Digital degrees while staying stress free: A Student’s Guide to Managing Tech Overwhelm

Projectors and whiteboards are so 2019 — online platforms have become central to teaching at UBC. Zoom, Canvas, Collaborate Ultra and many more tech platforms are in, while their widespread use remains potentially overwhelming. The Ubyssey sat down with UBC students and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology to discuss the ‘tech overwhelm’ felt by the UBC community since classes moved online and what students can do to help manage it.

For Jade Fink, a second-year computer engineering student, having nearly a dozen assignments and events on her Canvas calendar per day was stressful. To manage her Canvas events, Fink implemented a filtering software that allows her to control what events and assignments are exported to her personal calendar.

“First, gain control of your own schedule,” Fink said. “If there’s something on the list, you should put it there. And nobody else should be doing that — because it feels really scary when people are putting stuff literally in your calendar.”

She explained that accessing filtering programs can be as easy as a Google search. Once you have your filtering site, simply import your Canvas calendar data, select the events that you want to filter out, then export it into your personal calendar.

Day planners and Excel spreadsheets are other ways that students can keep track of their assignments and deadlines to reduce stress.

“The Excel spreadsheet and the calendar filtering were both necessary, like, absolutely necessary,” Fink explained.

This is getting out of hand from r/UBC

First-year students face a unique set of challenges as they familiarize themselves with online platforms while adjusting to university.

Tania Cheng, a first-year Arts student based in Hong Kong, found that learning new tech added to the anxiety of managing a 15 hour time difference.

“It’s a bit confusing [and] a bit frustrating,” Cheng said about flipping between platforms for her classes. She explains that some of her classes have three or four platforms that she must monitor. To avoid getting overwhelmed, she recommends accessing and familiarizing oneself with the basic functions of these online tools early on.

“As time goes on, we kind of [get] used to it,” she said.

Keeping track of your assignments and documents is also crucial. “I like physical assignments being handed to me — I can easily track them,” said Markus Enns, a first-year Arts student.

To get around this, Enns resolved to immediately compile his digital files into folders. This way, his syllabus, assignments and course readings stay centralized.

Students also vocalized gratitude for their professors. Answering emails, patience with questions about platforms and being accommodating have greatly facilitated the transition to online schooling.

This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Christina Hendricks, academic director of the Centre for Teaching, Technology and Learning. She recommends that faculty open up a dialogue with their students about how they manage this new reality.

It is important for students to maintain a sense of patience on their end as well. “It’s been a hard move,” said Hendricks. She adds that just like students, when many faculty were hired, they weren’t necessarily planning on instructing online schooling.

She explains that the teaching technology tools used by faculty undergo a strict selection process in which privacy and security, as well as ease of use and usability, are considered.

Hendricks also shared several UBC resources that support students and faculty with tech accessibility.

Keep Learning offers tips and guides for online courses. The site recommends active participation, time management and asking for help to thrive in an online learning environment.

Learning Technology Hub is a resource which provides detailed tutorials for the most common tools used at UBC. The “Tool Guides” section of the site provides instructions and tips for nearly a dozen online platforms, including Zoom, Collaborate Ultra and Canvas.

Keep Teaching is directed more towards supporting faculty in online schooling but can provide students with an idea of the guiding principles faculty keep in mind when it comes to teaching online.

Other resources to help balance your pursuit of a digital degree include this blog post from UBC Life, which highlights ten tech resources to know for the fall (but it’s never too late to feel more confident in the platforms that you are using).

UBC IT, which works in collaboration with the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, also provides resources focused on student privacy and security. Privacy Matters @ UBC explains that students can be cybersafe by protecting their passwords, backing up data and learning to recognize phishing scams, where scammers will try to trick you into giving up personal data by posing as a trustworthy source.

These resources and the tips provided by UBC students can help in the management of technology central to being a student in 2020 and beyond. With the second semester also being committed to the digital sphere, finding ways to orient yourself online could help students unplug from their coursework with a renewed peace of mind.