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Student looking at their laptop
September 1, 2020
3 mins read

Tips for taking online classes in another time zone

Navigating Online Learning

Taking online classes in a different time zone can feel like a pretty big challenge, perhaps particularly so when they are synchronous—meaning you have to attend class in real time.

Since Hermione Granger, Doraemon, and Celebi (all characters from my childhood, lol) aren’t around to transport us through time, I connected with 4 undergrads for their experiences and advice on taking courses in a time zone that wasn’t Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7).

Read on to get their insightful tips on how to stay motivated, organized, and well while taking online classes!

Meet your peers

Charul, 2nd year Arts | UTC+5:30

Charul took FREN 123 in Term 2 during the 2019 Winter Session. She explains, “The course was synchronous, with classes happening thrice a week at 2:30 am for me. It was a small class with around 40 students and was entirely discussion-based, so there were no recordings of the class available, either.”

Hejia, 3rd year Arts | UTC+8

Hejia’s summer included taking FMST 316 (asynchronous), ASIA 319 (synchronous), FMST 314 (asynchronous), and SOCI 303 (one synchronous class each week, plus some asynchronous recordings). “I had to wake up early or stay up late for synchronous courses,” Hejia shares. “As for my asynchronous classes, I was able to watch the recordings when I felt more prepared and focused.”

Mikaela, 4th year Fine Arts | UTC-3

Mikaela took 2 classes; both were asynchronous. The most challenging part about taking courses for Mikaela was staying on top of the deadlines. She had to frequently translate the due date (more specifically, the due time) from PDT to ADT.

Vivian, 3rd year Arts | UTC+8

Vivian took PSYC 314, a course where attendance in real time was optional. She preferred taking it in real time—but found that she would accidentally miss it at times and have to catch up afterwards. However, she does appreciate how the asynchronous format allows her schedule to be more flexible.

Get the advice

Asynchronous courses

  • “With recorded lectures, I think that it was important to maintain pace with the class, and not leave all the lectures to be watched right before exams!” (Charul)
  • “Make a to-do list or a schedule that is suitable for you.” (Vivian)

If you can’t attend class live (hence the “asynchronous” label), it’s okay! Try setting up a regular schedule for reviewing the recorded lectures—watching them with someone else (even a pet!) can help you feel more connected and motivated. 

Definitely stay caught up, though—the more lectures you miss, the less likely you’ll actually want to watch them as other deadlines pile up...and then exams will strike. I’m sure that Dr. Strange, in peering into our 14,000,605 futures, would advise that we do all that we can to avoid this outcome!

Synchronous courses

  • “Make sure to keep your professor in the loop about any challenges you are facing with online courses, and with the difference in time zone, so you can get the relevant aid and concessions!” (Charul)

You may have to adjust your sleep schedule for synchronous courses. If a course takes place late at night for you—and you have to attend in real time—consider taking the course in a bright area, preparing some snacks, and still trying to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.

In addition, if you don’t live on your own, put on earphones if you do have to watch your lectures late at night (or during other times when those you’re living with may not particularly appreciate hearing an online lecture).

If you find it overwhelming to take synchronous courses from the time zone you’re in, reach out to your instructors for possible accommodations and to explore your options.

4 bonus pro tips 

1. Prepare yourself for tech issues—and pay attention to time zone details

“Scheduled Canvas maintenance would get announced on Canvas in advance, but the time would be Pacific Daylight Time. I once did not notice this difference and took a quiz—only to have the system shut down part way through. Also, some UBC sites have to be accessed via VPN—so try using it if you can’t load a webpage.” (Hejia)

2. Use strategies to help you keep track of due dates

“I have a watch that shows me both times (PDT & ADT)! It also helps to write everything in my calendar to keep track of things.” (Mikaela)

“Try to be in the same course section as your friends, or people you know, so you can remind one another of important due dates.” (Vivian)

P.S. If you have yet to do so, update your time zone preference on Canvas to help you better keep track of your deadlines! 

3. Reach out when you need help 

“Don't be afraid to openly talk to your professor about your concerns! Remember that this is also new for many of them, so if you have any suggestions they may be open to hearing them!” (Mikaela)

4. Consider the bright side

“It's important to remain positive! Look at the upsides of getting to spend time with your family, or perhaps your friends from your hometown.” (Charul)

Taking courses in another time zone may not always be ideal, but you can see this as an opportunity to practice self-discipline and to understand what motivates you. Good luck in your courses this fall, and remember to take breaks, too!