Tag Archives: online school

“covid learning” could revolutionize school for students with anxiety at UT

Heart beating, palms sweating, stomach churning, intensifying fear: These are all symptoms of social anxiety. Socially anxious students may be avoiding these symptoms this semester with the aid of the current era of remote learning. 

“It feels like my body is frozen…(like) a bucket of water drops on you. I want to speak but I can’t.”

Claudia Juárez, UT Austin Sophomore

In the age of COVID-19, pre-recorded classes are used to keep students safe from the pandemic, but these classes could also benefit students with social anxiety. Pre-recorded classes can reduce or eliminate the triggers of social anxiety present in in-person classes. There is currently an online petition created by members of the UT student government to continue the offering of distanced learning for students with disabilities such as social anxiety even after COVID-19 has eased.

“I was having anxiety attacks my first day (of class) every time I went somewhere new,” said Mackenzie Ulam, president of the UT chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Approximately 12% of Americans will experience debilitating social anxiety defined by significant impairment in regular functioning during the course of their lives, the National Social Anxiety Center reports. 

The emergence of an anxiety disorder can occur at any age but often will surface during a person’s teens or 20s, the UT Student Affairs Division wrote on its website. This age range means students often experience the emergence of social anxiety during college, potentially impacting their learning experience.  

“(In class) I don’t… want to ask certain questions,” Juárez said. “‘Cause it’s like I go to UT, am I really going to ask this? Everyone’s going to think I’m dumb. Even the professor might think I’m dumb and call me out on it.”

The fear of being perceived as dumb is a common trait in those with social anxiety. This fear can be triggered by numerous scenarios. Triggers of social anxiety include: introducing yourself, “small talk” with classmates, asserting your needs with those in authority such as professors and answering or asking questions in a formal setting, reports the UT Student Affairs Division. 

“You’re having to deal with having to do two things at once: trying to learn the content and trying to work through…anxiety,” said Althea Woodruff, UT’s project coordinator for well-being in learning environments. “You’re basically having to do double or more of the work emotionally and academically.” 

Last semester, UT student government officials introduced a petition in coordination with disability justice advocates to ensure access to online material such as recorded lectures to aid students with social anxiety and other disabilities even after the pandemic eases.

Vinit Shah, UT’s student government chief of staff, said recorded lectures aid students because they cannot just ignore their anxiety. 

“There is no way to challenge yourself out of anxiety,” Shah said. “It’s like learning to swim. When professors say… ‘just get over it,’ it’s really insulting…it’s like expecting a baby to be an Olympic swimmer right off the bat.”

Students with social anxiety may already be eligible for certain accommodations through UT’s services for students with disabilities department. However, accommodations are decided on a case-by-case basis rather than having pre-created accommodation plans available. 

Students must go through a five-part plan to qualify for accommodations. This plan includes providing documentation of their disabilities in an approved format by the department, scheduling and attending an intake appointment with the department, completing multiple forms and signing multiple documents, reports the department on their website

Woodruff said that having recorded lectures available is the type of accessible accommodation that gives students much-needed flexibility. 

“It lets the students know that you actually care about them and you’re being empathetic to their situation,” Woodruff said. “You want to try to be as accommodating as you can to as many students as you can.”

Featured Image by Kara Fields

Tips for Creating a Work Environment at Home

Classes at UT Austin are back in session, but unlike ever before they are commencing amidst a global pandemic. For many students, this means a semester full of uncertainty and adaptation especially when it comes to classes. Students are spending more time at home then ever before and the adjustment can be challenging. 

In the comfort of your own bed, you can attend lectures, talk with your professor and even take a test. It sounds like a dream come true, but in reality students are struggling to find a routine, become productive and manage their mental health. It is easy for your home to become a place of stress and responsibility instead of relaxation and nourishment. 

Regardless of if you are living in a small West Campus apartment, or a large family home, creating a work environment where you live is essential for success this semester. Here are some ways to create a space that promotes productivity, encourages rest and allows for growth and learning. 

  1. Finding your Space

Privacy is a luxury when it comes to staying home and it can be really hard to focus with families and roommates all around. When picking a place to work here is what to consider.

Assess the environment in which you like to learn. Do you like a lot of noise, some sounds, or no sound at all? If you like peace and quiet it might be best to pick a bedroom or a closet, but if you like a lot of sound and movement pick the living room or a kitchen island.

 It’s also important to note that having more than one study space is a great way to break the monotony of online school. Try separating certain tasks into certain settings. For example, when you attend class and want a quiet setting move to a small bedroom or maybe even a patio or backyard, but don’t be afraid to sit in the living room with other roommates while filling out your planner or copying notes from a powerpoint slide. 

  1. Setting up your Space

Truthfully, the way you decorate and organize your desk can be more important than its location. A cluttered desk often reflects in the quality of your study time and work. Similarly, the more organized and personalized your desk is the more likely you are to have a productive and motivated study session. 

The best way to avoid a cluttered desk is to not keep too many things on your desk. A storage organizer for your notebooks, pens, pencils and folders will help to contain the clutter. The more blank space you leave on your desk, the more room you have to spread out your study materials 

Secondly, it is important to make your desk a welcoming environment. Not only does a personalized space encourage you to study, it can also make studying more comfortable. Here are some ideas on how to personalize your desk:

  • Add pictures of your friends and family
  • Switch out your LED lamp for a warm-lit salt lamp or Christmas lights
  • Add a fuzzy blanket or pillow to your desk chair
  • Brighten your desk with a plant or greenery
  • Place a vision board above your desk
  • Add small knick-knacks or fidget toys to your desk
  • Add a candle or a small essential oil diffuser
  • Get a small weekly or monthly desk calendar