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    Being an introvert in the online world

    Justin Tate

    With so many students transitioning from campus education to online education, I’m reminded of my own experience. Shortly after finishing an in-person undergraduate program I entered my career and realized that the only way to pursue a master’s degree would be to complete it fully online.

    Embarking on a new adventure is always a little scary. But I think it hit me — a self-identified introvert — more than some of my peers. I’m not a spontaneous person and it takes a long time for me to warm up to change. To be honest, it wasn’t until senior year that I felt like I understood how to take notes properly and do well at the collegiate level. Now I had to learn how to be a student all over again? Yikes!

    As it turned out — like most things turn out — the change wasn’t that bad. Yes, there was a transition period and I made a few rookie mistakes along the way, but soon I discovered that there’s a lot to love about online education: as a scholar, someone juggling many obligations, and as an introvert.

    Now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s some of the best tips, tricks, and self-assurances I can give to students going on a similar journey.


    Despite being a good student, I always lost “participation points” in my on-campus classes. And I knew exactly why.

    With a classroom full of peers staring me down, I was too shy to raise my hand and engage with the lecture. In the rare instance where I wanted to, my extroverted classmates sucked up the energy and left no time for the timid. When I did manage to be brave, whatever brilliant thought I had seemed to always come out as blubbering nonsense when spoken aloud.

    Online participation is totally different, and totally my jam. I love having the ability to proofread my thoughts, edit them clearly, and possibly throw in a splash of research before submitting. I feel more comfortable diving into the curriculum knowing that I’m not in the spotlight. At the same time, no one is in the shadows either. Extroverts and introverts are given the same opportunity to contribute, adding more voices to the discussion and more ways to learn from each other.

    Though there are some things I miss about meeting on campus — such as catching up with my friends before class — the one thing I never, ever miss is in-person participation.

    Time management

    Another great thing about distance learning is flexibility. Gone are the days of set class times, juggling life around a Tetris-like schedule, and waking up before dawn to avoid a fight over decent parking. Want to watch a lecture at midnight instead of 2:30 on Tuesday? No problem. Need to cover someone’s shift? Easily adjusted. When and how you study is totally up to you, just as long as you can still meet the assignment deadlines.

    With that said, the biggest challenge of online education is also flexibility. Without those set class times, coming up with a time management strategy is your responsibility. And it’s easy to procrastinate. Can I binge this TV show? Well sure, I’ll just do my homework at three in the morning. No problem.

    Surprise, surprise, it can be a problem. The best advice I can give to online learners is to come up with a study strategy as early as possible. Most programs require at least 15-20 hours a week of study time and finding gaps in your calendar for those hours should be a big priority.

    When possible, use mind games to trick yourself. I set alarms on my phone every night as a reminder to study. I used TV shows and video games as rewards for finishing projects early. Checklists became my best friend. It took me a while to realize that small goals worked best. Here’s an actual checklist I found from one of my classes:

    • Read first paragraph of chapter 5
    • Write 100 words on week 2 discussion
    • Read description of week 5 essay
    • Think about essay/Come up with 1 idea

    The secret of small goals is that they’re much easier to actually make progress on. Completing the task of reading one paragraph is a lot more doable than reading 50 pages. Writing 100 words is more realistic than writing five pages. Yet all progress is progress and having small goals every night is the best way to prevent cramming before something is due. Also, you may be surprised to find that when you set out to read a single paragraph you will inevitably end up going much further.

    Every student has their own tricks and techniques they use to stay motivated and meet deadlines. Online students are no different, but because the flexibility makes procrastination easier, it’s a good idea to plan on using all your best strategies every week, if not every day.

    Meeting with the instructor

    In online education, there’s an increased hesitancy for students to set appointments with their instructor. This is something I noticed from personal experience and something I’ve struggled with as an introvert all my life. It’s not that I don’t value having a substantial conversation with faculty; it’s that I get nervous asking for one-on-one support.

    On campus it feels slightly less awkward to set up face-to-face time. Instructors typically list their office hours clearly in the syllabus, and the location of their physical office where it’s possible to drop by and ask questions.

    In the online world, I was so used to email communication that it never occurred to me to set up voice-to-voice communication. I remember thinking that such a request might come across pushy. I figured a lack of personal connection was just a downside to learning online.

    None of that is true, of course. Online students are encouraged to have just as much access to their instructors as campus students. In many ways, it’s easier to connect online thanks to the variety of options (phone, chat, video conference).

    Once I discovered that I could talk through complicated questions with my professors, my entire experience changed. I not only gained clarity on assignments, I developed personal connections that lead to increased learning and even letters of recommendation down the road.

    I know how challenging it can be to find the courage to set up appointments like that, but I promise it’s worth it. Next time you’re drafting a long email to your instructor, stop and ask if your question can be better addressed through conversation. If so, consider sending a much shorter email like this:

    Dear Instructor,

    I have several questions about the recent homework. When possible, can we set up a time to talk through the specifics?

    Best regards,


    Yes, online education is different — but different doesn’t have to be scary. It took me a minute to reach that conclusion — okay, maybe longer than a minute — but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether it’s temporary or permanent, I hope these lessons learned from my experience help make your online transition super smooth.

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    Being proactive, present, and purposeful as an online student

    Lexy Moscinski

    You find yourself sitting in the comfort of your home, your laptop resting in front of you. You pull up your online class and are presented with dozens of pieces of information. Thoughts race through your mind — “Where do I even begin? This is all so new…”

    Click here to see the syllabus! Click here to watch this lecture! Check out your homework here via this link!

