With classes remaining remote for the fall 2020 semester and with the majority of Columbia and Barnard students staying at home, first-years’ transition from high school to college might be even more difficult than under normal circumstances. Most University upperclassmen empathize with this situation and are available to connect with first-years for much needed support during this time, whether that be during the 2020 New Student Orientation Program, GroupMe and Facebook groups, or social media platforms like Columbia Connect, an Instagram page dedicated to socializing students at the University. Armed with the experience of having taken online classes last semester, these Columbia and Barnard students are providing their quick tips on how to survive Zoom University.
“Don’t be afraid to talk over Zoom. Your professors are trying their best to make this engaging, and you can meet other people by participating in class.” —Jose Pomarino Nima, SEAS ’23
“Start a study group where you all get on a Zoom call together. But the main point is to just have other people holding you accountable for being focused, so everyone mutes themselves for a period of time and then can gather to discuss the material or life for bits of time every 20 minutes or so. Combo move there—allows for you to socialize and also efficiently get your work done!! Just because we are socially distant doesn’t mean that study groups and distance socializing can’t occur!” —Cassandra Bartels, BC ’23
“If you miss being near friends while in class, make sure you join or create a GroupMe for each of your courses. You can send messages to clarify what a professor said, join study groups, and get help with homework (as long as it’s collaborative).” —Ariana Novo, SEAS ’23
“Put on a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and dedicate yourself to just completing one task. Try to phrase your introduction paragraph and absolutely nothing else for those 30 minutes. Try to figure out that one question in the “problem-set” or how to write the results to your lab. In that period of time, if you finish that task you will naturally move on to another task you need to do but your mind is cleared of distractions already—something hard to do when you are home and can get food or futz with the music so easily.” —Cassandra Bartels, BC ’23
“Don’t treat online classes exactly like in-person classes. For in-person classes, you have to attend the large lectures live even if they don’t match your learning style in order to get important information. For online classes, you can go back and watch classes at 2x speed to get essential notes and instead spend more time on the professors posted notes/the textbook. Take advantage of these kinds of differences for online classes and you will be able to develop a routine that works for you!” —Erin McNulty, SEAS ’23
“With the Writing Center … when you have to write but you can’t focus, you sign up for a Zoom call with other people and you have a few hours of ‘focus sessions’ … so at the start of the call, everybody writes in the chat their goal for the next 25 minutes. Then they get to work. After the 25 minutes, everybody takes a break to stretch or whatever and then sets their new goals and gets to work.” —Sofia Rivera, CC ’23
“Take a break every now and then (if your class allows it) to stand up, stretch, and drink some water so you can stay fresh and concentrate during class.” —Jose Pomarino Nima, SEAS ’23
“Turn on your video to keep yourself accountable.” —Jessica Peng, CC ’22
“Allow for ‘commute time.’ Even if you think you can login to your class exactly when it starts, odds are you will arrive panicked and out of breath (mentally), and the professor will see your name pop up after class starts. Best to take a moment to organize your desk and close unnecessary tabs!” —Ana Eveleigh, BC ’23
“Keep track of all your due dates and exams using a Google calendar or a planner.” —Cecilia Orduña, SEAS ’21
“Even though you’ll most likely be working in somewhere like your room, you should make some sort of routine that switches your mindset to doing work. It also helps to designate a space that is just for work/Zoom classes!” —Millie Felder, BC ’23
“Look for a good backdrop (art, tapestry, etc.) for the wall behind where you usually sit and take Zoom calls!” —Jocelyn Chen, SEAS ’23
This situation is difficult on us all, whether you’re an unacclimated first-year or a returning student. If you have any advice for how to succeed in remote classes, please email Spectrum at the address below. For ideas on how to enhance online learning, check out these grants open to students across Columbia and Barnard.