With UW announcing all classes officially switching from in-person instruction to online for the rest of the semester, many students — and faculty members — are faced with a beast they are entirely unprepared for. 

Professors and TAs have had to spend their spring break — and countless more hours — battling the likes of a slow internet connection, Canvas glitches and switching their entire syllabus to fit online instruction. Students themselves have had to deal with a future marked in uncertainty, leaving many unable to see the importance of their academics at this time. 

Can you blame us? As the number of coronavirus cases increases exponentially in the US and newer cases surface in Wisconsin, it is hard to care about antiderivatives and Riemann sums. But, some good can come from online instruction. 

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Students should try to use this as an opportunity to improve their study habits and implement a routine that will improve their mental health. Social distancing and self-quarantining recommendations are important, but some of these practices have taken a toll on many people’s mental health. Fortunately, online classes can be used as a way to take your mind off of being home for days on end or other issues you may have with being enclosed with your family for a long period of time. 

It is easy to ignore your responsibilities when you’re online and off-campus, but it is so, so important that you don’t fall for that siren’s call. That means attending online lectures or watching prerecorded ones. It also means attending those discussion sections that only four people are present in, and actually engaging with your TA or professor by asking questions and doing the readings. 

These things are obviously easier said than done, but there are ways to manage your online classes. Creating a schedule should be your first step, so allocate different times to watch your lectures and do your homework. This new schedule may look different from your schedule on-campus and you may need to accommodate your new-but-actually-old lifestyle. Still, try to study as much as you would have on-campus. The general rule of thumb is to study twice the number of credits you are taking, so if you are taking a three-credit class, you need to study at least six hours a week. 

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Let your family know about your schedule and make every effort to make the online sessions as productive as possible. Learning is highly individualized so make your schedule conducive to your learning style — if you learn best in short bursts and frequent breaks, then plan as such. Make sure to take notes and engage fully with the material. 

Exams are undoubtedly going to be structured differently. Depending on the professor, you can have one consider the high possibility of cheating online and make exams much more difficult, while others may keep exams the same — save for submitting it online rather than in person. Either way, it’s important to keep preparing for your exams and to make sure to follow your teacher’s instructions on how to best prepare for them. 

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On this note, make sure to frequently check whatever means your professors choose to communicate with you be it email, Canvas, Zoom, whatever, because as stated before everything is changing day-to-day. Tomorrow brings new possibilities and all of that. 

And as things keep changing on the daily, UW faculty are having to make decisions they have never made before. It is important to understand this is a steep learning curve for all of us and to try to be as considerate as possible to the people trying to educate us through all of this panic. This means sending emails with a polite, professional tone and letting them know in advance about any issues you have accessing their courses. 

Lastly, it is important to consider your mental health during this pandemic. This is an unprecedented situation that has increased the anxiety of the entire nation. It is understandable many students will not perform as well, which is why UW has implemented a special pass/fail system. Using it does not mean you are any less capable of a student or that your future is doomed, but rather that you are prioritizing your wellbeing during a time of crisis. You got this.

Samiha Bhushan ([email protected]) is a freshman studying neurobiology and English literature.