Remote learning tips for students: how to stay focused and productive
In March, we asked students to share their best tips for succeeding at distance and remote learning. From choosing a designated study space to minimizing distractions by putting your phone away, you all gave great suggestions!
As we head back to school this fall, students will encounter challenges similar to those they faced in the spring. Adjusting to a new format of school has proven to be difficult and stressful for most. While there may be uncertainty this school year, there are things you can do to ensure a successful remote experience.
Here are some more tips to help you succeed in remote learning.
Let your family or roommates know when you have class
It's embarrassing when your mom yells at you to clean your room while you're in a Zoom class. Or when your little brother bothers you while you're trying to take an online test.
To minimize interruptions, communicate with your family and/or roommates and tell them when you'll be in class. Hang your class schedule on your door, or somewhere near your study space. A simple "do not disturb" sign will also work.
Break down your to-do list
In our last post, we suggested making a list of assignments to stay organized and on top of things. However, sometimes those lists can feel overwhelming, especially when you have a very busy schedule. So, after you've made a larger list of assignments, create smaller daily to-do lists. Break down your list to the tasks you absolutely have to get done that day.
A smaller to-do list can help bigger tasks seem more manageable, and keep you focused throughout the day. Additionally, during this time of uncertainty, it's important to celebrate the little wins, like completing a problem set or getting through half of your assigned reading. Every completed task counts!
Build a routine and try to stick to it
Keeping a routine is challenging when going to school online. When school is in person, you have to get out of bed at a certain time to make it to class. When you're learning remotely, it's all too tempting to sleep in until five minutes before class starts. But starting off your day rushing to get onto a Zoom call is less than ideal, to say the least.
To create a sense of normalcy and purpose, create a routine for the school week. Get up at the same time every day (not five minutes before class), and go to bed at the same time.
As nice as it can be to stay in your pajamas all day, change into a new set of clothes in the morning. Getting out of your pajamas or sweats will help you differentiate between time to work and time to relax. You should also set aside time to watch lectures, do homework and eat.
Watch asynchronous lectures as soon as possible
While it can be tempting to just watch your lectures "later," it's smart to try to watch lectures as soon as your teacher or professor posts them. It can be easy to fall behind when you're learning remotely. Watching lectures at a designated time each day can help create a routine and a sense of normalcy. While it may be nice to get an extra hour of sleep, it's not fun to have to catch up on a dozen hour-long lectures the night before the test.
Watch recorded lectures with a friend
If you happen to share a class with a friend, try watching the asynchronous lectures together. Set up a time that works for both of you, and Zoom or FaceTime while watching the lecture.
This can help keep you accountable, since you won't want to let your friend down. It will make watching the lecture more enjoyable. And you and your friend can ask each other questions about the lecture or review topics after watching.
In addition to boosting motivation and productivity, this is also a great way to stay in touch with people you were used to seeing on a daily basis. It's really easy to feel isolated while remote learning. Setting up a time to meet with a friend on a regular basis, even if just to watch lectures together on Zoom, can help maintain connections with friends and classmates.
Make a study music playlist
Many people like listening to music while studying, as a way to block out distracting noises and focus. But listening to music can actually be distracting if you find yourself paying too much attention to the lyrics in the songs, or spending time looking for a new song after the previous one ends.
Because of this, many students like to create long study playlists of instrumental music, such as classical music or film scores. This type of music can also be calming, helping reduce stress while studying.
One student commented on a previous blog post:
"If you listen to music while studying, always listen to music without words (such as film scores). ...Make long playlists rather than searching the internet for each new song. Listening to theme/soundtrack music always motivates me when doing math!"
Here are some YouTube playlists you can try:
- Lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to
- Classical Music for Studying & Brain Power | Mozart, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky
- Deep Focus - Music For Studying, Concentration and Work
Reorganize your study space for the new semester
Choose a study space to work from at home and get it ready for the school year. This doesn't have to be a separate room, or even a dedicated desk if you don't have the space. You can work at any table, or in your bedroom. Just be wary of getting too comfortable. You don't want to fall asleep.
Even if you don't have a separate dedicated space in which to study, you can organize your school supplies to prepare for the school year.
If your study space is in a communal space, for example, the dining room table, use a caddy, your backpack or another bag to move your stuff from place to place. Before things get busy, try to organize your things so you can easily find what you need, when you need it.
Go outside each day
When you're learning remotely, it's easy to stay inside all day and stare at your computer or your phone. Taking regular breaks is important, but try to ditch the screen and go outside for at least one of your breaks.
Take a walk around the block, go to a park, or spend some time in your backyard. Psychological research has found that spending time in nature has restorative effects, improving one's ability to focus and concentrate.
Be kind to yourself
It's a challenging time right now for everyone. With the craziness of last spring, teachers and students alike are still learning how to effectively teach and learn online. There's going to be a learning curve, and that’s okay.
Try your best, but be kind to yourself this semester. It's okay if you sleep through your 9 a.m. class, forget to turn in an assignment, or don't do as well on a test as you would have liked. We're all finding our way together.