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Studying at Home

Lupe

Even if nobody can come to the University right now, there’s still enough to do! Continue with the projects you’re working on, draft ideas for final papers, start preparing for exams, do some revision. And online lectures since the end of April.

Studying at home: What’s the best way?

Through contact with your fellow students and lecturers with the help of TU services: Lecturers had already set up forums for many courses before the coronavirus via TU Berlin’s ISIS platform. You may already be familiar with some of these. But perhaps some of you have not yet plucked up the courage to join the course forum or chat. Thanks to the coronavirus, you can now at last get to know and use all the functions of the ISIS platform! A really good idea is to use the forums to find fellow students and start a study group if you don’t already have one.

The libraries are shut, of course, but as a member of TU Berlin you can access electronic media such as e-books and e-journals from home via VPN Client: You can find further information here on how to set up TU Berlin’s VPN service on your notebook. Search for digital learning materials as usual on the Primo Knowledge Portal. Do you need help with finding electronic media, reference management or citation rules? Don’t worry: The University Library’s e-tutorials are at your disposal. Or you can contact the University Library from Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 18:00, by email or chat.

Course Guidance continues to be contactable via email, chat or phone (depending on the faculty) and is there for you should you have any content-related questions about your degree program and modules: You can find the new contact details for Course Guidance on the respective faculty’s website.

Some general tips on “computer hygiene”:

Try to set up a separate room, desk or corner for studying – as far as possible and depending on what your accommodation allows. Keeping private matters and studying separate as much as possible will help you to focus on your work and develop a new learning routine.

Minimizing screen distractions is also helpful. To do so, close all tabs and windows that you’re not using and deactivate all email and social media alerts when no group conferences are taking place. Just do one thing at a time. And when you’re working on a text: We advise you to use the full screen mode.

Studying and working together – without leaving the house

Since you don’t always work alone and are perhaps already well used to study groups, we have some advice here on how to keep your groups going even when you can’t meet in person.

Technical tips:

There are dozens of chat programs and messaging services that you probably know and in some cases use on an everyday basis. As a member of TU Berlin, you can access the meet@innoCampus video chat via TU Berlin’s ISIS platform. You can set up a space there for your study group, which you can protect with a password if necessary.

If you want to work together on the same documents, TU Berlin offers you tubCloud as an alternative to other well-known cloud services. There you can share files with other people.

Have you got any other tips about technical tools that you use and think are great? Write to us!

Content-related tips:

As generally applies when working from home, a high level of commitment and joint responsibility is also important for group projects. Please therefore be sure before joining a chat or similar function that you want to study and work together with other people and act accordingly. When you’re at home and don’t need to go elsewhere in order to meet up, it’s all the more important to keep an eye on the time. Starting together punctually will keep you motivated. Remember that group chats and calls can be very strenuous. Take short breaks now and again, and make sure you spend some of them alone and offline.

If you’re working on texts together, set yourselves deadlines by when you want to be finished and allocate tasks to specific people. Use the “Comment” function and track change so that you can follow, for example, how a text is altered.

When learning (and in general), be creative: Learning can be more than just asking questions and solving tasks together. Perhaps you can think up some light-hearted approaches: Look for tools to make a quiz, for example. You’ll also no doubt find ways to study together that you’ll keep up once the situation has gone back to normal.

Staying productive while working from home

Many topics on this page may already resonate with you: We require structure when studying or working primarily from home. Each us has had to organize our daily routine to be “productive” given the current conditions. Sometimes, though, this is not so easy for a number of reasons.
Many factors contribute to creating a structure at home: Maintaining a “normal” daily routine, keeping your work and personal spaces separate, creating a rough weekly schedule, making time for active rest breaks, or meeting friends for a coffee break online instead of at Café Wetterleuchten.

In a series of short videos, TU employee Robert Greinacher offers organizational tips for studying and working from home:

(Videos are in German, please add English subtitles via YouTube-Settings)

Part 1: Work space organization
Part 2: Distractions and focusing
Part 3: Time management, daily structure, and weekly schedule

Creating a daily routine when studying at home

Everyday life has now largely returned to normal, including in university teaching and studies. The semester has started again and while there are many advantages to a digital semester, such as no longer needing to commute and more flexible courses, you may also be gradually noticing that it isn’t so easy to create the structure you need to succeed. You may also miss regular contact with fellow students who you currently are only able to meet through video. There is a considerable danger of avoiding less appealing tasks and ending up not having achieved anything at the end of the semester. This is something we are also seeing in our advising sessions. A good routine, which requires dedication in the beginning, can quickly help you a great deal both in the short and long run, easing your guilty conscience and allowing you to enjoy some of the summer.

Clearly separate studies and free time

Separate your daily activities (hobbies, housework, contact with friends and family, browsing the web, watching shows) from your studies. If you want to continue to be able to perform, you also require periods of rest and quiet to replenish your energy. You will be unable to do this if you are still finishing work for your classes late into the evening because of a guilty conscience. Use the evening hours to relax, meet friends, and allow the day to come to an end.

