Lessons Learned from my First Fully Online Semester

Almost exactly one year ago, I published my first post here on HLS all about the lessons I learned during my first semester of library school. Past me who wrote that post had no idea how the world was going to drastically change in just a few months’ time. And now one year later with three semesters, including one fully online semester, under my belt, I thought I would revisit that post and update it with some of the things that I’ve learned and what I’ve found has worked for me while mostly working and learning from home. 

One thing that I found helpful after experiencing the transition to online learning last spring and then a fully online fall semester is paying attention to which classes I sign up for and in which format the class was originally intended. If you have the option and are wary about any traditionally in-person classes being adapted for the online space, see if there is a traditionally online section of that class. Courses that have always been taught online are likely developed by professors who have experience with teaching online and know how to run an online course, and you might have a better experience with it; if you are also able to and comfortable with adapting to what will likely be an asynchronous format.

As always, I highly recommend staying organized. I don’t mean keeping your bedroom clean or your desk clear, because I’ve also been guilty of unleashing chaos into my workspace, but instead keeping all of your to-dos organized. While you can definitely use plain ol’ pen and paper to keep your tasks organized, I’ve found digital productivity software like Plan and Notion to be useful tools. (Both are free to use!) I’ve written before about how helpful I’ve found managing my time and planning ahead. Breaking up big tasks into smaller ones and spreading them out over a longer period of time is a great strategy for tackling projects and papers or, in my case last semester, weekly assignments for online and asynchronous courses. I’ve found it really helps to go through as I plan and assign myself to work on a specific chunk of a project or assignment on different days, therefore building myself daily to-do lists over time. Then, once I finish my list for a particular day, I can relax and give myself the permission to take time for myself, instead of feeling like I constantly have to be working on whatever project is coming up next. 

Along those same lines, taking time for yourself may be difficult for us who have been working in our living space and living in our working space. Things like keeping a daily to-do list and having a workspace that is somewhat separate from my home space (if you count giving up my dining table and transforming it into my desk as a separate space) have helped me to distinguish “work mode” from “home mode” and has allowed me to take some time for self-care. Whether self-care means planning meals, practicing a favorite hobby, exercise (Elle Woods was really onto something), seeking professional help if you need and can afford to, or whatever works for you, I encourage those who can to take some time to take care of themselves when they can. 

I am wishing everyone a happy and healthy spring semester. And for my fellow students who will be graduating in the spring (eek!), we’re in the home stretch! You’ve got this!

Jane Behre is a second-year MLIS student at the University of Maryland. At UMD, she is the coordinator for the First Year Book Program and a Research & Teaching Fellow. Her academic and professional interests include information literacy instruction and health literacy.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

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