During times of uncertainty, we find comfort in knowledge and facts, in habits and routines. Virtual learning and social distancing disrupt many of our normal routines, making them feel more daunting than they may otherwise. With tools, resources, and tips for success in virtual learning and staying healthy during this time, however, we can all feel more at ease and more prepared. So here are some ways you can continue to learn well and be well while virtual learning and social distancing.
Designate a Study Space
Talk with those with whom you’re sharing space, and designate a specific area of your home for your needs. If possible, claim a room with a door that isn’t in the central living space of your home. If the kitchen, living room, or other main gathering space is your only option, talk with your family about designated focus hours for you to attend class and do assignments: limiting noise, keeping a wide berth of your space, and refraining from asking you questions. Likewise, try to keep the external distraction to a minimum: no TV or loud music, for example. If you go off mute during your class to answer a question, remember that your classmates will be able to hear it all!
If your bedroom is the best place for you to study, don’t work from your bed. Your bed is designed for comfort and sleep, not for active listening and classroom engagement. Instead, try to use a straight-backed chair and a flat surface, like what you’d find in your classroom on campus. A folding chair and a tray table, for example, can be a suitable work space if you don’t have a desk in your room.
Maintaining healthy sleeping habits is critical to supporting a strong immune system. As we work to #FlattenTheCurve, we need to do our part to prevent the spread by staying healthy. Being well-rested will also help you focus during your classes.
Stay Informed, Not Overwhelmed
Keeping tabs on all the news and announcements regarding COVID-19 is important. Once it becomes overwhelming, however, take a break. It’s okay to step away to give yourself room to breathe. If you need to close out Twitter or take a day off from Facebook, you will still be alerted to any critical information from Mason through your Mason email, or on the Mason COVID-19 website.
Get Up & Move
Even seasoned 9-to-5 office workers have a hard time staying focused, attentive, and engaged for a full eight hours while sitting in the same place. In between your courses, make a point to get up, stretch, and walk around. Even if you only have a few minutes between lectures, stand and move however you’re able: a quick sun salutation, pushups, jumping jacks, the Macarena, or anything else to get the blood flowing once more.
For longer stretches of studying, consider setting a timer for mandatory five-minute breaks every 25 to 30 minutes. Browser extensions, like Marinara: Pomodoro® Assistant, set unobtrusive timers in-window for work time and short and long break times.
Outside of the classroom: Remember that you’re no longer walking across campus for classes, food, the dorms, or your car. You’ll need to make time for physical activity and exercise. So, walk your dog. Play catch with your siblings. Go for a jog. Watch an exercise video on BurnAlong. Play an exercise game on your video game console of choice. A healthy and active body is better able to fight off infection. Plus, physical activity improves mental health.
Social distancing doesn’t mean you’re prohibited from communicating. In fact, it’s more important now than ever to keep in contact with your professors, advisors, and classmates through email and online chat platforms. Be sure to check your email and respond to questions in a timely manner. Let your professors or TAs know if you’re having technical issues or trouble understanding the materials.
We encourage you to get creative in how you can continue meeting with your fellow students in study or tutoring groups. Organize meetings on a virtual platform, like WebEx. Consider starting a WebEx Team for your class, so you can share notes, discuss assignments, and help each other think through challenging topics or concepts. Engage in class discussions via Blackboard.
Outside of the classroom: social distancing does not mean social isolation and keeping in contact with others is critical to maintaining mental wellness. Now is a great time to schedule a Skype chat with someone you haven’t seen in a while. You can host board game nights through video chats, start a book club with your friends on a Discord server or Slack channel, and play video games together online. Bring snail mail back in style with some hand-written letters to friends and family. Call your family on the phone.
Further, continue to reach out if you need help. The Student Support and Advocacy Center will remain open during this time. Counseling and Psychological Services is continuing to serve students via phone, and is offering virtual mental health workshops every day, Monday through Friday, on different topics of wellness. Further support resources can be found on the Center for Psychological Service's website.
Find Time for Fun
Happiness and laughter are necessary to staying physically and mentally well. Take time to decompress after long days, and weeks, of stress and uncertainty. So, enjoy a mindless television show. Read a book you’ve had waiting on your shelf. Paint, draw, make music, sing along to the radio. Watch the Penguin Cam at the San Diego Zoo. It’s okay to have fun even during times like these.
Together, we are all on this journey into a new and unknown territory. Take care of each other, while practicing social distancing, proper handwashing, and safety. Check in on your friends and family. Be flexible and forgiving with one another as we hit bumps in the road along the way. Continue to share your stories of inspiration, success, and creativity, and tag us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). Across our many campuses, we will continue to help each other and demonstrate how Mason is able to overcome and press forward no matter the circumstances.
Mason will continue to provide support to its students during this time. For further resources, look to the University Life COVID-19 website. For more tips on how to keep learning, visit Mason’s Learning Services page, and watch Associate Professor of Communication Melissa Broeckelman-Post's 5 Tips for Success In Virtual Learning
We will continue to be strong and adaptable as we journey through this together. As President Holton noted in her message to #MasonNation: “I am continually amazed and inspired by the creativity and resilience of our Mason community, which not only responds to challenges, but finds ways to thrive as well.”
March 25, 2020