Getting your set-up right
When studying remotely the first thing you need to do before anything is get everything set up correctly.
- You may have to download specific software, so check in good time any information and instructions you have been sent. If you are using a mobile device, you may need to download the app from your app store.
- For online lectures/meetings you will need to be able to hear the other person, so make sure the device you are using has speakers or you can attach headphones. Check these are enabled in the settings and ensure that you have not muted them.
- If you use an online calendar, plan out your day and add events and put webinar links you are sent into the location or the notes section. If you do this, you then aren’t looking back in your email inbox to find it later on.
A webinar is an online event hosted by an organization/company (University) and broadcast to a group of individuals through their computers via the Internet. There are some differences to be aware of depending on the type of webinar.
In smaller group webinars you can use your microphone and webcam to participate verbally. Some platforms also feature a hands-up button that you can click on to show that you want to contribute. This is also useful for medium-sized groups and avoids everyone talking at once and in these, you can also type into chat windows. Chat windows are the place to ask questions, share short thoughts and links to web pages and documents. They don’t always automatically open on some platforms – so look for the word ‘chat’ or something like a speech bubble icon.
For larger webinars, it is less practical for everyone to participate verbally and so this option often isn’t available. Therefore, your main way of contributing is via the chat window. The presenter could also ask you to answer some questions where you need to type into the chat window, or you may want to use it to ask them questions. Another common feature of these larger webinars could be polls which a presenter may use if they want an opinion on something, they could ask you to vote in a poll.
When working collaboratively it is useful to have online meetings to make decisions, divide tasks and share progress. You may need to initially get in contact via email or Canvas messages or some other platform. There are two common types of online meeting.
Synchronous meetings mean you will all be logged in talking at the same time using things like Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and Google Hangouts. Again to make the most of these meetings, you will need speakers and a microphone. You can also share webcams which may make communication feel more natural. Although for those more shy amongst you they may just want to text type which is fine.
Asynchronous meetings mean everyone will contribute at different times. Technologies like Canvas messages, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage all do this. Others in your group may prefer these kinds of meetings depending on their commitments.
If you are working on a project together, it can help to have a space where you can share files or work at the same time. The University provides you with a Box account which has lots of storage. Simply log in at box.hull.ac.uk to set up your account and then connect to your University of Hull Box.
Other options include Google Drive and Microsoft Office’s OneDrive. With Google Drive and OneDrive, you can not only store files in the same place, but you can edit them together in real-time.
Using collaborative workspaces
When using a collaborative workspace you need to ensure you share content with everyone in your group. Once you’ve uploaded files select the relevant folder and choose the ‘share’ option. You will usually need everyone’s email address to set this up. After this everyone should be able to add their files and notes into the same area.
It is really important to communicate effectively and professionally and make sure you can communicate effectively and that everyone has a role and takes responsibility for doing what is required. Any decisions that are made, should be recorded and everyone in the group should stick to them.
Working remotely means you will have to manage your time effectively and whilst time management is very personal and works differently depending on the person, there are some principles that are common to all. These principles include organisation, prioritisation, focus and self-discipline.
Immense amounts of time gets wasted, and deadlines are missed if you are not at least reasonably well organised. Use a diary or a calendar. This can be paper or online, but you must use it consistently. Enter any deadlines you have and all unmovable tasks like lectures, tutorials, lab work, part-time work, volunteering, sports commitments, child-care, and family.
Prioritise and Focus
Some things are more important than others. They don’t have to be done first – but they need time allocating to them first. Assessed work is a good example but it depends on your circumstances. You may have other responsibilities maybe you need to juggle study with looking after family members.
Staying focused when working remotely is probably one of the more difficult challenges for some so here are some tips on staying focused.
- Avoiding social media – apps that block social media sites, turn off notifications.
- Environment – Choose or create an environment that is free of distractions. You could consider the Library or a dedicated workspace at home maybe even a Coffee shop as some people work well in the kind of environment.
- Time of Day – Different people focus better at different times of the day. Morning is actually when we are most productive and at our best, and when we will likely do our best work.
- Self-discipline – sometimes there is nothing else you can do but just be disciplined and understand now is a time for work.
Working remotely can sometimes be isolating and lonely so make sure you keep in touch with your fellow students and friends. The conversation doesn’t have to be study-related it is important just to interact socially with others. If you have never used one of these tools or applications before, signing up will help you keep in touch with others using the same platform.
You don’t have to just talk with friends you could also take the opportunity to make new connections. Check out these online communities to meet like-minded people or other students and researchers.