Knowledge Base: Get Ready for Digital Studying

Student with cat and laptop
Photo: Agcreativelab/Adobe Stock

No courses on campus, no office hours with faculty members, no face-to-face conversations with fellow students during breaks, no lunch at the dining hall or cafeteria, no time spent learning at the library, no sports courses on campus, no trips on overcrowded public transport. Many things that make up student life and offer a certain structure in our everyday life are not possible at the moment. Still, your studies continue! But how can that work considering the current circumstances?

The digital semester will be a new experience with many challenges for most of you. The team of the project “One University for Everyone – Organizing Inclusive University Studies” wants to support you while you try to cope with these challenges. Our knowledge base will provide you with practical information, inspiring impulses and specific exercises on different topics in relation to digital studies.

We hope you have fun reading and trying things out!


Ulrike Sträßner | Lucas Mielke, M.A.


Campus | Am Neuen Palais
Am Neuen Palais 10
14469 Potsdam
Building 8, Room 1.09 and 1.13


consulting hours
Telephone office hours:
Monday | 10 a.m. - 12 noon | Lucas Mielke
Thursday | 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. | Ulrike Sträßner

Planning and Organization

Planning and Organization
Photo: Pixabay

To be a successful student, you will need to make plans for each semester and organize your day-to-day life accordingly. To ensure that your studies progress according to plan under these changed circumstances, diligent planning has become more important than ever. You will have to adapt the study routine and learning strategies you used so far due to the shift to digital course and learning formats. Not being able to go to campus and participate in courses on site also means...

  • that, more than usual, your studies will take place in your own home and that you will have to make room for them there – both spatially and mentally.
  • that you will have to come up with strategies on how to have a lively “long-distance relationship” with your university.
  • that you might have to become more proactive and disciplined to reach your semester goals.
  • that you may not be able to fully realize all of your plans for the semester.
Planning and Organization
Photo: Pixabay
  • that you will have to meet various technical requirements in order to be able to fully participate.
  • that you will have to adapt to unfamiliar formats of teaching, learning, and examination.
  • that your learning speed and ability to concentrate will change.
  • that you will have to find new ways to get and stay in contact with teaching staff and fellow students.
  • that you will have to search for alternatives to various recreational offers and food supply options (such as university sports, student initiatives and clubs, dining halls, cafeterias).
  • that due to the general circumstances you will be – more or less strongly than usual – confronted with other challenges such as providing for yourself, family and care responsibilities, your immediate social circle or personal crises.
  • that you can organize your day-to-day schedule and your everyday life in a somewhat more flexible manner and save a lot of time on your commute, if applicable.
  • that you will make unexpected new experiences and see a new side of yourself and the university.

In order to cope with all these changes and to not lose sight of the requirements that come with them, it makes sense to analyze your individual situation in detail and to take a closer look at the current semester. Remember to not only consider the duties associated with studying, but also areas such as providing for yourself, family and social life, household and free time. Think about the goals you are pursuing in these areas.

You can find instructions for the analysis of your current situation here (currently only available in German).

Set dates for the requirements that you have identified and add them to your calendar. For you planning, it is advisable to consider different dimensions of time and, if necessary, to create several schedules. Planning on a scale that becomes increasingly smaller can ease the pressure of always having an eye on the “big picture” and will provide you with the necessary structure to help you reach your goals.

The following planning dimensions could be used by students:

Semester Schedule

Weekly Schedule

Daily Schedule

Check your planning at regular intervals. Weekly schedules are based on the semester schedule, while daily schedules depend on the weekly schedule. Adjust your schedule for the larger time frames if you realize that you need more or less time for the individual tasks or if your goals and priorities have changed.

Please consider the following information when planning and organizing your learning, work and everyday life during the digital semester:

  • Making schedules will help you get more organized while keeping an eye on personal goals and priorities. Your plans should be more detailed than they were in a usual semester with face-to-face courses. Detailed planning saves time and gives you more room to think – especially if you are struggling to make a decision at all.
  • Set priorities – both for your studies and for other aspects of your life. Ask yourself what would be realistic given the current circumstances.
  • Establish your own routine! Try to find a regular rhythm for your tasks which matches your performance curve. Use performance highs for your studies and lows for household chores, for example.
  • Make sure that your schedules are well-balanced. No aspects of your life should be neglected and your priorities should be reflected in the allotted time slots.
  • Adjust your learning and working habits to the current situation. Think about aspects of your usual preferred learning locations that you can transfer to the current situation. If applicable, try out various locations in your apartment and assign different tasks to them. If you prefer to learn in groups, set up a virtual meeting. You can find useful tips for digital learning, alone or in groups, here: Digital Learning.
  • Allow for some extra time to prepare for online courses taking place at fixed times so that you can set up and test the required technology. With regard to deadlines, you also should not upload your files at the last minute, but allow for some additional time.
  • Assign fixed time slots for you to work on material for courses that do not take place at fixed times. That way, you will not have too many tasks piling up in the last weeks of the semester.
  • Schedule plenty of preparation and follow-up time for each course you take.
  • Establish strict separations between time spent working and free time – if possible, also on a spatial level. If you only have one room where you do everything, make plans for an activity outside after work phases.
  • Make yourself aware of time slots that have freed up (e.g. no commute, social obligations, certain leisure activities) and decide what you want to use this time for.
  • Make sure you allow for enough breaks during longer work phases. If you spend most of the day in front of a computer screen or books, use breaks for varied activities that will boost circulation.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends!
  • Let your partner, roommate or family members know at what times you do not wish to be disturbed or negotiate such times with them. If possible, use these times to complete tasks that require your full concentration.

