After finishing the third quartile from home, we all have experienced online studying. And I am sure you have video called your peers, listened to lectures via canvas conferences and maybe even made a take-home exam. On the other hand, it is even easier to get distracted or postpone your work, because you do not see your fellow students and teachers. After 5 weeks of quarantine studying experience, it might be nice to share some tips and tricks. In this article I will mention some programs I used or heard about from others. Hopefully these tips can help you to keep up and stay focused.
A good online platform to communicate with your peers while working is essential. There are many options available, such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and Discord. The last mentioned seems to be the preferred platform among the electrical engineering students, at least the ones I spoke. From experience I can now tell that it works neatly and is not erroneous. Skype on the other hand, has caused some blue screens for me. Similar to other platforms, you can make a group on Discord with your project partners, where you can chat, call and even video call each other. Since it seems to be a popular platform, Scintilla is also present. All members can join the Scintilla channel, where you can enter multiple ‘rooms’, so to speak. For example, the Vonk committee has a dedicated room to have our committee meetings. Besides committee-related rooms, there are of course fun related rooms and study rooms. Where you can discuss questions about a certain topic.
These study rooms can also be used to keep focused. ‘Zien studeren doet studeren’ (seeing other people study, gets you to study), is in the Discord room more a “hearing” situation, as a video connection is not possible in the rooms. However, while being in such a room, it is code of conduct to not disturb other people, much like a library. When you would like to also get the visual component of being a library, there are Youtube videos available of people studying. ‘Study Vibes’ is a Youtube channel where such videos are posted, with different durations.
However, something you can still do without disturbing the people in the audio channel while studying, is play games on your phone (or animal crossing). There are many apps available that help you to block these apps for a certain time, however, you’re the one in charge and the one facing the consequences, so you might allow yourself to bypass the blockages. An app that I use myself is called ‘Forest’. There is a free and paid version available, where the paid version allows you to select certain apps that you can block. The catch in this app is, that when you manage to not touch the apps in the set time, you plant a tree. At first virtual trees, but you can eventually plant real trees by leaving your phone alone. It still might be the case that you do not care about planting trees, but another nice part of this app, is that you can create a room where multiple people cannot touch their phones within a set time. And as soon one person does, all other persons lose their progress of the growing tree. So, you might also feel some social pressure to study and leave your phone alone.
While the aforementioned methods mainly focus on studying alone, you do have peers which can help you during studying. You might not check them out as often, but the canvas discussion page is a nice way to ask for help about problems you encounter during a course. If there is a question from another student to which you would like to hear the answer too, you can ‘subscribe’ to that question and get a notification when a reaction is placed. If there is no discussion yet, you can ask your teacher to create one.
Within our study we also have a lot of projects that we have to do together. I am sure that you have found a suitable platform to discuss with your fellow students, but there are more options to make life a bit easier. When you need to pitch an idea to your projectmates, you might make a quick sketch and send them pictures and it might be hard to actually point at parts in your picture or make quick changes. A nice website to overcome this problem is awwapp , where you can create an online whiteboard to share your ideas. In my time as an online tutor for high school students, I found this application to work the best. However, do not forget when you are not logged in, the whiteboard disappears after you’re done using it! If you do need the sketches later, you can export them though.
Besides sharing ideas and sketches with each other, you might also want to share code for your project. If you are not too familiar with Git (or alternatives), this might result in a lot of screen sharing. For many of the projects Matlab might be required. In the last quartile I used Matlab Drive with my project groups, which is a common cloud-based storage location for Matlab files. You share the folder of your project with your teammates and you can work in the same files. However, it is not real time, so you cannot really work at the same time in the same file. As soon as you save your changes, it updates for the other people too. When two people do work in the same file, Matlab creates a copy. Although it is not realtime, it does work fast and is easy to use.
Another way to share code is to use websites like codeshare.io where you can work real time on the same code. You can also share parts of code there for the other persons to copy, which works better than for example Whatsapp which can mess with the layout.
Hopefully these tips can help you to study during the next online module even better. When you have tips yourself, feel free to share them with your fellow students via the Scintilla Discord Education rooms! You can also email your tips to the Vonk committee, our details are on the website. Stay safe!