A daily and weekly schedule: One solution for many problems

Create a schedule to help you structure your days and weeks.

Here is an example:

7:30 - 7:45 Wake up and make your bed

7:45 - 8:00 Get dressed and ready for the day

8:00 - 08:15 Eat breakfast, ideally something not too heavy or time-consuming, müsli is a great option!

8:15 - 8:30 Leave the house with coffee or tea in hand and take a short walk

8:30 - 9:30 Read for your courses

9:30 - 10:00 Do exercises for your courses

10:00 - 10:15 Short break

10:15 - 11:45 Watch an online lecture and take notes

11:45 - 12:00 Short break

12:00 - 13:00 Review what you have already learned

13:00 - 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 - 14:30 Read for your courses

14:30 - 15:00 Do exercises for your courses

15:00 - 15:15 Short break

15:15 - 16:45 Attend an online tutorial

16:45 - 17:00 Reflect on the day and create a plan for the next day

17:00 - 22:00 Relax and rest: Go shopping, do sports, phone or meet with friends (while observing minimum distance regulations)

Keep to the schedule. When the time is up for a certain task, move on to the next one, even if you are not yet fully finished. This approach can train you to become even more structured during the coming weeks. Completing tasks in the allotted time also helps increase your motivation tremendously.

Always (re)focus

It happens to all of us. We plan to quickly get things done and concentrate on something and all of a sudden we end up doing something else completely unplanned.

To avoid this, it is best to create a work space with as few distractions as possible. Keep only what you need for the next task on your desk or table. Sure, glancing at your phone and quickly answering a message doesn’t take long, but you are probably already aware how much time you lose in the end. So, put your phone on flight mode and leave it in another room. Schedule times when you can chat with friends and use those times as active rest breaks.

Try to stand up every now and then during your online lectures, especially if you are tempted to open other tabs to read the latest news. Move around when you don’t have to take notes. If the lecture quality is poor or you are unable to follow along, leave the lecture and work through the material using your textbooks.

Don’t forget to take breaks!

To have a truly restful break, it is important that you leave your work space. You can simply go to another room but it is even better to get some fresh air and take a walk around the block. This helps get your blood and oxygen flowing and energizes your brain. Try it out. You will quickly notice that it benefits you more than sitting in front of your computer or with your phone.

Make a good start and end to every day

In order to keep focused during the digital semester and this time of rapid change, we recommend keeping to a strict routine.

This means

  • Waking up at the same time every day
  • Making your bed and airing out the room
  • Brushing your teeth, washing your face, combing your hair
  • Changing out of your pajamas
  • Eating breakfast
  • Preparing a coffee or tea to go and starting your day with a short morning walk, as “an early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day” (Henry David Thoreau).
  • Now your work day begins, and at the same time from Monday to Friday. The more of a routine you have, the less you have to think about what to do next, saving you a significant amount of time and energy.
  • Keep to the appointments in your weekly schedule.
  • Schedule breaks.
  • Before you end your day, look over what you have accomplished and take 10 minutes to make a plan for the next day.
  • End your day at a specific time.
  • Schedule recreational activities.
  • Make sure to also go to bed at the same time!

How do I stay in touch? Technical Networking Tools

A problem shared is a problem halved if you welcome fellow students into your home. Start networking! This can be for studying together, a daily phone call or some other activity that gives you some company. So form a group and get talking! With:

meet@innocampus (Jitsi based): A video conferencing app for sharing desktops, files, presentations.

Recommendations of Open Source Tools (often integrating Jitsi); collected at Bits&Bäume conference participants

Working from home with children or family members in need of care

You are studying from home and are taking care of a child at the same time, or children? The TU Family Service Office has collected tips and useful internet sources on the topic.(Only available in German)

Exercise

We always advise you to get sufficient exercise – Go for a run or to the gym! Thanks to the coronavirus, we can’t recommend the gym right now. But we wouldn’t be psychologists if we couldn’t come up with some alternatives!

Our TU Sport colleagues provide video tutorials for exercises to do at home: to avoid tense muscles, for relaxation in between calls and papers, and the opportunity to compete with other TU members. Have a look! 

Websites, such as FitForFun, provide an overview of what’s on offer online for those who so far haven’t used such apps. Since last week, gyms are often offering online classes and you can continue your classes with your familiar group or else start new ones.

Stay fit! Because physical exercise has a significant influence on mental health. And especially these days it’s important that we take particular care of this.

Relaxation

Even if it seems like everyone is having “time off” right now, it makes sense to structure your day. Because, of course, it’s not really “time off”. That’s why relaxation can also be an important part of your daily routine, especially if you’re slouched at your desk a lot.

Our TU Sport colleagues have collected information and video tutorials for active breaks as well as relaxation routines.

The Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance fund has collected information on its website about different types of active relaxation. It also offers free audios that you can download – from Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Body Scan to Yoga. Well worth checking out!

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