Studying remotely is weird. Studying remotely as a mature student is hard. Studying remotely as a disabled mature student is a little tougher again. Since the start of term I feel like I’ve gradually been assembling a toolkit that supports my learning and puts me in the best possible position to succeed. Today I’m going to take you through the things I now have in place that help me the most, some of them may even surprise you as much as they surprised me!
Let’s start with some of the pieces I’ve picked up that make practical sense. First off, I use my iPad and iPencil to take notes; this may sound extravagant but initially I actually used them to save money. As I’m a digital illustrator, I already had both in my possession and figured it would be much cheaper to use a free note taking app than pick up tons of stationary when I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with the course. It turned out that electronic note taking is an incredibly good system for me as the flexibility is fantastic. I use Microsoft OneNote to organise my notes by subject and module, its easy to erase and rewrite as I’m going along, I can switch to typing on a keyboard if my hand cramps from handwriting plus I type in headings for every set of class notes which makes them searchable.
Next up, I found getting a cheap second screen that I could plug into my laptop made being in online classes much easier to get my head round. I have my laptop up on a stand with Microsoft Teams on its screen then any slides, handouts or pieces of work open on the larger second screen. I bring the second screen up to eye level with a small stack of books. To complete the practicalities of my remote learning study toolkit I picked up a wireless keyboard and mouse, which cost a lot less than I thought they would and allow for me to change posture or seating position as much as I need to throughout the day.
There isn’t too much to be said about the things I use to make myself comfortable while studying remotely; I didn’t get much say in the type of desk as I’m in a rental and the one here is a huge unwieldy thing I mostly just live with. However I do use a comfortable office-type chair with arms and a high back to support me properly and its a joy. Added to this I use a plump cushion which I position differently in the chair most days depending on what part of my body hurts the most!
For warmth I keep a thermal blanket nearby and also some fluffy socks, as sitting still for extended periods of time have me getting chilly rather quickly. Are these items study toolkit worthy? I think so, I believe being comfortable and warm are two of the most important things for you and your remote learning set up.
Lastly, there are a couple of small surprises in my remote learning study toolkit that have proved surprisingly invaluable. Once we had all settled into the remote nature of our course, our lecturers and tutors began pushing for us to have our cameras on in every class. I wasn’t keen on the idea, I was quite happy to keep hiding! The first time I popped my camera on I was struck with just how dark my room was and how bleak my background looked.
Now my laptop is too old to allow me to blur or change my background in Teams, so I first bought a wicker room divider to screen off part of the room from view. Then I got a small dimmable and flexible ring light which can switch between warm and natural light settings. I feel so much less self conscious on camera now, and the warm ring light setting helps me look so much more alive on days I feel particularly rough.
I feel like my particular toolkit will only grow and evolve with time, but what I currently use makes the world of difference to me and my ability to learn. Am I slowly turning into a study blog… who can say? I feel like I will write more articles along these lines though, especially if I manage to bag a place at university next year. Either way, for now I hope this has been helpful if you’re looking for gentle nudge towards ideas for putting together a remote learning study toolkit of your own, because we all need a little help sometimes.