space is work so that your brain can associate the space with learning and not other activities like eating, or resting. 

Try getting dressed as much as you can, rather than staying in your pjs or track pants. These are all cues that will tell your brain, ‘okay, I am not chilling out any more, I am ready to learn’.
Dr. Carland recommends students actively engage when taking an online class to help them stay focused and connected.© UNICEF/UNI313112/Adelson

2. Actively engage

It is really easy to become quite passive when learning online and to sit back and listen to the lecturer or teacher. You will learn so much more if you actively engage with your teacher and your peers. 

So take notes, actively ask questions, talk to your peers, have discussions and ask your teachers if you are unsure about something or disagree with something that has been said. Be active in all of it, don't sit back passively. This will keep your brain engaged and will make learning more fun.
Good food, sleep and exercise are important for our physical health but they also play a crucial role in keeping our mental health in check. © UNICEF/UNI304638/Ma


3. Connect

Connect with the teaching staff and other students. If you ever have any questions, send your teacher an email or put your hand up in zoom or the app you are using for class.

Don’t be shy to ask a question or to connect and share your thoughts with the group. It is hard enough studying by yourself during stressful times - work together to help you stay connected. 

All of this will not only consolidate what you are learning but help you stay connected in what you are doing as well as to each other which is so important.

4. Check in on yourself

Whether it is during times of crises or through a stressful learning patch, checking in on yourself is really important to ensure you are prioritising your mental and physical health.

We know good food, sleep and exercise are important for our physical health but they also play a crucial role in keeping our mental health in check.

Get outside, go for a walk, do some yoga, read a book or take some time to check in and focus on self care. If you are feeling down or overwhelmed, let someone know. A parent, friend or teacher you trust could help you with support during a time of difficulty.

Click here for more tips on how to deal with stressful situations - for COVID-19 and beyond.

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