By Lewis Empson
For returning and new students, this year has presented a new challenge that has resulted in us having to adapt to a very different university lifestyle. Whether it’s learning online or living in the confinement of student accommodation or housing; its fundamentally changed the uni experience, and as much as its not ideal, we thankfully we have some tips, tech, apps and games that will help to make this odd and uncharted way of uni life that little bit easier and enjoyable.
Recommendations for Online Lectures and Seminars:
You’re going to be spending a lot of time at your desk; so make it a comfortable and productive place if possible. Find a setup that complements your workflow, if your timetable is full of online Zoom seminars then angle yourself with plenty of light so you don’t look like a vampire on your webcam and preferably in an area away from noisy flatmates. A desk chair cushion is a must and you can always add some colour with some fun stationary or a classic Pop Vinyl bobblehead if you’re wanting to personalise your desk space. Obviously this isn’t always possible but being sensible with your space can go a long way. We’ve compiled a few tech recommendations to enhance the online learning experience (#notsponsored) that fit that student budget life and we think are worth the investment:
- Noise cancelling headphones: Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones. Despite being a bit of a mouthful to say, the Soundcore Life Q20s offer a lot for a reasonable price (around the £50-£55 mark). Active noise cancelling can drown out loud flatmates when you’re trying to focus on your lecture and the built in microphone is perfect for Zoom calls. Plus when you’re done being productive and fancy swapping studying for relaxing, these headphones offer High-Res Audio and Bluetooth 5 so you can chill out to your favourite playlist.
- Blue light filter glasses: Cooloo Blue Light Blocking Glasses. Considering we’re all spending hours staring into screens at recorded lectures, Zoom calls and essay writing: eye strain is a legitimate concern. We’d recommend grabbing some of these blue light filter glasses as they can help to prevent strain on your eyes and make online learning a lot more comfortable – plus they’re super affordable.
- Adjustable Laptop Stand: Babacom Laptop Stand. If you’re looking down at your laptop screen and typing up notes all day then you might also encounter neck and wrist strain and to combat this we’d recommend an adjustable, ergonomic laptop stand. Not to sound like your nagging mum but posture is important! This will help to orientate your laptop in a comfortable position as well as improve cooling and air flow to ensure your laptop doesn’t overheat if you’re using it for intensive tasks.
Whether you’re studying or relaxing, there are a plethora of apps to help in every facet of uni life. There are plenty of apps dedicated to organisation, stress management and recreation. Apps can become an essential tool in helping to structure your study time especially now when online lectures seem to pop up when we least expect them and every day of the week seems to melt into one long day. We’d suggest these apps, they’re all free to download although most have premium paid options for more features:
- Focus – Time Management: this app allows you to set dedicated timers to set to your daily tasks and helps you to remain… focused unsurprisingly. It notifies you when to take a break and tracks your productivity so you can feel accomplished in completing your study tasks whilst not burning yourself out. This has been perfect for adding some structure and direction to our online studies.
- Notion – Notes, projects, docs: This productivity powerhouse app boasts a clean aesthetic and extensive, powerful note taking capabilities and document management. You can take and organise notes to help keep track of your digital work and documents and make your workflow fluid, intuitive and streamlined.
- Agenda.: Much like Notion, this app is a great digital note taking solution, however it has a trick up its sleeve in the way of a built in calendar meaning you date and timestamp all of your notes and reminders. This makes it an organisation godsend as you’ll never forget which notes correspond to which lecture and they’ll always be in order.
- Calm – Meditation and Sleep: It’s a stressful time so a break to help yourself relax and unwind is exactly what we all need. Calm promotes meditation and mindfulness as a source of stress relief so if you’re feeling overwhelmed as many of us are, then a moment to decompress could be the solution. Also the app offers a sleep section of stories and playlists that can help get the sleep schedule that lockdown has ruined for many of us, back on track.
Social and Entertainment Recommendations:
Like many aspects of life, it’s difficult to find sociable and fun activities to do, especially if you’re confined to a student flat or house. Tensions can arise between housemates whilst being stuck inside; sometimes the smallest thing can lead to tense encounters so it’s important to enjoy recreational activities together so you don’t start a fight over someone not taking out the recycling. Of course alcohol is the standard route but we thought we would provide some alternative ideas, although these recommendations could be enhanced with a couple of drinks… not that we’re endorsing that or anything:
- Roku Express HD Streaming Media Player: The cheapest of the streaming solutions, Roku’s Express streaming player supports all your favourite streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and even Spotify if you’re feeling a responsible living room rave. This is perfect for movie nights or binge watching an entire series – bonus points if it’s one of those controversial Netflix documentaries that turns all of your housemates into conspiracy theorists.
- The Jackbox Party Pack Game Series: You’ll need a laptop or console to hook up to the TV for this one but it’s super worth it. The idea is with each game you connect your phone up and use it as a gamepad to interact with a huge variety of crazy games – imagine Kahoot but in no way educational. With Quiplash you and one other player are given a prompt and must write the funniest answer which will then be sent to the voting round by the other players – the one with the most votes wins. Alternatively with Patendly Stupid you are presented with a problem and have to doodle a creation to solve this issue as well as giving your invention a name and tagline – once again it comes down to a vote as to which one is the most popular. That’s only two of the huge collection of games. There are currently 6 different Party Packs available with a 7th on the way soon so there’s loads of variety of games to choose from – it helps that each pack is pretty affordable and are always popping up on the Steam and Playstation Store sales so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
So those are our recommendations for making the most of online uni life, whether its work or play we hope these will be useful in helping you make this time more productive and enjoyable.