    If you’ve never done online learning before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information presented to you. While you may feel like you are “on your own”, your connection to this virtual world will be based on both your efforts and your actions. Here are 13 tips to help you make the transition to online courses.

    Be proactive

    You may not be able to raise your hand to ask questions like you did when you were in a physical classroom, but in your new online world, you’ll still have many digital resources to stay ahead of the game. Make sure you’re utilizing them.

    1. Take time to click through your online course. What helpful things are being offered? Online tutoring? Writing center access?
    2. Start making a list of all the resources offered to you and keep it at your desk to refer to later.
    3. Review the syllabus thoroughly and note any questions you may have about the information provided. Review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of your class if one is provided, and if you have unanswered questions, reach out to the professor.
    4. Develop a personal calendar based off the syllabus deadlines so you can organize yourself effectively. You can use Google Calendar, Outlook, and more. You can also integrate personal dates on the calendar to see how your educational obligations match with your personal ones.
    5. Make sure you have a quiet, organized place to do your work — whether that’s an office at home or a library.

    Be present

    Your classroom life may now be behind a screen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t breathe life into every session you attend.

    1. Pay attention to when live lectures are offered. If they’re optional, still do your best to attend them — it will help you feel like you never left your physical classroom.
    2. Be active on discussion boards: This is a great way to start networking with other classmates and stay connected. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already, bounce questions off each other to be supportive, and take note of any helpful tips from your professor.
    3. Go to your professor’s virtual office hours, or give them a call if a number is provided. Sometimes students function better when they can put a face and voice to the person teaching them — make it a point to not just be another name on the class roster. Work to build a relationship with your professor by communicating with them often.
    4. Set up your own virtual meet-up sessions with other students. You can do this through Zoom, or whichever virtual meeting platform your classroom uses. Try sending out an email to your class to see if you can get some of your peers together to discuss how things are going and to support each other along the way.

    Be purposeful

    Being in a virtual classroom doesn’t mean you’re being let off easy! You must be purposeful, accountable, and self-motivated to be successful in an online world.

    1. Minimize distractions: When you are setting yourself up for study time, make sure the TV is off, your phone is put away (preferably in another room), and tell your family that it’s your study time and not to interrupt you unless they need to. If you’re studying in a public setting, such as a library, make sure you’re in a “no talking” zone, or rent a private room.
    2. Schedule break times because it can be very easy to get sucked into your work. Make sure you set a timer. Having a 15-minute break every hour can do wonders for your mental health and can help you absorb the material better.
    3. Make it fun: Listen to some study music in the background as you tackle assignments (if it helps you focus), ask a friend or family member to quiz you on your notes to facilitate some personal contact, and make sure you’re comfortable and have healthy snacks to keep your energy up.
    4. Take your work seriously — you may not be in a physical classroom, but you should act as if you are when you begin every study session. It’s up to you to take responsibility for your work and to appreciate the knowledge being given to you!

    While transitioning to an online format can be intimidating at first, you will have many resources to ensure your success. Take your time to get adjusted but remember that you are not alone in your academic pursuits — reach out when you need support, set up virtual group meetings, attend office hours, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready to reach your goals! Best of luck!

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    My professor moved our classes online. Now what?

    Kristen DiCerbo, Ph.D.

    Colleges and universities across the country are halting study abroad programs, asking students to leave their dorms, and cancelling in-person classes, telling professors to move them online. It’s leaving thousands of students figuring out how to continue their semester remotely.

    You probably aren’t totally new to online learning, but this may be the first that it’s truly full time. Here is some helpful advice to make the transition a little easier:

    Set a schedule to manage your time

    You may find you have more flexibility now, but time management is the biggest factor affecting your success learning remotely. Figure out the amount of time you need to set aside for attending online class and studying each week. Keep a planner that plots out the times you should be online, when you’re studying and when your assignments are due. Don’t forget to schedule time to disconnect and be social (or at least as social as we all can be right now).

    Try new ways of learning

    Without sitting in class and taking notes, how do you commit things to memory? We have four study tips based on science to help:

    1. Study often. It’s like the idea of keeping something fresh in your mind by thinking of it every so often. And start this right away.
    2. But you don’t need to spend a lot of time studying. You can study in little chunks, like 15-20 minutes.
    3. Close your laptop and quiz yourself about what you were reading. Making yourself recall something, rather than re-reading it or even doing a multiple choice problem is better for learning. Think of it as strengthening the muscle that pulls the information from your memory.
    4. Connect the concepts you are studying to your real life or other things you know. If you make it meaningful it’ll stick with you longer. (Public health students are all set on this one.)

    Carve out a good study environment

    Sounds obvious, right? But, you’re probably going to be at home a lot now with other people, who also may have to study or work there too. Negotiate with your roommates, family members or pets to secure a distraction-free place to focus.

    Passive aggressive notes aren’t recommended, but a sticky note on the back of your laptop will let people know that you’re learning without interrupting you. You’re probably going to need to listen to audio, so make sure it is fairly quiet and grab your headphones. Experiment with white noise and music without words to help you block noise.

    Participation counts

    It takes more effort to socialize, collaborate and communicate in a new online environment than in your familiar classroom. The more you contribute and share ideas with others in your online class, the more likely you are to succeed.

    Be willing to speak up if problems arise

    Your professors and classmates are struggling to figure out the new normal too and speaking up will only help everyone. We’re all in this together.