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Convenience is one of the many reasons for the increasing popularity of online schools over the last few years. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, online schools have now become more than just convenience — they have become necessary to allow students to continue their education while keeping themselves and their loved ones safe from the spread of COVID-19.

As any parent or online school enrollee must have learned by now, staying focused while studying at home is the most challenging part of taking an online course.

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

It takes strong determination and a positive mindset to form highly effective study habits, and these tips can help you overcome the challenges of studying at home for your online classes.

1. Have a positive study mindset

Online (and offline) students should look at studying with a positive mindset. For instance, instead of thinking that you can’t get anything in your head because of the short period allotted to study time, think of it as an opportunity to make the most of and use it to learn subjects you are passionate about.

A positive approach to studying will open your mind to learning, as compared to studying while distracted by personal issues and other worries. It also helps if you don’t compare yourself to others, which can further negatively impact how you view studying.

2. Determine your learning style

In order to study more effectively, determine by which manner you best absorb new material.

There are four major learning styles:

  • Visual learning style: Drawing, making posters, writing on index cards and using colors are extremely beneficial to visual learners. Use these tools to learn and study.
  • Auditory learning style: As its name implies, auditory learners prefer to listen to an audiobook or mp3 files over reading books in order to absorb new information.
  • Kinesthetic learning style:  A tactile learner learns by doing and touching. As a hands-on learner, students with this type of learning style prefer to build, move, touch or draw.
  • Read & Write learning style: Read and write learners prefer to learn through words. In class, these students may manifest as fervent note-takers or avid readers. They’re also known to interpret abstract concepts into words and essays

Remember that what works for others may not work for you, so tailor your studying habits to the learning style that suits you best rather than trying to copy what your peers are doing.

3. Take some lecture notes

Aside from the absence of face-to-face classes, attending online school is much like taking on-campus courses. As such, take lecture notes as you would while listening to your professor in a classroom. While sitting comfortably in your own study area, write down notes and highlight important points to use for reviewing later.

It’s worth remembering that you have to prepare appropriately by checking the lecture and webinar schedules, as well as reading relevant materials.

4. Look for a conducive study area

It may sound like a cliché, but the library, the corner of your quiet and quaint coffee shop, as well as student study halls, are some of the best places to study. These places are a few of the several locations where you can concentrate and prevent distractions.

Looking for a place to replicate this mood at home is difficult. You can’t avoid your parents or children turning the TV volume up, and often you can’t resist opening your Instagram or other social media accounts. At home, there are tons of things that seem more interesting than the reading materials in front of you.

To solve this problem, assign a place inside your home (or outside, if that works for you, too) where you can study without these distractions. Do not do anything else in this study place other than bury your head in your books or lecture notes.

5. Set your study goals

Sometimes, all you need to do in order to get things done is to set goals. Try writing down realistic study goals on sticky notes and place them in the prominent areas of your study room or create the notes on your phone or laptop to keep you motivated.

More than writing things down, try your best to finish these objectives in a timely manner. This is the reason why you need to make your goals attainable according to your own pace. More than anything, achieving them does not mean you have to skimp on taking much-needed breaks.

6. Plan properly

Because too many distractions can take a huge chunk of your study time, you may need to keep a thorough schedule to prioritize important tasks, such as online class and study time, as well as accommodate other equally important household chores.

Not too different from goal-setting, planning makes use of your day more productively. Individuals who don’t keep a daily activity plan or schedule are likely to forget important tasks or take too little time to study, resulting in poor online school performance.

7. Create a timetable

After planning your schedule, create a timetable to properly manage your time and make sure you stick to your schedule. Write your starting hours, set your break times and clearly indicate the subjects you’re studying to ensure that you don’t miss out on some topics.

8. Avoid unnecessary delays

Now, here comes the difficult part—because you’re staying at home and moving at your own pace, it’s also so easy to procrastinate, and you have to do your best to manage that impulse. Do not leave important things like studying undone or spend too much time watching TV, bingeing Netflix or checking out your social media accounts.

If you are really hitting a block in your studying, you can veer away from your plan a bit, and push yourself to try performing other smaller tasks, even if it’s not related to school, so that you can get other necessary tasks done and feel more productive rather than discouraged.

This way, you get motivated to do more once you tick off one of the simple tasks in your to-do list.

9. Finish house chores before studying

Despite being an important part of keeping your home conducive to online learning, household chores can cause distractions, preventing you from effectively studying. Don’t allow household chores to get in the way of your online learning.

A simple way to do this is to finish all chores even before setting down to study. This allows you to focus on learning without anxiety about other tasks hanging over your head, and to relax after you’re done studying.

10. Have the right study tools

It’s a given that you have to have a computer with a decent processor and a good internet connection for online school. And, as with having traditional in-person classes, you should have your notebook, sticky notes, pens, highlighters, books, papers and other materials beside you. In many cases, you may need to have a printer with you, too.

