Silver Lining: Making The Best of Extended Online School

With the recent outbreak, many of our schools have switched to an online learning platform.  Needless to say, learning online is quite different from learning in a real-life classroom: from the increased screen time to the feeling of detachment from your teachers, classmates, and school life in general, it’s definitely a bit of an adjustment.  This article is written by an online student, for other online students. I hope you might find some of these tips helpful! 

1. Set a (rough) routine for your out-of-school hours 

One thing I realized that I take for granted while school is in session is the tight scheduling school provides.  The mere process of getting to school takes up a nice little chunk of time in many of our days, and then most of us spend six to eight hours actually on campus, depending on how long our classes are and how many extracurriculars we have that day.  We students tend to stay pretty busy when school is in session, after all! Not having to commute to school, plus the cancellation of most school-sponsored activities, has freed up anywhere from a little bit to a lot of time for most students. Nevertheless, keeping a routine for these out-of-school hours is key to maintaining productivity, morale, and mental health— it reduces our stress level, helps us set a regular bedtime and get better sleep, and gives us built-in time for doing all the important things (Blurt Team).  Your optimal routine might differ significantly from the next student’s, but there are a few common elements that are essential for everyone: time to sleep, time to relax, time to do homework, and of course, time to get some exercise.  

2. Find ways to stay physically active 

That last one might take some explaining. There are a lot of concerns right now about leaving the house, either from students themselves and/or from their parents; several of my friends tell me that they haven’t left the house since Chinese New Year.  But because online school necessitates sitting for long periods of time, it becomes more important than ever to get enough exercise. Also, exercise is awesome in general— it improves circulation, sharpens concentration and memory, and boosts mood (MayoClinic).  Exercise can be done outdoors, if you’re so inclined— a nice walk, run, or hike can provide a nice breath of fresh air— but it doesn’t have to be done outside. If, for any reason, the thought of going outside brings on too much stress, there are tons of workouts that can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own room.  A bodyweight circuit, for instance, doesn’t require any equipment or a large space. This is the one I’ve been using for the past few weeks, and it’s easily adjustable— if something is too easy or too hard, just substitute in a different exercise.  Another good idea, for people who have a jump rope, is jump-roping— twenty minutes of continuous jump-roping is a great aerobic workout. If organized exercise isn’t your cup of tea, you can always just take a quick spin around your apartment to stretch out your legs after class. 

3. Keep in contact with your teachers, especially if you don’t understand something

Online school requires significantly more accountability from its students, simply because teachers aren’t there to remind students to get all the work done and to ask if they have any questions.  If you like to ask questions in class when real-life school is in session, that always works in online class too. If you generally prefer to stay after class and ask your questions— some teachers will stay behind after their online class, and you can ask your questions then.  Some teachers might also have online office hours before or after school, which can be a great resource. If neither of those are options, email is always a time-efficient communication method. Your teachers will appreciate your efforts to stay on top of things! 

4. Reach out to friends and family, especially those you may not talk to regularly 

Speaking of keeping in contact with people, there’s no better time than now to reach out to friends and family, especially those you may not talk to regularly.  Hong Kong is such an international country, many of us have friends and family members living abroad, but keeping in touch can be hard— sometimes you just forget to write, or you remember but tell yourself, “I’ll do it later, when I’m less busy.”  In times like this, though, staying connected is not only extremely important for mental health and emotional wellbeing (Social Support), but we also have more time to reach out. So it’s the perfect opportunity to write to that person you’ve been thinking of and ask them how they’re doing— both you and the person you write to will be better off for it! 

5. Set aside time for exploration and relaxation 

Online school is still real school, so it’s important to have time for yourself.  Sleeping enough every night is a must— the recommended amount for high-school age kids is 8-10 hours (Teens and Sleep), although an hour above or below the range is optimal for some students.  Balancing screen- and non-screen activities during your down time is also important— I know better than anyone that it gets really easy for the screen time to morph into your entire day, so I try to incorporate non-digital recreation activities into each day.  Most importantly, leave time to explore and get creative— this can be with both things you already enjoy doing and things that you have had an interest in but haven’t had the time to get around to while school is in session. Personally, I’ve been working with a type of clay that I used to work with a lot when I was younger, and I find it really relaxing. Whether your exploration is with music, art, science, literature, or another area of passion, it could be a rewarding way to give yourself a break.  Being at home all day and attending class online can feel isolating and stressful at times, but it also can provide valuable opportunities to explore and relax in ways that we wouldn’t be able to while school is in session. 

Best of luck with online schooling until we go back to non-digital school! 


Editor’s note: If you are a teacher or an educator, find out more about the mental health effects on COVID-19 here