How to Stay Productive During Virtual Learning Courses

In the last week, the recent spread of COVID-19 has and continues to disrupt life on-campus —  from study abroad programs being canceled to universities switching to online classes, and in some cases, having students move off-campus. If your usual class schedule has changed drastically, it can feel overwhelming, especially if this is your first time taking online classes. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious about this new shift in your routine, here are a few ways you can adjust (and thrive) as a remote learner.

Set Clear Boundaries With Your Home

Going from working in a classroom to working from your home can feel like a huge transition, especially if you’re only familiar with learning in a certain environment. By the nature of “work from home”, there are going to be a lot more distractions than in a traditional classroom.

If you’re moving back home for your online classes, try communicating clear boundaries with those you live with about your new schedule and expectations. Family members or friends may be happy to have you home, but it’s important to communicate that you are still focused on your schoolwork and classes for the remainder of the semester.

Limit Distractions

With a lack of a physical classroom, you also might be tempted to check your phone more during an online class. If you’re worried this might keep you distracted, turn off your phone or push notifications to eliminate that temptation. If this isn’t enough, try to set restrictions on certain apps during the hours of your classes.

Treat It Like Your In-Person Classes

If your classes are held in a large lecture hall, it might feel straight-up awkward handling a class from your home. One of the easiest ways to excel in an online class, according to Northeastern University, is by treating it just like a “real”, in-person class. For this reason, it may be helpful to still maintain your morning or evening schedule that you had on-campus.

For example, if you used to wake up an hour before your class in the morning, try to keep that morning ritual in check. Instead of using half of that time in the morning to walk or commute to your class, use it for yourself—make yourself breakfast or take some time to meditate before beginning your classes.

Communicate Actively With Your Professor & Classmates

Obviously, things are bound to change in your routine as you move from on-campus to virtual classes. Northeastern University recommends actively participating in your course's online form or with your peers to maintain that sense of community you had on-campus. If you often banked on study group sessions or office hours with your professor, see how you can otherwise connect with your class. Reach out to your professor directly if you have concerns about staying active in the class—they will most likely be understanding of the new virtual transition.

If your class has a group discussion or forum, stay active in asking or answering any questions—even more than you usually would. And if study sessions were the best way for you to review material, you might not be alone in that. Check to see if any other classmates are interested in an online study session or exam review.

Find the Study Habits That Work for You

In scouting a spot to complete online work, CNN recommends choosing a spot that matches your regular work environment. Try to recreate your old learning environment as much as you can. Set up a productive space at your desk, kitchen table or countertop. Avoid taking your online class from a space that overlaps your relaxation time, such as your bed or couch. Your work/life boundaries are just as important at home as they are on-campus.

If you prefer to dress more casual (looking at you, seniors), it can be very tempting to take advantage of the casual look while taking online classes. While wearing pajamas for class sounds like the dream, many remote professionals and work-from-home vets swear by getting dressed up for the day (or at least changing out your pajamas) to increase productivity. If getting dressed and ready for the day helps to motivate you, make that a priority in your morning routine. However, if staying in your pajamas for a few days makes you feel better, that’s okay too—it’s all part of figuring out what works best for your new routine.

Know You're Not Alone in This Adjustment

Going from having a million and one things to accomplish on your on-campus to-do list to only having to deal with your now-online classes can be stressful. You are working through an entirely new routine, and you should recognize that it may take some time to become adjusted. Don’t feel overwhelmed if you aren’t immediately feeling as productive or focused as you used to.

If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed in this new and sudden situation, know that you’re not alone. Consider reaching out to your on-campus coaching or counseling services—even if you’re learning from home, your university resources may still be able to help you in maintaining your personal wellness.