Have a comfortable table and chair to make your study area more conducive to productivity.

11. Break down heavy tasks

Taking post graduate online classes, such as a Masters in Nursing (MSN) course, can be overwhelming. Aside from the academic demands, on-hand or practical nursing applications are likewise required. The same is true for many other professional courses that ordinarily use on-the-job learning experiences. However, these can be more difficult to achieve due to COVID-19 hazards, so your course may compensate by creating online tutorials and labs to complete instead.

In order to manage these demands, separate online school into parts and arrange them based on the most to the least urgent. By doing this, you will prevent yourself from spending too much time on unimportant things. Aside from this, simplifying and arranging tasks can help manage your time better, making you more efficient and productive.

12. Take some breaks

A danger of attending online school is overdoing things. In some instances, you get too wrapped up in what you’re doing or reading that you forget to take time to pause and clear your head.

Oftentimes, in your rush to finish everything, you forget to take much-needed breaks. Too much studying makes you feel tired too easily and may prevent you from processing information properly.

Getting outside for a short run or walk, or simply stepping away from your study area to smell the roses, so to speak, can refresh your mind and help you learn more effectively after your break.

Contrary to popular belief, not taking breaks may actually stretch your study time longer, as your brain could suffer from information overload, and, in turn, could make learning new things a struggle.

13. Eat healthy and on-time

This fast-paced and busy world can take a toll on your health, forcing you to favor fast food over healthy meals that consume too much time to prepare.

Like a machine, your brain needs to be ‘fueled’ properly—ever heard of the word “hangry”? Food provides nourishment to our brains. Plus, eating (while stepping out of your study area) can also count as taking a break.

Lack of food can also cause trouble sleeping, poor memory and difficulties in problem-solving — things that you need to avoid if you want to keep your brain in tiptop shape.

14. Join or create group chats

Believe in the saying that two (or more) heads are better than one.  Create a group chat with your course mates to promote collaboration. A group chat encourages you and your classmates to discuss lessons, share your reactions, review notes and study tips and so much more.

To ensure that the group chat is valuable and useful, decide on which topics to discuss ahead of time and stick to these topics.

Together, you can enjoy and make the most out of your online class. Besides, a more social approach to learning may help your mental health, too, especially amid the pandemic.

15. Keep in touch with your professors

One of the keys to succeeding in online school is having good relations with your professors. Being aware of any developments in your course is imperative in this learning set-up, and you need to contact your professors often to achieve this.

Do not hesitate to raise questions about the lectures or anything more specific. Contact them as well if you have academic or even personal concerns. They can offer proper advice on subjects that impact your school performance, depending on the level of the relationship.

Just be patient in waiting for an email response, because your professors are under immense pressure to fulfill all teaching tasks, too.

16. Choose the right time to study

Circadian rhythms, or your body’s clock, differ from one person to another. There are individuals who are more active in the morning, while others are more productive at night. Determine which time of the day you are most productive and schedule your study period during this time. Studying when your brain is most alert can help you to process and retain information more efficiently.

Traditionally, some students are tied to having morning classes, going home extremely tired early in the evening, sleeping, and forgetting about studying or doing assignments until the next morning. One of the greatest advantages of enrolling yourself in an online school is that you can “attend” classes whenever you want.

17. Celebrate small wins

Besides taking a break, celebrating small wins can help you stay motivated. Reward yourself after completing a task, especially one that really took a lot of time and effort on your part. Do it as soon as you can so you don’t forget and get buried in another task that ultimately leads to burn out.

Accomplishing tasks on time not only helps you stay inspired, it also encourages you to take on more difficult ones.

18. Always set an end time for studying

You may have a hard time leaving a task unfinished. With studying for your online class, it’s so easy to push yourself to complete everything at once and later burn out.

Traditional work and school schedules are there for a reason, and a typical work or school day consumes eight hours. While some can work and study overtime, you can only do so much in one day.

In making a plan or arranging our study schedule, stick to the eight-hour rule as much as possible. If you need to extend, do not go more than 10 hours to give your brain some time to refresh.

19. Use a timer

Often, you’ll have difficulty keeping track of time once you’re deep into something, like studying. Using a timer can help you stick to the timetable you created.

Set the timer to alert you of your starting time, break times and end times. In this manner you can concentrate better on the tasks at hand instead of pausing whatever it is you’re doing just to check on the time.

20. Get some much-needed shut-eye

Adults need at least seven hours of sleep daily in order to function properly the next day. Sleeping is an important means to facilitate cell regeneration and maintenance of proper bodily processes, contributing to our overall well-being.

By getting enough sleep on a regular basis, your brain stays refreshed, alert and always ready to process and retain information.

Key Takeaway

Whether taking online or in-person classes, a student can commit to minor lifestyle tweaks in order to practice effective study habits.

There is no one-size-fits-all advice, so you’ll have to see what works best according to your situation, see how it goes and adjust according to your study goals.