Tips For Taking Your 1L Year Online

With everything going on in the world, many students are starting their fall 1L semester online this year. Online learning can be convenient, but we know it can also be challenging. We’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you succeed and make the most of your 1L year, even if you’re completing it online.  

Have A Dedicated Work Space  

If possible, try not to get into the habit of working from your bed. Doing this could affect the quality of your sleep and might also prevent you from staying organized. Working from spaces that are supposed to be for relaxing or sleeping might prevent you from turning your brain off (as the saying goes) at the end of the day. Instead, find a space in your home where you can establish a routine. If you don’t have a desk space in your home, you might consider turning your dining table into a study-space for your online semester.  

Having a dedicated space will encourage you to click into work-mode when it’s time, and also leave work-mode behind when it’s not.

Invest In A Second Monitor  

If you plan to take notes on the same computer you will use for streaming your class, it might be helpful to invest in a second monitor that will allow you to dedicate one screen to the online discussion, and the other to note-taking. While some students can definitely get away with using their smartphones to stream the class, others might find it difficult – especially if their professor encourages students to use the written chat feature to share questions and ideas or otherwise engages in a lot of “polling” in order to gauge the class’ progress/understanding. 

Your second monitor certainly doesn’t need to be fancy, just functional. If you have an old laptop that you no longer use, that may suffice. Otherwise, you can pick one up from Amazon or Best Buy

Treat Each Course Like An In-Person Course  

Practice Time Management  

Practicing time-management is especially important if your classes are “on-demand” and accessible at any time of the day. It’s easy to fall into the habit of pushing your lectures when you have access to them at any time of the day, but doing this is a recipe for procrastination. Procrastinating your lectures might cause a buildup of work, leaving you stressed and overwhelmed.  

To prevent this, treat your online courses like you would a live course and attend the classes at the same time every day. Create a schedule for yourself and try to stick to it as much as you can.  

Actively Participate  

In law school, it’s so important to create relationships with professors and classmates. Your law school professors serve as important sources of letters of recommendation and networking. To establish these relationships, you’ll want to make sure you’re participating in your classes like you would during your in-person classes. Post in discussion boards, ask questions, and sign-up for virtual office hours.  

Practice Good Zoom Etiquette   

For many, this semester may be the first time entering a virtual classroom. Adopting these common-sense (polite!) behaviors will be greatly appreciated by your professors and will prevent you from becoming a distraction to your classmates: 

  1. Make sure you mute your mic as soon as you sign on and whenever you are not speaking. As you’ll soon discover, this will limit the amount of background noise filtering into the class. If being respectful of your classmates isn’t enough motivation, remember that when your mic is live and picking up ambient sound, your picture will likely be the main one that everyone sees! 
  1. Mute you your video if you are zooming into your class from a strange location (like the front seat of your car!), eating, walking into another room, talking with an off-camera roommate or, yes (unfortunately), getting dressed. YouTube is full of Zoom fails you should strive never to replicate! 
  1. In order to avoid distracting your classmates with an echo, always use a headset with an external mic. 
  1. Just like in a regular class, don’t interrupt.  Before un-muting your mic, you should indicate that you’d like to join the discussion by using the “raise hand” function in your video app. 
  1. After you’ve made your point, be sure to let your professor and classmates know that you’ve finished by adopting one of these sign-offs before muting your mic: “That’s all.” “I’m done.” “Thank you.”  
  1. Because law school courses often touch on sensitive and highly personal topics, be prepared for the discourse in some classes to become heated and argumentative. However, whether it’s on video or in the chat feature, always make sure your comments are well mannered and respectful of opposing views. Avoid the temptation of flexing your text muscles and adopt the rule that if you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying something to someone’s face, you shouldn’t say it virtually or in the chat feature. 
  1. As added incentive for practicing rules 1-6 above, remember that each Zoom class is likely being recorded; so, if you wouldn’t want your comments or behavior ending up on YouTube, you should adjust your decorum accordingly.  

Create a Morning Routine 

It’s easy to fall into the habit of taking online classes in your pajamas. However, creating a morning routine where you drink your coffee, eat breakfast, and get dressed as if you actually were going to class will help with the day’s productivity. According to Hubspot, “The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there’s no reason that feeling should be lost when telecommuting.” 

Practice Self Care 

Take Breaks  

Just like in-person courses, students typically have breaks in their days between classes and during lunch. Scheduling a dedicated lunch period and ten-minute breaks throughout your day will help you stay productive and focused in the long run.  

Get Outside  

One of the most challenging things about online-learning is that you’re forced to stay inside for most of your day. If possible, try scheduling outdoor time during your day – this might be exercising, walking your dog, or just sitting outside for a few minutes to help reset your mind. 

Another good idea is to take advantage of your days off and use this time to be outside.  

Connect With Your Support System  

Fall semester of 2020 might look a lot different than it has in the past. It might not be possible to study in large groups or even grab dinner with your friends at the local spots. Similarly, you won’t be connected to your classmates like you would be during in-person classroom environments. Make sure you’re staying connected with your classmates as well as your support system outside of law school.  

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