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5 Study Tips for Online Learning during COVID-19

Transitioning to online studies can be a hard move, especially if you are completely new to online or cloud-based learning. Here are my top 5 tips to help you adapt to online studies and keep your motivations up throughout the semester.

1. Prepare your study area

When you are transitioning from classroom-based learning to studying from home, it is important to have a dedicated space for your learning. This will help you settle in and get into the mindset of studying.

The first thing I did to help me transition to online study was setting up a dedicated desk. I ensured all the important tools for my study were kept there such as my headphones, hard drives, stationery and books. I also added some small decorations to personalise the area so I can feel more relaxed. This has greatly helped me get into the mindset of ‘showing up for work’ at home.

If you live in a shared or confined space, this might not be possible or easy to accomplish. If this is the case, try to claim an area of the kitchen or dining room table and make sure your family or housemates are aware of the space you are claiming for your studies.

Once you’ve setup your study area, treat it like a productive workspace. Make sure you keep your study area tidy and organised as clutter is very distracting and can cause you to lose focus. If your space is not tidy, then set yourself 15-30 minutes before you start to tidy up the area around you. Don’t give yourself too long as that can be a form of procrastinating.


2. Establish a routine – and stick to it!

Once you have created a study space, it is important to establish a regular study routine. Remember, we are all creatures of habit and you can use this to help you get into the mindset to study. Setting aside dedicated and regular blocks of time is just as important as creating your study space.

We all have different preferences on how and when we like to learn, and this is one of the benefits of online or home study. It is important to find out when you are most productive, and if you prefer long study sessions or a lot of short bursts.

Once you have established your preferences, then remember to schedule in your study time accordingly. How much time you devote to each of your study sessions will depend on your subject’s estimated study hours, workload and work/family commitments.

Personally, I am more productive in the evening, so I tend to organise my studies before and after dinner. Lectures and readings will tend to be before dinner, while writing assignments and tasks I schedule for after dinner. This also works around my work commitments, but I have friends who prefer to wake up early and do their studies before they start work in the morning.

If you are scheduling routine study sessions, remember to factor in your breaks. You don’t need to roster your breaks, just make sure you set limits on how many breaks you can take, and how long your breaks will be. Make sure you stick to this otherwise a short break can turn into a binge-watching session on Netflix.

3. Block out distractions

One of the biggest productivity killers when you’re transitioning to online study is distraction, and our homes tend to be filled with distractions. There’s social media, TV, internet, video streaming, games, YouTube, family, books, and the list goes on…

Blocking out distractions is much easier said than done, but there are some tips and applications that can help you. My first tip is to leave your phone on the other side of the room or in another room. The most important thing is to keep it out of arm’s reach and make it harder for you to procrastinate.

Another productivity tip is to use website blockers, and many offer additional productivity features and can cover multiple platforms and devices. Some of the popular blockers include:

Depending on the website blocker, you would find that some are completely free but others require a once-off or reoccurring payment to use. Most offer free trials to help you decide if the paid programs are worth the extra investment. I have used these types of programs in the past and they have helped me during stressful times when I really need to focus.


4. Track your progress in milestones, not minutes

When you’ve started up your study routine, it’s tempting to track your progress on the time you’ve spent at your desk, but this might not be the best way to track how you are going.

Make sure you track your progress against your actual study goals as opposed to how long you spent re-reading the same paragraph over and over again.

The easiest way is to set your goals before you start your study session. Think about what you want to accomplish in your study session and break it down into achievable milestones. An example of this can be the goal of catching up on a week’s worth of reading, so your individual milestones might be the articles or chapters you need to read.

Remember to keep your milestones realistic and achievable. Don’t give yourself too much to set yourself up for failure, and don’t give yourself too little that you are done in half the time.

A good way to track your progress is on a to-do list. This can be on your desktop, Word document or using pen and paper. If you want a task tracker with additional features, virtual kanban boards such as Notion, Trello or Asana can help with this. I use Notion since the paid version is free for students. Whatever system you decide to use, just remember to keep it close to you so you’re reminded of all the ‘right’ things you should be working on.

If you don’t achieve your milestones, don’t beat yourself up. You’ll learn how to better time or pace yourself with practice, and just make sure you give yourself enough time to accomplish those milestones in your next study session.

5. Start or join a virtual study group

Making a sudden switch from a bustling classroom environment to the solitude of home study can be a very daunting and difficult switch. Just because you are self-isolating, this doesn’t mean you are alone, many of your classmates are in the same situation as you.

If you are the type of person that gets energised and motivated by speaking to your classmates and peers, then perhaps it’s time to reach out and set up a virtual study group. You can set up a social media group and organise a time for your virtual study group. Some of the major options for group video calls are:

If you’re new to your university or class, then contact your teacher or lecturer to see if there are any groups going, or a way for them to assist you with reaching out to your peers to start a study group.


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