Goals and Priorities

Goals and Priorities
Photo: Pixabay

The digital semester has begun. It is now even more important than in the semesters taking place on site to acquire new knowledge independently and to create a structured study routine in the current situation. For this to succeed, it is necessary to give serious thought to specific short-, medium- and long-term goals! Goals are what guide our actions, structure our lives and, last but not least, provide motivation. Whether it is about “finally finishing that chapter” or “learning for the exam” – goals are omnipresent, but often also quite vague and disorganized. First of all, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What is important to you?
  • What are the subject-specific requirements?
  • What skills do you need in order to meet your goals?
  • And where will you start?

Our materials are designed to help you formulate goals realistically and with an eye on your resources, and to prioritize the many tasks that await you during the semester.

Goals and Priorities
Photo: Pixabay

Workspace and Learning Environment

Workspace and Learning Environment
Photo: Pixabay

Since university locations for studying and working are currently not accessible or only accessible to a limited extent, you will study mainly from home in the current semester. On the one hand, this can have a positive effect on your daily study routine, because you save time spent for commuting and might feel less pressed for time. On the other hand, you lack the variety and exercise that is automatically provided by going to university and switching between rooms and campuses.

Depending on what and how you study, you are more or less used to doing study tasks at home. In the current situation, you will now also need to attend your courses while at home. This brings your university and private life closer together in ways that are unfamiliar. In addition, many recreational activities currently have to take place at home. There is a considerable danger that the different areas of life – studies, private life and leisure time – will become strongly intertwined or that one area will overpower the others because the mental or spatial delimitation is not successful.

You should therefore consider the following with regard to your living situation:

  • Do all areas of life have a specific place in your room/apartment?
  • In the current situation, have you allocated a suitable space for your studies in your room/apartment where you can work well and concentrate?
  • What area of your room/apartment lets you take a step back from your studies? Which area should best not come into contact with your studies at all?
  • What can you temporarily change in your room/apartment to create more space for a specific area of your life?

Depending on the housing situation, it is not always possible to clearly separate the different areas of life from one another. In many cases there is no separate home office or desk available and the PC/laptop is used by several people.

In that case it is necessary ...

  • to ensure a clear time-based separation of the areas of life in the daily and weekly schedule.
  • to put away the used utensils after completing a work phase or leisure activity, so you will be able to devote yourself completely to the next item on the daily schedule.
  • to make clear agreements with the people in your household about the use of rooms and technology.

By consciously organizing your workspace and learning environment, you can make a significant contribution to ensuring that you can get through the digital semester in a comfortable and motivated manner and achieve your semester goals from home.

Workspace and Learning Environment
Photo: Pixabay

Ideas for the Organization of Your Workspace and Learning Environment

In order to feel connected to the university in times of social distancing and to feel a sense of belonging to your own field of study, it is important to maintain contact with fellow students, teaching staff and university institutions:

  • Network with other students! Get together for a virtual tea or coffee break to learn, work, write or share your experiences. Help each other out by telling the others what each of you want to accomplish in a certain period of time.
  • Take advantage of the opportunities offered by teaching staff for subject-specific discussions.
  • Look for interesting online offers from the university in addition to your courses and take advantage of them.

Challenges and Resources

Challenges and Resources
Photo: Pixabay

The digital semester is, to a certain extent, uncharted territory for all of us. Technical, organizational and interpersonal challenges have to be mastered and require different behavior than usual. In the next few weeks you will gain more and more experience in studying via the internet. This can sometimes be exhausting and stressful, but also exciting and rewarding. In order for you to experience the current semester in a positive way and make good use of it, it is important for you to identify the personal challenges you are currently facing and to know what resources you have at your disposal to meet these challenges.


