Doing school entirely from home presents unique challenges. Motivation, time-management, and a desire to learn are all much more difficult to maintain when you never have to leave your home. You have to be proactive in your remote learning in order to succeed academically.
Taking it Seriously
Just because you don’t have to show up for in-person classes doesn’t mean that you should be spending less time working on the material. In fact, you may have to spend more time. Dealing with the technical difficulties of online classes, participating in discussion posts, asking your professor questions electronically, and trying to fully learn class material without being present in a lecture are all difficult and time-consuming. Plan to spend as much time working on class work as you would if you were still attending in-person classes.
Making a Schedule
Making a schedule to lay out when and how you will spend your time working on course work is always a good idea, but for online learning, it is necessary. It is the best way to hold yourself accountable for course work when spending most of your time at home. Doing all of the things listed below is a good way to keep yourself on track.
- Find a scheduling tool that works for you. A physical planner works well if you prefer to have something physically in front of you to write on while scheduling your week. There are also many programs that work well, including Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, and many phone apps.
- Set aside the time you would usually spend in class to work on that class. You can use this time to watch recorded lectures, study, work on assignments, and of course, attend synchronous online classes if your professor is holding them.
- Schedule time to work on assignments. Pay special attention to deadlines and give yourself plenty of time to get all of your work turned in on time. Make sure you appropriate your time wisely, giving more time to work on larger and more difficult assignments. There are many ways to go about managing time effectively, such as the Pomodoro Technique and the Getting Things Done (GTD) Method.
- Schedule time to study. Taking time to review, synthesize, and fully learn class materials requires ample study time, especially when not attending lecture. Northeastern University has an excellent article that provides some additional ideas about time management.
- Review and revise your schedule at the end of every week. Pay attention to what you scheduled too much or too little time for and adjust your schedule to reflect that for the next week.
- Hold yourself accountable. If you fully kept your schedule, reward yourself with some extra downtime that weekend. If you didn’t keep your schedule, make up for it by spending extra time working on class.
Creating a Dedicated Workspace
Working in a space you are not comfortable with can negatively affect your motivation and learning abilities. That’s why it’s important to have a space that motivates you to work. Doing all of the below can help put you in the right mindset while working from home.
- Make a space dedicated solely to work. When you walk into your workspace, your brain should instinctively think “it’s time to work,” just like it does when you walk into a classroom or office.
- Remove all distractions from your workspace. Having televisions, game consoles, or any other distractions in your workspace provides too much temptation to do something fun instead of engaging with course work.
- Clean and decorate your workspace. Being comfortable in your workspace makes a big difference in your motivation. Keep your floor and desk tidy, hang art on the walls, put a plant in the corner, put a picture of your family on your desk, or do anything that makes you comfortable and happy when working.
- Organize your workspace for efficiency. Have a specific place to keep class materials, notes, assignments, and books. If you have physical materials, filing cabinets and office drawers are great organizational tools. If most of your materials are online, create folders on your computer for each class to keep materials in. Knowing where everything is in your workspace will cut down on a lot of wasted time looking for materials.
Holding Yourself Accountable
For a lot of classes, we are motivated by mandatory class attendance to show up to lectures and read the assigned materials. However, with a lot of classes moving to an asynchronous recorded lecture format, all that extrinsic accountability is gone. Now, you have the responsibility of making sure you keep up with lectures and assigned readings. There are a few ways you can ensure you stay on the right track from home.
- One way to do this is by setting up a reward/punishment system for yourself. For example, if you keep up with all of the lectures and reading assignments for 2 weeks, you can buy yourself something nice to enjoy during your much-earned free time. If you fail to keep up with your course work, you can make yourself spend a few extra hours studying on the weekend that you would usually be your free time. This article from Good Colleges has further insight on goal-setting and rewards systems.
- Some people may find it difficult to enforce rules on themselves. If that’s the case for you, get yourself an accountability buddy. Find another person, or even a whole group, and hold each other accountable for engaging with the course. You can call each other at the end of each day to discuss reading assignments and lectures. This not only means you can hold them accountable; it also means you are more motivated to learn so you can discuss it with your friend. This has the added benefit of enhancing your learning through discussion. Whatever method you use, finding a way to hold yourself accountable to keep up with the class will be the most important part of your success in online learning.
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