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With the rise of online learning, Tovuti compiled a list of five tips for studying successfully for full-time and casual online students.

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 taking a course from anywhere in the world and learning 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.

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 also apply to in-person learning, while others tackle the idiosyncrasies of a virtual learning environment.

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

1. 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 break up the material visually. 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 revising notes and studying on the go.

LEARN MORE With so much learning being done online, a learning management system (LMS) is an easy way to ensure unique, engaging online learning experiences.

UPDATE: LEARN MORE Create engaging online classrooms with a learning management system (LMS) that helps you create interactive lessons, develop intuitive user experiences, and more.

2. 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 ready to learn. Unfortunately, students often skip out on healthy eating and sleep hygiene in our fast-paced world. 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.

3. Set up a dedicated, distraction-free study environment

When taking online classes, working from the couch with Netflix in the background or even from bed can be tempting. However, creating a distraction-free space 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.

4. 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.

5. Find opportunities to participate actively

Online classes make it easy to be anonymous and get by without much participation. However, students often learn more and enjoy classes more enjoyable when actively participating. 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.

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