Hannah Berhow, OMS-II, Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine

At this point in the post-pandemic era, it’s no surprise when an in-person meeting or event gets canceled and goes online, but what about when your entire medical education is online? Now some students dream about the idea of rolling out of bed, throwing on their favorite oversized sweatshirt, and crawling into their desk chairs to watch lecture videos from home, but how does one cope if that’s not your jam? I’m starting with the basics to give you advice coming from a second-year student learning medical school content from the comfort of home.  

One of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success is to find a space that you feel comfortable settling into–but not too comfortable. Do you get distracted by your bed and constantly find yourself wishing you were taking a nap instead of studying? This might be a sign that you should move your desk out of your bedroom. Creating this physical barrier can help you set an intention for studying and get into a clearer mindset. If you’re not able to move your desk out of your bedroom, try creating a clean environment by making your bed, putting your clothes away, and creating a mental boundary telling yourself that you are now in study mode.   

Now that you’re not in the classroom, you don’t have that never-ending fear of the professor pointing at you to answer a question, so there is less pressure to stay focused on the material. However, you also don’t want to spend hours watching lectures only to realize that you didn’t learn anything. To stay focused on the material, take notes in real time. The great thing about an online lecture is that you have the ability to pause, rewind, or fast forward as much as you need. Take advantage of this and create a study guide while you watch the lecture. Even if you just write down main topics and create an outline of the concept, this will help you stay on track, and you can always go back and fill in extra details later. 

If you’re like me, one of the biggest distractions while studying at home is my phone. It starts as just tapping the phone screen to check for notifications, then looking at updates on social media, and then 10 minutes later I find myself scrolling through pointless videos on TikTok. When you’re looking at your phone instead of listening to the professor, you’re really not engaging in the material, and therefore you’re less likely to remember it for the test. There are a few ways you can avoid this time wasting trap. The first and maybe easiest trick is to put your phone out of reach. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” can work wonders when it comes to not checking your phone. Now if you don’t feel comfortable not having your phone right next to you, set your phone to “do not disturb” and only pick it up during planned study breaks. If both of these options still aren’t working for you, try setting a time limit on the apps that you use the most. This way you still get the joy of using them, but you can be conscious of how much time you allow yourself to spend on them.  

My last tip for the online classroom is to continue to utilize your professors just as if you were at an in-person lecture. Don’t be afraid to reach out via email or whatever communication system your school uses to ask the professor questions or for clarification on topics. Most professors would be happy to know that a student is interested in the information and wants to learn beyond the lecture. Just remember to continue to be respectful and use professional language and tone when communicating with professors online. Good luck to everyone with asynchronous lectures this year, and remember it’s never too late to start practicing productive studying habits!

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