Q&A: Center for Professional Education facilitator talks time management, staying on top of online classes

Grace Barnes

The transition to online learning has been difficult for many students, with technical challenges and spotty Wi-Fi being just a few of their problems.

The Daily Texan spoke to Jennifer Lazarow, who facilitates interactive courses through the Center for Professional Education at UT. Lazarow offered advice to help students with the transition to online learning, as well as how to stay on top of it all without going stir-crazy. 

The Daily Texan: What is the most specific advice you can give students about staying motivated through online classes?

Jennifer Lazarow: I would recommend creating a new schedule. Create your own class hours. It’s like being self-employed or working from home. It’s great if you want to stay up all night watching Netflix and then sleep in, but then have “class” from noon to 2 p.m. or noon to 4 p.m. each day. 

Break it up: Work for 15-30 minutes and then give yourself a 10-minute break. Just like if you were having to walk between classes. I would recommend avoiding social media during those break times. 

At the end of each day, make a list of what you need to accomplish the next day, and rank the items in order of importance. Sometimes the priority is watching a lecture at a certain time. But sometimes it might be breaking up a big task, like that research paper that’s due in two weeks.

Make a list. It sounds simple, but it’s sometimes challenging to do on a daily basis, and especially now when most of us are mentally distracted. Having a list and being able to check off items as you accomplish them will help give a sense of progress and productivity during this situation. 

DT: A lot of students are also facing big changes in their work environment. How can they create a place to work that will help them be productive? 

JL: Sometimes we have control over our environments and sometimes we may not. Maybe those who are back in a home situation could create a sign and stick it on your door that says “I’m in class.” Share your “class hours” that you’ve created with your roommates, your partner, whoever you’re living with. Communicate that with them, and post signs to remind them because their schedules are off too. 

DT: Any tips on how to maximize productivity? 

JL: When you’re “in class,” put your phone away, limit distractions. 

Try creating a standing desk by stacking some books or boxes. Just the act of standing while you’re watching a lecture or standing while typing increases blood flow. It might also help if you’re feeling fidgety or having some extra tension and stress. 

I am a big believer in a little bit of fresh air and sunshine — change your environment so you don’t feel so enclosed. 

DT: Do you have any advice on how students can separate the stress of our current situation and their schoolwork? I know plenty of students who have said they are struggling to focus on classes right now. 

JL: A couple of things to help deal with this additional stress: One, you don’t have to turn it off completely because we have to stay connected to the news, but limit your social media. Don’t stay glued all the time. Give yourself — physically and emotionally — some break time from it. Two, take care of your health. Do it in a socially distant way, but get outside, get fresh air (and) sunshine. If you haven’t yet, try meditating or deep breathing exercises. 

Another thing is to try to take it one day at a time. Try to take a step back and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next week, but what can I do today that’s in my best interest? What can I do today to be a good student? To take care of myself?” That’s what we can do.