The Home Student

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Author: Steve Sharpe

On Tuesday (May12th), Memorial University announced that there would be no in-class sessions until at least January 2021, meaning all classes this Spring and Fall semesters will be conducted remotely. While the online platform may not be the dream of every university student, who may crave the in-person, heart pounding action of a living, breathing campus, it doesn’t mean we can’t turn this into an enjoyable experience! In this article, we explore some ways to make the best out of an unfortunate situation.

Let’s begin with setting up an area in your living space that is dedicated to learning. Be it a separate room, the basement or just a corner in the house, make it YOUR classroom, and keep it as the place where YOU attend university. Get yourself a nice lamp that you like and avoid ceiling lights. Make it comfortable. Next, buy yourself a good chair and sit up straight. Otherwise, you are going to get a bad back and neck, and will likely not have a good time. Staples has lots of options to choose from and when things open back up, used furniture and office supply stores do as well.

Now, let’s think about the technical side of things. You have to first consider what equipment you are going to use: is it a desktop, laptop or tablet? Your choice of device should be properly supported on your desk. If you have a laptop or tablet on your lap, and you are moving around, your video is shaky for everyone and it just looks amateurish. If you are using a phone or tablet, get a cheap desktop stand from Amazon. A headset is a must-have. Bluetooth earbuds with a mic or wired earphones should work just as well. If you are using a desktop computer, does it have a web cam? They are getting tough to find, so if not, you’ll want to get on that one right away!

Find out what software your classes are using for communication. Is it Microsoft Teams, or Bluejeans, or something else? Ask for that information and then download the appropriate app. You can use most of the apps to test your setup, including your mic, earbuds and video. If you do this beforehand, you will be ready to go for your first class. Also, learn the controls of the app. It is a good practice to mute your own mic whenever you are not speaking, to eliminate background noise. Learn how to mute your mic and video in the app and see if there is a hotkey for quickly unmuting your mic. These little techniques will come in handy quite often. Unless someone needs to see me, I always mute my video. Otherwise, you might find yourself forgetting it is on, and do something embarrassing! Mic and video mute will be your new best friends!

Finally, give your day structure. If your classes start at 8:00 AM, get up at 6:30 AM. Have a coffee or a water, get some breakfast, maybe go for a short walk to get some fresh air, listen to a podcast; wake your mind up before you go to your class. If you go right from bed to class (or worse, go right to class in bed!), you are not going to be mentally prepared to learn. Take your lunch break and go eat outside, or call a friend on Facetime and see how they are doing. You should try to make yourself feel like you have a life outside your living space, and that going to your class area is like leaving your home. Try to keep them separate.

These are just a few tips to consider for the unprecedented upcoming semesters at Memorial. With a little organisation, some simple structure and a bit of technical preparation, you will be on your way to a positive learning experience at home!

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