The current situation has not only changed the conditions of university studies, but also has an impact on many other areas of life. The effects of the pandemic on your life can in turn influence your daily study routine. Ask yourself these questions:

Challenges and Resources
Photo: Pixabay
  • What challenges do you currently see for yourself - with regard to your studies, your private life, and any other aspects of everyday life?
  • What do you find particularly difficult at the moment? Which are the aspects you feel uncertain about? What is too much for you at the moment or not enough?
  • What do you find particularly easy at the moment? Which are the aspects you feel confident about?
  • What are you currently not satisfied with? What are you struggling with in particular?
  • What should remain the same in the future? What can you do to keep it that way?
  • What would you like to do differently in the future? What could be a first step to reach this goal?

In situations when all these new things and the many changes seem to be too much for you, the following thoughts might be helpful:

  • You have many strengths that can help you master challenges: Be aware of these strengths! Make plans on how you want to use your strengths to meet current challenges!
  • You have probably overcome many difficult situations throughout your life: Look back at these situations!
  • Even in the current situation, you can learn something about yourself and develop your personal competences: Think about what you can learn and practice in the current situation!
  • You do not have to meet all expectations – not even your own. It is okay not to invest the same amount of energy into all areas of your life: Make a plan for the minimum amount of work you want to get done that allows you to temporarily save up your energy without compromising your semester goals!
  • Everything does not have to happen immediately or at the same time. Do one thing after the other – step by step: Set priorities! Make realistic plans and break down overwhelming piles of work into small, feasible subtasks (see Planning and Organization).

When it comes to your routine as a student, the unfamiliar course formats as well as communication with faculty members and fellow students can be particularly challenging. For this reason, we have compiled a few tips for dealing with online course formats with fixed or flexible dates/times and for digital group work. You can find additional tips for digital learning at: Digital Learning.

Tips for online courses with fixed dates and times (webinar, group discussion etc.)

Tips for online courses with flexible dates and times (video presentation, slide collections, working on texts etc.)

Tips for digital group work

If you notice an increased tendency in yourself to postpone tasks during the digital semester, the following exercise might be helpful: Exercise “Get started, don’t procrastinate” (currently only available in German).


In challenging or overwhelming situations, people quickly start to feel small, powerless and incapable. Many then tend to see only what they don’t have or supposedly cannot do – the glass seems half-empty. If this outlook is adopted permanently, it leads to stagnation.

To successfully master challenging or overwhelming situations, it makes more sense to focus on what we have and can do. It is important to recognize that you have a wealth of different resources at your disposal and to make use of them.

If you want to take a closer look at your personal resources, the following exercise can help: Exercise “Finding Resources” (currently only available in German).

If you want to activate your resources for an upcoming task or current challenge, you can use the following exercise: Exercise “Activating Resources” (currently only available in German).

Relaxation and Rewards

Relaxation and Rewards
Photo: Pixabay

To get you through the digital semester with motivation and to enable you to work on your study goals with concentration, it is important that you take good care of yourself. Recharge your batteries by including regular periods of relaxation in your daily and weekly planning. Keep yourself motivated by giving yourself a small reward for completed study tasks.


On days where you have a lot to do for university and the tasks to be done do not offer much variety, it is particularly important to take small relaxing breaks in between. If, for example, after reading a text or actively participating in a webinar, your mind is buzzing with new information, take a 5-10 minute break! During these short breaks it is best to do something completely different – watering flowers, drinking tea or a relaxation exercise. That way, you can get a break from what you have just experienced and then work on the next task with concentration.

Come up with short activating or relaxing activities that you can do in a 5-10 minute break! Exercise “What to do on a break” (currently only available in German)

For short periods of relaxation in between, you can also sign up for the “Studi-Pausenexpress” of the University Athletic Department: Studi-Pausenexpress.

Just as important as the smaller breaks are longer relaxation phases, for example after a strenuous week or a day spent studying intensely. These downtimes are important to regain your strength. You should therefore stop working on your studies at least 1-2 hours before going to bed and instead, take care of your own well-being. Treat yourself – if possible – to work-free weekends or at least several hours of relaxation to start the new week refreshed and energized. What you do in these free periods depends on what you find relaxing. Reading, sports, handicraft, cooking, hiking – there are many possibilities.

Make a list of things you currently prefer to do in your spare time or would like to do in the future in order to relax and escape from the daily routine of studying! Exercise “What to do in your free time”  (currently only available in German)

Some ideas for self-care activities can be found here: Ideas for self-care (currently only available in German).

In addition to breaks and leisure time, good and sufficient sleep is crucial for your ability to perform and concentrate. Here are some tips for healthy sleep: Tips for healthy sleep (currently only available in German).

It is not always possible to be completely relaxed under the current circumstances. You might feel a lot of pressure because some things don't work out as planned or as you would like them to.

