The Year Ahead: Six Steps to Maximize Online Learning

As schools continue to grapple with COVID-19, much remains uncertain. Undoubtedly, the 2020–2021 school year will be unlike any other. Though many schools still have their sights set on reopening, at least some degree of online learning to start the year seems inevitable. Many schools are working towards a “hybrid” of online and in-person instruction. And although online instruction can be challenging, there are several things students can do to maximize the experience:

1. Dedicate a space. Working from home can create a difficult overlap between work and play. Getting into “work mode” can be difficult when our brains are used to home being a place to relax. The best way to combat this relaxation spillover is to dedicate a particular space in your house that will be for online learning. Whether this is an office, the desk in your room, or a table in the basement, commit to doing all of your schoolwork in that location. Don’t give in to the temptation of “class on the couch.” Teach your brain that when you’re in that space it’s time to focus.

2. Set a daily routine. Similarly, working from home can blur the formal schedule of in-person instruction. While this may be great for cutting your commute to school, too lax a schedule will mean losing valuable study time and missing class instruction. Be disciplined in the time you set out for school: set a daily time to get up and plan to “go to school” for around the same amount of time as your in-person hours. Do homework between classes and commit to staying on top of your studies.

3. Minimize distractions. Our phone’s chime or vibration is already hard to ignore. But with online learning, instructors can’t ensure students are paying attention. Without accountability, checking your phone can become a routine habit during lulls in the lecture. The best remedy is to remove the temptation altogether; turn off your phone and set it out of reach. Several websites and apps also exist to block distracting content in class. Check these out if you’re easily distracted or if turning off your phone sends shivers down your spine.

4. Take breaks. As part of setting and maintaining a schedule, you should also be sure to set out time for breaks. Unlike school, with regular passing periods and lunch with friends, working from home can be isolating and tiring. Make time to take the dog for a walk, call a friend, or read a book outside. Taking purposeful breaks will make you more productive when it’s time to focus.

5. Actively participate. Online instruction can seem like you’re a step removed from the process. Fight against the tendency to passively “receive” instruction. Instead, actively take notes during your classes and participate on the mic or in breakout rooms when possible. This will make your learning experience more valuable and engaging.

6. Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Remember, online classes are temporary. These are challenging times, but we will get through them. Ultimately, maintaining your studies and focusing on the road ahead can help to motivate you on the days when you’re ready to throw in the towel. Your hard work will pay off.