Preparing for a New Semester | Fall 2020

This semester is all kinds of new regarding mandatory masks as well as the fact that I am switching from doing schoolwork in notebooks and on loose-leaf paper to doing schoolwork on my iPad and going paperless. I have so much to do to be properly prepared for this new semester online and I decided to bring you guys along with me! You can learn everything I’ve done to prepare for a primarily online semester in this blog post and in the video, I posted on YouTube.

This is my second year of college and the first year I will be taking only classes that are applying to my major, which is Elementary Education. I am taking five classes, one is in person (of course with mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing), two are remote learning classes (meaning we will meet during scheduled class time in a zoom chat), and two fully online classes.

I know I may sound a little crazy, but I am actually excited for this upcoming semester! I feel more prepared than ever before with my iPad for schoolwork and on top of that, I am excited to have the chance to be back in a physical classroom again.

With all of this excitement and anticipation in mind, I am going to show you what I have done to prepare for this unprecedented semester and how I am preparing my digital space for paperless learning.

The first step in preparing for an online and paperless semester is to download all of the apps I will need to be able to take notes, store files and images, edit assignments, and upload assignments. The first and in my opinion, the most important app is Goodnotes 5, which you can purchase on the Apple App Store for $7.99. I know for many broke college students like myself this may seem unnecessarily pricy but believe me, it is worth it. I tried many of the free note-taking apps similar to Goodnotes, but none compare to this. It allows you to create notebooks, folders, import pdfs (which makes doing homework and tests a breeze), add images, and so much more (not to mention, all the different pages, pen, and color options).

The other apps I know I will be using during this semester are Pages, Grammarly, Google Drive, and of course Zoom. Pages automatically come with any Apple device and are just a basic word processing platform like Word, I’m sure I will be using it for writing papers homework on my iPad. Grammarly is a fantastic app that allows you to edit and correct documents, and if you allow access to your keyboard the app with the edit as you type in any other app on my iPad. The app also has various settings or filters you can set when editing a document to better match the needs of the paper.

Now that I have become familiar with the apps, I want to use this semester I can begin creating files and notebooks for my classes and organizing my documents on my iPad. For each class this semester I created a file folder, and, in those folders, I created three notebooks, one for notes, another for homework, and another for tests. I figured I could upload any homework and tests into the notebook and simply export a single page to be able to turn it in for credit.

For each class, I created covers for the digital notebooks in Procreate and then added class labels in Canva. To make it the cover of a notebook in Goodnotes all I had to do was add the pictures I created as the first page of the notebook. I decided to use these covers as a way to color-code my classes so that color coding in a planner is easier to keep track of! My Intro to Literature class is a purplish-blue cover, Intro to Education is a bright teal or turquoise color. I made my Cultural Anthropology class orange-red, my Women’s Studies class a pink color, and my American Government class green. I was agonizing over these colors for a way to long, but I think I ended up with some colors I will be happy with for the entire semester. This leads me to the next step in preparing for the upcoming semester…

In this app Goodnotes, you can edit the order and color of all the different pens (ballpoint, fountain, and brush), as well as the highlighter colors. So, with that, I decided to find all the colors I would want to use with the pens to write and order them into an aesthetic pastel rainbow. For the highlighters I decided to make these correlate to the class colors I had coded with the notebook covers earlier. I also made sure to adjust the automatic pen and highlighter sizes with the slider bar. My main goal for customizing and organizing the drawing set in the Goodnotes app was to just make it easier for when classes start in a few weeks.

The next step in organizing my schedule for the upcoming weeks of class in August and September was to block out my time in a digital planner. Goodnotes has amazing planner pages in their page templates that allowed me to create a really easy online planner that shows hours of the day so that I can block out my time with the highlighter tool. I love this time blocking planning technique because with just a glance I can see how my time will be spent throughout the week.

I simply used the highlighter presets I created earlier to block out each class in the first week of school then I labeled them for this first week just so it is easier to remember in the future. I specified which classes were zoom meeting and the time each class started in this first week as well. After I fine-tuned the color choices and placement, I created a little color key at the top of the page and copied and pasted it to the following weeks. With the color key at the top of the page, I will be able to block out the time without wasting time writing out labels every week.

Even though this is a primarily online semester I knew I would need some physical items for my one in-person class, not to mention the different storage devices I will be using throughout the semester. I will be using a small little backpack to take my iPad to class along with the much-needed masks I need for in-person learning this semester. Another really important item for this semester will be my flash drives and external hard drive, these are used to hold pictures, documents, and any past schoolwork. I went through all my devices and moved all my pictures and old documents to flash drives so that I can start the new semester with plenty of storage space.

