Strategies for success: Tips for taking classes during the pandemic

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Rebecca Elrod, Contributing Writer

Keeping track of your coursework across in-person and online classes can be confusing and overwhelming. But regardless of modality, these tips and tricks will help your fall semester go smoothly.


Get organized and make a schedule

More time spent at home can make it difficult to focus. One way to combat distractions is to create a quiet space and use the right organizational materials when sitting down to do your coursework. 

Get a physical or electronic planner to write out your schedule and daily tasks. Downloading or printing out your course syllabi will provide quick references to important due dates. 

On the planner, write out your class schedule, assignment due dates, tests and quizzes, work times and other commitments. You should set reminders for assignments, quizzes and tests. Don’t forget to put in time for breaks and activities outside of academics.


Set goals

Identify what is internally and externally motivating you. Focus on why you are at college and what you plan to do after graduation.

Write out three goals for this semester — two academic and one focused on self care, such as taking time to meditate or go for a walk. Add these goals and motivations to your schedule.

Michal Zivan Coffey, director of the Campus Learning Center, or CLC, said the center is a strong source for extrinsic motivation, or the desire to gain an external reward.

“We’re going to cheer for you. We’re going to root for you,” Zivan Coffey said. “We’re going to show you what you can accomplish if you do X, Y or Z in order to get the results that you’re looking for.”


Utilize available resources 

The CLC offers tutoring sessions, supplemental instruction, or SI, and meetings with academic coaches. Tutoring provides one-on-one work in-person or online, while course SI sessions are online only. 

Academic coaching assists students with studying strategies. Sessions are one-on-one with a coach and take place virtually. 

Academic coach Benita Regusters said when she meets with a student, she sets goals with them.

“Usually we may work on two academic goals this semester along with a self care goal,” Regusters said. “If you do not take care of yourself, you are more likely to get burnt out.”

Freshmen and undecided majors can utilize University Academic Advising for guidance on maintaining their course load. Located in Hibbs Hall, they offer both online and in-person advising. 

In addition, the CLC additional learning page offers weekly planners and goal-setting templates. 

If you’re struggling with subject material, try meeting with your professor during their office hours. This will also allow you to develop rapport with them for any future questions or guidance regarding the class.


Take breaks and check up on yourself

Breaks are essential during a study session. Regusters recommends the Pomodoro technique, which breaks up studying time by allocating 25 minutes to work, followed by a 5-minute break. The rotation continues until the fourth break, which is extended to 30-60 minutes. 

“It helps to reduce Zoom fatigue and increases focus,” Regusters said in an email.

The overwhelming amount of school work can make it difficult to relax, so it’s important to reflect on your mental and physical health during breaks. 

“It’s really crucial [for students] to take care of themselves, mind and body,” said Ashlyn Anderson, executive director of University Academic Advising. She recommends meditation apps like Calm to help students be mindful and check in with themselves. 

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