At this time last year nobody would have expected to be starting law school from home instead of campus. While some law students have experience and enjoy online remote learning, for many of us, it’s unfamiliar territory. Here are some tips to help you adjust to a new normal of online law school classes in Canada.
1. Treat online classes like they’re in person.
You might be tempted to wake up two minutes before class starts, roll over and open Zoom while still in your pyjamas. Treat your online classes like they’re face-to-face. Wake up early enough to shower, get dressed, eat, and finish any readings before class. Setting aside time in the morning to get organized for the day is an important strategy to set yourself up for success. It will help you to get in the right mentality and avoid slacking off. This is key, especially if you struggle with self-discipline
2. Keep your video on and participate often.
It’s a little bit easier to tune out in an online class. Keeping your video on and participating regularly, even when you really don’t feel like it, will help you stay focused and actually learn the class material. Plus, some law school classes grade you on participation so staying engaged and participating frequently can mean the difference between a B and B+.
3. Set up a separate work area.
In normal circumstances, your home is a place to return to at the end of a long day to unwind and relax. With remote learning, your home is now also your campus, classroom and library. You’re going to want to keep somewhat of a distinction between school vs. home, so set up an area (ideally outside of your bedroom) with a desk or table to study and attend virtual classes. Don’t try to do work from your bed.
4. Virtually connect with your classmates.
If you’re an upper-year, you already know that law school is a very collaborative and social environment. We share summaries and notes, work together in study groups, join clubs, and when we’re somehow not sick of each other at the end of the week, get together for bar nights or social events. With online law school, socializing is going to look very different this year.
If you’re starting 1L online, you might be worried about not being able to meet your peers or make connections. While nothing feels quite the same as sitting next to each other in class or grabbing a coffee together, thankfully with technology it comes pretty close.
If your law school hosts any virtual social events, be sure to attend. Reach out to your classmates to create a group chat or set up a Zoom social. If someone else beats you to it, make sure you join in. It might take a little extra effort to put yourself out there this year, but it’s totally possible.
5. Create a detailed and organized calendar.
You might find that online classes give you a little extra flexibility and freedom in your schedule. On one hand, it makes it easier to find a work-life balance. On the other hand, if you’re not a rockstar in the self-discipline area, you can easily fall behind. Create a calendar or agenda with deadlines and important dates. I personally like to use the Apple calendars on my laptop and phone since I use both everyday, they’re connected and I can add reminder notifications. My other saving grace is Todoist which is a to-do list app that works on your computer and phone. You can organize tasks by class, set deadlines and receive reminders.
If you struggle with procrastination like I do, I also recommend going a step further and creating additional deadlines to keep yourself on track. For example, if you have a 25-page essay due October 1st, set extra dates in September for when you’d like 5 pages complete, 10 pages complete, 15 etc. That way you’re not scrambling to pull something together the night before.
6. Get fresh air and exercise daily.
Try to make a point everyday to get outside and do some type of exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block. Without a reason to leave, you can easily spend the entire day scooped up inside. Staying active and spending time outdoors actually help you to learn and retain information, but also help prevent feeling stir-crazy after being inside all day. Taking care of your mental and physical is paramount in law school.
7. Remember that online learning is new for everyone.
Every law school in Canada has a different approach to online classes, with some being fully online and some partially online. Whichever route your law school took, remember that remote learning is new for everyone, including your professors. They might be just as nervous as you are. Be patient with any technology hiccups, it may take some time to settle into things.