It’s “Back to School” Season!

September is here and that means that classes are starting up again. This is a unprecedented fall semester as schools tackle virtual classes, remote learning, and all things online due to COVID-19. The back-to-school shopping list is different this year as it may include a tablet, laptop, monitors, headphones with built-in microphones and a webcam. Common vocabulary now includes WFH = Work From Home and a common struggle includes finding the best ZOOM background.

This fall is also different for me as I will be starting my MBA program in about a week. I’ve been planning to enter my MBA for a few years and the time has finally come. I just didn’t think I would be doing it online because of a pandemic. Although I still work full-time during the day, I will be taking part-time classes in the evening. My one rule for picking my program was that, it had to be in-class. Like many, I struggle to learn online as I need an immersive experience to fully focus and dedicate time for my studies. Now I have to simulate a classroom environment from my bedroom. Many people struggle to set-up WFH stations and others still have to work on-site. As an on-site employee, I have the luxury of physically segregating my work and school environment. Although, that also comes with its own limitations.

So how should students be setting up their “classroom” from home? I’m going to list what I’ll be doing this back-to-school season to make virtual learning effective for me.

Segregate Your Space

As I’ve already eluded above, I like to dedicate physical space for different things. It helps me to focus on what I’m doing and helps to associate a working area to a task or duty. It’s is similar to avoiding watching TV or eating on the bed as it may make it harder to fall asleep. As my work station is in my bedroom, and I have no other option, I set up a portable partition that I can set-up and take down after classes. Try to immerse as many senses as possible in creating your space. This could include lighting a specific scented candle that only burns during “school”. Some people chew a specific flavor of gum, or use a specific shade of study lamp. Personally, I use a scented candle from Bath and Body Works.

Set “On-campus” Time

Every semester, students should always set up their calendar to include deadlines, tests, and other important dates. However, with the lack of the physical action of going to class and setting up time to study in the library or sitting in the university cafe to read, students should also dedicate an “on-campus” time. This is a time you dedicate to be “on-campus”, meaning complete all school related items as if you were there. This also helps with time management.

Dress for Success

Similar to going “on-campus” you should dress for class. Going to class or work in your PJs is great and all, but it wont get your mind to focus. Continue to do your pre-school routine and attend class as if it were live.

Set Up Your Tech

For basics, having a good internet and laptop/desktop are absolute essentials for WFH/SFH (School from Home). Other tech you might want to invest is in a second monitor, a full keyboard and mouse, a microphone-headset, and a good webcam. As I still prefer to write my notes by hand, I am thinking of investing in a witting tablet, like the reMarkable 2 or any of the Surface products, or a smart pen, like the Livescribe Smartpen or Pen+ Ellipse. I find that I retain information better in writing, rather than typing up my notes. The problem with hand written notes is that it is not searchable. I just cant Ctrl+F my notes. So if anyone has ideas, I’m open to them, so long as it doesn’t break my student budget.

Now that you have all that you need to start the school year, don’t forget to set an alarm to make sure you make it to class on time! Or in my case, to set an alarm so I can wake up for work the next day. Just remember, we are all in this together. Good luck with the upcoming school year.

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