In light of the recent pandemic and announcements of variant scares, higher education students have found themselves experiencing university and college through a ‘virtual first’ approach. Just like the shift to remote working, adapting to remote learning can take some time and effort. While the concept, much like flexible working, comes with its long list of benefits, it also has its drawbacks and may not suit every university student. Student engagement has slipped, there is a rising disconnect between students and tutors and many university students feel like they are not getting the most out of their university experience.

So how do you make a success out of it? Whether you are living on campus or at home, mastering virtual university takes patience, planning, and dedication.

Implement A Routine — And Stick To It

One thing students struggle with when attending university is setting a schedule and getting adjusted to being in charge of their schedules. It can be quite different from secondary school. With virtual first classes, it is no different. It will be up to you to log in for video lectures, set reminders to complete assessments, and set aside time to do any extracurricular reading. The best tip when creating a schedule for yourself: integrate real life into it. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to set aside 8-hour blocks of time each day for your classes.

For your schedule to be successful, take into account your studying habits and tailor them to that. For instance, scheduling 1-hour blocks for reading each day can help you keep up with coursework while avoiding the feeling of being overwhelmed. Similarly, narrowing down your reading time to mornings or afternoons when you retain information better can prove to be much more effective. The use of organisation and time management tools like Trello, Coach, and Simple Mind can help you

Attend Your Virtual Classes As You Would In-Person

While you may be doing most of your university work virtually, you will still be expected to partake in video presentations and coursework. This is also a great way to socialise with your classmates and combat feelings of isolation that many university students experience. It helps to have a strict attitude towards your online classes. This means setting a daily routine that includes setting bedtimes to get enough sleep, focusing on your appearance for facetime calls, and getting regular exercise daily. Making an effort with your appearance can also help with your mental and emotional health when working from home. Avoid staying in your pyjamas and spend time building up your confidence speaking on video calls.

Prioritise Your Mental Health

One thing has become apparent during the pandemic for first-year university students: their mental health has been impacted greatly. In fact, a regularly updated survey by ONS showed that 37 per cent of first-year students showed signs of depression while 39 per cent showed signs of anxiety. Another well-publicized report by the BBC claimed that almost two-thirds of university students say their mental health is worse due to the pandemic.

If you do feel like your mental health is being affected, don’t be afraid to reach out to your university student helpline or non-profit organisations like Mind UK for help. It also helps to pinpoint the source of your anxiety — whether it is about course finances, uncertainty about classes, or the return of restrictions with new variants. It also helps to schedule time for self-care into your day. Include time for regular exercise and downtime away from the screens.

The last few years have been a strange time for university students. Like the workforce, many have been forced to adapt to a virtual first approach to higher learning and with it, have faced curveballs. However, there are things you can do to tackle those challenges head-on and succeed in university online and offline.