This is how I have prepared myself for a new semester this fall, by organizing digitally and physically, becoming familiar with the applications I want to use for the semester, and planning my time efficiently and creating systems for planning in the future. I am sure I will be updating organization practices and such as I learn more about paperless schooling, but I am excited about the foundation of learning I have laid.

In these coming days, I encourage everyone to take some time to rest. The semester will come and go so soon, so we must take care of ourselves in the calm and unbusy moments we have. I will be enjoying my last weekend of the summer in the mountains, breathing in nature and taking a break from the hustle and bustle, before it all starts up again. Thank you for taking the time to read this story of how I prepared for the new fall semester, and let me know in the comments what you have been doing to prepare for the new semester!

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.

Starting Summer Classes On Zoom

This week I start my summer college classes which means I will be on zoom twice a week instead of in a classroom for 4 hours twice a week. My college has chosen to do the summer classes remotely and the fall semester is still undetermined. Similar to many universities and even public schools across the world, teachers, and students are being thrown into the chaos of online schooling. Most people aren’t sure if we’ll return to the physical classrooms again in 2020, I included. 

That’s an overwhelming thought and to some it seems impractical because learning online can be difficult and you definingly aren’t getting the full experience of learning in a classroom. I have seen a few videos of students getting failing grades on their spring online finals under suspicion of cheating (who knows if they did or not). But either way this new form of learning is causing a lot of people distress, teachers don’t want to compromise their cheating policies and students are just trying to survive the semester. So of course, online learning has its drawbacks, but I want to look on the brighter side and see the positivity in the fact that I don’t have to leave my house for education.

No Reason to Dress Up

Long gone are the days where I would feel the need to put jeans and a nice shirt on in order to be a functioning human. This whole summer I will be attending my morning Zoom meeting wrapped with a blanket around my legs and probably the shirt I slept in the night before (and a couple girls in my class actually did wrap themselves up in a blanket). What’s the point of wasting an entire outfit for a video call? 

All jokes aside I have basically abandoned my jeans for shorts and leggings (until the fateful moment when I need to do laundry and have nothing, but jeans left). As spring comes to an end and the summer heat begins to turn my third story apartment into a furnace, I have realized I cannot handle the feeling of jeans and sweat. Nope. So, I shall stay in my leggings and shorts and not worry about how I look because I can’t be bothered.

No Social Interaction

As daunting as it feels to speak in a zoom meeting while your entire class stares through their screens with the volume all the way up, it’s nothing compared to standing in front of a class who can now judge everything you say and how you look saying it. I always feel the most nervous just before I start speaking because at that point the class has nothing to judge me off of but my appearance. In the virtual classroom I can at least put myself on mute and even turn off my camera for whenever my boyfriend comes into the background because he forgot I had a class. 

Bottom line I am an introvert so the opportunity to learn alone in my home is a blessing in disguise. I am lucky in the regard that I can learn by simply listening to a lecture or watching a presentation. Whereas I understand other students cannot learn unless they have the opportunity for hands-on learning, so online learning just isn’t working for them. Not to mention I am not studying in a field that requires much hands-on training until a few years from now when I will be doing internships. But at this time in my education I don’t need to be in the classroom all semester long, especially when I know I’m not missing out on anything (cause FOMO is real).

Saving So Much on Gas

Since I can’t leave my house and now, I don’t have to go anywhere to learn I must say I think I’ve filled up my tank once. Not to mention gas prices where the lowest I’ve ever seen in my life (I know it’s not a very long one but still). I mean I paid a dollar fifty per gallon, filled up my tank, and I have not had to refill in so long. It really puts into perspective where all my money is going when I am forced to stay home and not go out spending money.

I am saving not just money but time as well, I don’t have to waste time traveling from my house to the school which by the end of the day can add up to hours taken away from creative time. Plus, without the reason to go somewhere I can’t justify going to any stores or fast food places which inevitably costs me a lot of money every time. Being forced to stay home has really helped me not spend so much money whether that’s on a necessity like gas or a commodity like Target and ice-cream.

All in all, I am excited for the next six weeks of remote learning for my college credits, while I continue to learn more about the business of blogging and graphic design and creating on the internet. I think remote learning gives me the time and space to develop my creative skills and passions, or at least it has given me the inspiration to do it. 

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.