Relaxation and Rewards
Photo: Pixabay

Thoughts to Relieve Stress


You can deliberately include rewards in your everyday life to help with motivation. It works best for short-term goals like reading a text or writing a specific number of pages. The reward and the task should be proportionate, e.g. after a two-hour work phase in which you have reviewed a textbook chapter, reward yourself with your favorite hot beverage in a break of about 15 minutes.

Not every task in your daily or weekly plan needs to be followed by a reward. Instead, use rewards in a targeted manner for tasks that require a lot of self-discipline from you and for which you need additional motivation.

When planning your day or week, consider the tasks that would be easier for you if they came with a little reward: Exercise “Rewards” (currently only available in German).

Advising and Support Offers

Advising and Support Offers
Photo: Pixabay

The coronavirus pandemic has a lasting effect on students’ routines and ways of life: the semester abroad is canceled, practical school training or laboratory courses are not taking place as planned, there is uncertainty about financing aspects, and the ongoing social distancing puts a damper on everyone’s spirits. Plans for the future that have gotten all mixed up, the many rapid changes in a short period of time and the danger of infection can be perceived as very stressful and trigger feelings of loss of control, stress and anxiety. Not knowing when things will go back to normal is also difficult to bear.

In the long run, such stress can lead to changes on the following levels:

  • Emotions: restlessness, irritability, persistent sadness, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, anger, feeling overwhelmed
  • Behavior: emotional outbursts (crying, anger), social withdrawal, altered eating and sleeping behavior, increased tendency to use drugs and alcohol, procrastination
Advising and Support Offers
Photo: Pixabay
  • Physical well-being: Headaches, muscle tension, persistent fatigue, stomach and digestive problems, sleeping problems, susceptibility to diseases

If you notice such changes in yourself and realize that they cause you suffering, you can, first of all, do the following:

  • Acknowledge your feelings: Acknowledge that the situation is challenging for you and your feelings are therefore justified. Realizing this is important for you to be able to become more relaxed again.
  • Check your expectations of yourself and others: Analyze the situation and set suitable priorities. Think about what is realistic and unrealistic in the current situation. Realistic goals are more motivating.
  • Seek professional support and counseling: You can actively address many anxieties and worries related to your studies and your everyday life by gathering information and seeking advice on your options. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed, seek psychological support! If you just want to get your worries off your chest, Nightline always has an open ear.
  • Try to be patient with yourself: The digital semester will likely be more challenging than a normal semester. You might need more energy and self-discipline while also having difficulties concentrating and feeling less productive than usual. Ups and downs are normal and you will need time to get used to the new situation.
  • Look for constructive solutions: You might be unable to do things the way you are used to or wanted to due to the current situation. But there are certainly ways to get on with things or get out of this seemingly hopeless situation. Do your own research and turn to respectable and suitable advising and support offers for your special situation.
  • Draw upon your resources: Consider the personal resources you have at your disposal and focus on what you do have and on what does work. Write down things you are thankful for at the end of each day.
  • Create a new routine for yourself: Make plans for yourself, which will offer you orientation and stability. Make sure the different areas of your life are well-balanced. You should make plans to alternate between various activities. Avoid overburdening yourself, but don’t demand too little from yourself either.
  • Do things that are familiar to you: Routine and rituals will help you feel secure and can create normalcy. If applicable, reactivate rituals from your childhood/youth that you have fond memories of.
  • Let yourself unwind: Allow for phases of relaxation in your daily routine. In case of stress or anxiety, use relaxation techniques and mindfulness exercises.
  • Make use of the advantages offered by the situation: Think about the advantages of the current situation for you personally and make use of them (e.g. instead of standing in the crowded train, you can sleep a bit longer in the morning or have a long breakfast, read articles on the balcony in the sun, and have more flexible breaks).
  • Stay in touch with your social circle: Even if it seems difficult – at least one conversation per day. Get the support you need and offer support to others. Find creative ways to socialize. This can create meaningful connections even beyond the crisis.
  • Make sure you get enough exercise and go outside: Exercise and fresh air help reduce stress. Think about how you can continue your previous athletic activities under changed conditions or try something new if necessary. Take advantage of the online offers of the University Athletic Department.
  • Be good to yourself: Eat healthy food, drink enough water or sugar-free drinks and take care of your body.  Do not use any stimulating or intoxicating substances.
  • Get enough sleep: A regular sleep-wake rhythm will have a stabilizing effect on your day-to-day structure. Tips for healthy sleep (currently only available in German).
  • Limit your media consumption: If coronavirus news can lead to you worrying, overthinking or becoming anxious about things, limit your news consumption to one or two times a day. Instead, listen to motivating podcasts, audiobooks or music or read books.
  • Also use this unusual time for things that you’ve always wanted to do (learn a language, do handicrafts, take online classes, volunteer etc.).

If you have any questions about the various aspects of studying under the current conditions, please contact the following offices: