As Kean University students anticipate the end of what has been, to say the least, an unconventional Spring semester, final exams remain an intellectual and psychological challenge as much as ever. The shift to remote education requires that, in addition to their usual study practices, and in place of many on-campus options, students adapt to new study skills and remain focused on their mental health, while also maintaining their own schedules, and using digital tools to stay successful.
More than ever before, students and faculty are using online tools like Blackboard, Google Suite, and meeting applications like Zoom to stay in touch, keep up with class schedules and exchange additional information for studying and writing. Programs like Powerpoint or Slides and Excel or Sheets make the collecting, memorizing, and understanding of class materials as robust as ever, and students can use Google's Forms/Quiz, Jamboard/Whiteboard and Google Classroom to study directly.
Through the Nancy Thompson Library Learning Commons (NTLC) and Tutortrac, students can make appointments for tutoring sessions, Writing Services or Supplementary Instruction to reinforce what they've studied in class sessions. Not only can they get advice and information from professors and students that have already found success in the same courses, but they can also refresh their perspective and their studying focus.
The NTLC is also providing access to Open Educational Resources (OER), a series of "teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain...[which] permits their free use and re-purposing by others;" as per The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, who promote OER, the service includes "full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge."
With all of their coursework and studying done through the computer, however, students can expect some of the same psychological challenges that many are facing during social isolation. The American Psychological Association (APA) warns that fear and anxiety, depression and boredom, and anger and irritability can easily become consequences of a lack of social engagement and physical isolation. This is exponentially more challenging because of the added stress of studying voluminous material for final exams and writing dozens of pages for finals over the course of successive weeks.
Some of the best tactics to combat these challenges include writing down a precise, regular schedule, and adding study sessions and writing sessions to that schedule in a consistent, balanced way. If, for instance, a student has an essay to write and an exam to study for on the same day, they should plan to split their work sessions into no more than a few hours at a time, over the course of a few days. Not only will this provide important mental health breaks, but it will help them understand and retain information.
Just like under normal circumstances, students should take study breaks to socialize, eat healthy meals, exercise and relax, not only for the implicit benefits of each, but also to get a new perspective on their work. Particularly while looking at screens all day to study and work, it is invaluable to rest one's eyes and one's mind from time to time.
The APA suggests using programs like those above to stay virtually connected with friends and family as a way to maintain a normal daily mentality and routine; sticking to an exercise and diet regiment; limiting time spent watching or reading the news, in favor of engaging with regular, in-person activities; and focusing on mindfulness and the positive elements of daily challenges.
The remote nature of this semester's classes and exams make them a novel challenge, but the same technology and mental diligence that has made it possible, thus far, to continue on with the challenge can be redirected by students to do their best work.