Studies, Digital Life and Wellbeing
How can I be social in this situation?
Many students are lonely, and some cannot physically meet their family or friends during this period. Take care of each other! Use Skype or other media to call friends and family. The situation affects people in different ways. Remember to acknowledge your own feelings, and be aware that others can feel differently than you. Stay in touch with your study group and other fellow students on a digital platform such as Skype, Facetime and groups on Canvas. Even though you may not be able to meet physically, you can support one another academically and socially. Make your social life as important as your studies. This will help provide balance in your daily life.
How much can I realistically manage?
Norway and the rest of the world are in exceptional circumstances, and it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to proceed at the same tempo as before completely unaffected. As a student your job is to learn, but learning is subjective and requires security and concentration. This can be challenging these days, and it is important that you yourself and the university understand and accepts this. You can review the tips from the Writing Centre.
How should I prioritize?
Your normal every day routines have been completely disrupted. You have a new daily life, and you might have new responsibilities at work or at home. It is easy to become overwhelmed. Take time to think about what you can do, and prioritize what is most important. Remember that not everything is important.
How can I structure my life in this situation?
- Sufficient Sleep: sleep is important for your wellbeing. Your body needs more and better sleep now than previously because of the physical and psychological stress you are currently experiencing. Monitor your sleep patterns as significant changes can be a sign of depression. Get up and go to bed at your regular times.
- Eat: eat regularly and properly. Make time for lunch breaks and remember 5 vegetables or fruits per day.
- Exercise: take breaks where you do something other than to sit in front of you computer. It is more demanding now to exercise, but it is not impossible. Even if you cannot go to the gym, there are many options. Walk or run in the woods together with a friend (remember the two meter rule). Do yoga or other types of training at home. Lift weights, jump, go up and down the stairs. Work in the garden. Dance.
- Keep Updated: use reliable sources to stay informed. Rely on experts and peer reviewed journals. Do not rely or share information from sources that are not trustworthy. Follow Norwegian Institute for Public Health's and NMBU's webpages.
- Daily Routine: get up and go to bed at your regular times. Try to differentiate between work and free time, such as designating a space at home for only work. Set realistic and manageable goals for each day. Take planned breaks with others (digitally). Remember that learning is social, and it is important to discuss and examine academic materials together with others. Therefore, try to arrange digital discussion groups.
How can I avoid strain injuries when working from home?
Studying at home during shorter periods is normally fine, but it can challenging over a longer period of time.
As much as possible avoid working from your bed, sofa or other areas which are not meant as work spaces. Strain injuries do not happen suddenly. These types of injuries sneak up on you and are a result of poorly suited equipment, poor working posture and repetitive work.
Once you develop strain injuries, it is a long and difficult process to get rid of these. Therefore it is best to take precautions. This means making your flat or home as safe and healthy a place for studying.
These tips can help you make minor adjustments to your work space to keep you productive and injury free.
- If your chair and desk are adjustable, you should make use of these options.
- The chair height should be adjusted so that when your knees are at a 90-degree angle, your feet are flat on floor.
- If the chair is too high, find something to place under your feet.
- The desk height should be adjusted so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when your hands are flat on the desk.
- If possible, you should use good arm support either by using the desktop or the armrests.
- Use an external mouse or similar, if possible. The built-in mouse or control pads are not meant for long term use.
- Make sure your lower back is well supported. If you do not have a chair with this support, use a small pillow or a rolled up towel.
- It is a myth that you must sit with a straight back. It is actually better if you can lean a little backwards.
- Screen work is demanding on your eyesight. Try to place the screen as far away as possible without making it uncomfortable to see.
- Laptop screens are small. If possible, use a larger external screen.
- Do not place the screen too high. It is easier on your eyesight if you can look slightly down at a close distance. The top of your screen should be about 10-degrees to 15 degrees below your eyes when looking straight forward.
- Think about the lighting in your work space. Avoid work spaces where you look directly into a bright surface or light source (directly blinding). Also avoid reflecting light sources shining onto your screen (indirectly blinding).
- The best is always to take breaks. Stand up, move around and look at something which is more than 6 meters away. Your eyesight benefits from variation.
- If possible, you can stand and work as a variation.
(Source: this text is based on research and texts from UiO's Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Faculty of Educational Sciences and the Faculty of Law.)
How can I maintain focus?
Shorter studying sessions, clear goals and hide your mobile phone in a drawer. If you are experiencing difficulties concentrating and lacking self-discipline in this period, you are not alone. Self studies from home require a more structured daily life. In addition, you might have worries and uncertainties due to the coronavirus situation. Nevertheless, try to focus on structure and routine in your daily life, and be content with yourself.
How can I make my days and studies effective?
- Short study sessions and frequent breaks: make a daily schedule which includes breaks. This way you avoid making decisions throughout the day. Find out what time of day you are most focused and plan your studies around this. Remember to switch between various assignments. Some days it's easier to read literature. Some days it's easier to review your notes. Choose pleasure activities during your breaks.
- Set clear, short-term goals: make a list of realistic tasks for each session, such as:
- do the class exercises
- look up a reference
- write a summary of a text, a lecture or a discussion from a digital class
- read 10 pages of literature
As much as possible, try to follow your plan. At the same, it is not the end of the world if you do not complete all of the tasks on your list on some days. Your days will be shaped by what is going on around you, both intimately and in the community. Maybe your studies will be a nice break from what is going on around us.
- Use good study methods and be active in digital classes: in addition to reading, make notes and writing, dialogue with your instructors and with fellow students is crucial to learning new skills. Therefore, make sure to participate in digital classes for your study program.
To learn a new subject, it is important to know how such a dialogue should be structured. Discussions can be divided into three categories:
- Debate. Here the purpose is often to win over the other participants. Political debates can take on a confrontational shape, and new knowledge is not gained in this environment.
- Cumulative. Here the purpose is to support other participants and contribute so that the discussion continues. An enjoyable discussion and social support are important, but only develop new knowledge to a lesser degree.
- Exploratory. Here the purpose is to build a solid understanding of academic content. These discussions are characterized by supportive, but also problematizing and challenging observations. This is most conducive to gaining new knowledge - and you learn more.
In order to gain knowledge from discussions, the instructor should provide a framework and provide clear rules and expectations to what will happen in the digital class. As a student, you should be active, ask questions, present and explain your thoughts on a problem, question or a phenomenon.
Listen, provide support to others' arguments, build on an idea or suggest alternatives and different perspectives. Use the chat function or the various tools to actively participate, and do not forgot to take notes. Inform the instructors if things are not working. After class and discussions, you write a summary so that it is easier to remember what you talked about.
- Participate in study groups: if you do not have a study group, contact the instructor and ask for help in organizing this. Be generous with each other and allow students to join your group if they ask. Try also to include others who do not have others to study with, as digital platforms are the most important arena for many people now.
Remember that you can take some time for breaks in the study group to chat or relax together in the Zoom-room.
- Avoid distractions: it is very tempting to take a quick peak at the news or Facebook when your studies at home are going slow, but this disrupts your concentration. Instead plan a certain amount of time or a certain time of day, and use this as a reward in the breaks. For many of us, it can be helpful to put our mobile phones in another room or in a drawer so that it is not easily accessible.