5 ways to stay focused while learning online

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2022


5 ways to stay focused while learning online

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many K-12 and college students alike have had to adjust to learning online. However, formal education doesn’t have a monopoly on virtual learning. There are many courses available for adults looking to expand their knowledge on subjects as varied as project management, statistics, climate resilience, and psychological first aid.

Some online courses provide professional certifications that can be helpful in the job market, especially in technical fields. Others pursue online classes in creative writing, the arts, or other subjects for the sheer joy of learning. Online learning can help people build new skills, support career growth, and introduce learners to new fields they may want to explore professionally from the comfort of their laptops.

While there are certainly benefits to online learning—like being able to take a course from anywhere in the world and learn from teachers in a different city or country—remote learning is not without its challenges. Online learning requires self-discipline to avoid the countless distractions on the internet and planned screen breaks to disconnect.

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Tovuti compiled a list of five tips that both full-time and more casual students can implement into their daily routines to stay focused while learning online. Some tips apply to in-person learning as well, while others tackle the idiosyncrasies of a virtual-learning environment.

Read on to learn some helpful online learning tips to boost your productivity.

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Develop a note-taking system that fits your learning style

Research suggests handwritten notes are actually better for learning and retaining information than typing notes. Some students even benefit from using a variety of colored pens or highlighters to visually break up the material. Another note-taking style that may appeal to the doodler or visual learner is to make drawings or diagrams to show relationships between concepts. If handwritten notes are not in your workflow, note-taking software such as Microsoft OneNote or Notion can help learners organize the material and even help them study. Virtual flashcards like Quizlet and Brainscape can also be useful for both revising notes and studying on the go.

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Take care of your body—meditate, exercise, eat well, and get good sleep

It makes sense that a healthy body makes for a more alert mind that’s ready to learn. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced world, students often skip out on healthy eating and sleep hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get seven or more hours of sleep per night. To get the most restful sleep, it’s best to put away electronics at least a half-hour before bed. Getting regular exercise is also important as it enhances memory and thinking skills. Something else to consider is mindfulness meditation, which improves cognition while reducing stress and even improves self-regulation over time.


Set up a dedicated, distraction-free study environment

When taking online classes, it can be tempting to work from the couch with Netflix in the background or even from bed. However, creating a distraction-free space that’s used exclusively for studying helps your mind switch to “study mode.” By putting your other devices away, turning off the TV, and eliminating distracting background music, it’s possible to retain more information in less time. Other distractions like hunger, thirst, or tiredness can be avoided by ensuring your body’s needs are taken care of. Make sure your space has enough light, but avoid the distracting glare of sunshine through a bright window.

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Create your own schedule for asynchronous courses

Some online courses have synchronous sessions where students meet virtually at a set time for a lecture, workshop, or discussion. Most online courses also have an asynchronous component where the learner can complete the coursework, reply to discussion threads, and submit assignments on their own schedule. It can be tempting to procrastinate, but creating a schedule can help prevent workloads from piling up and becoming overwhelming. Time management skills are correlated with lower levels of anxiety and better grades. Consistent scheduling also helps online learners stick to a routine and manage all areas of their lives.

fizkes // Shutterstock

Find opportunities to actively participate

Online classes make it easy to be anonymous and get by without much participation. However, students often learn more and find classes more enjoyable when they actively participate. Connecting with classmates can further learning and even forge networking opportunities down the road. Participating in discussions, asking questions, and actively listening to your teacher and other students will help you connect concepts to one another and understand the material more deeply. This sort of active participation in your online classes can also pay off down the line when you begin requesting letters of recommendation or professional references for a job.

This story originally appeared on Tovuti
and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.