Productivity Hacks for Virtual Learning
With more schools adopting and implementing remote learning policies, today’s students will need to be prepared for hybrid learning environments. Since this could be an adjustment for some students, here are some suggestions we’ve sourced from veteran virtual school students on how to make the most of online classes.
1. Have Notebooks, Pencils, and a Planner Handy
We know, we know, how basic can you get? Well, we also know that things can get hard to keep track of in a hurry. Today's students are digital natives. The first instinct of students might be to take any and all class notes and start working on all assignments on their computers. However, taking notes by hand with a pen and paper might actually be the better option when listening to a lecture because it can help you remember information better.
Having designated notebooks and folders for different school subjects can help keep students organized, and starting writing assignments with a handwritten outline in loose-leaf binder or in a composition book can help students creatively brainstorm and stay focused on their task. Keeping track of assignments in a designated planner can also help students stay organized and even serve as a creative and relaxing outlet, especially bullet journaling.
2. Set Reminders for Breaks and Screen-Free Time
These days, there’s really no getting around spending a significant chunk of the day staring at some kind of screen. We’ve all heard of (or experienced for ourselves) the headaches and soreness that eye strain cause after working on and looking at electronic screens all day. Staying mindful of screen time is important, but it can be difficult to avoid prolonged periods of screen time when learning from home.
Students should set reminders for periodic breaks throughout the day where they can get up from their desks, walk away from their computers (and tablets and phones and TVs and other screens), and spend a few minutes walking outside, looking out a window, reading a book, or just resting their eyes for a bit. Adjusting screen brightness, using dark mode on available apps and websites, and working in a well-lit room can also help cut down on eye strain.
And finally, we’ve heard it all before, but cutting back on screen time before bed is must. Many of us have a bad habit of scrolling on our phones, watching TV, or using the computer before we go to sleep, but practicing a screen-free nighttime ritual can actually help us sleep better and reduce stress.
3. Use Website Blockers
In any classroom setting—virtual, in-person, and any mix of the two —distraction will happen. But in a virtual setting, it’s so easy to simply open up a new tab and start browsing when we start to lose interest in whatever we are supposed to be focusing on.
While there is no way to eliminate distraction once and for all, there are downloadable website blockers users can schedule “work mode” hours where access to sites that are normally distracting can be temporarily blocked. These types of blockers can be especially useful during class time, throughout homework hours, or even when it’s time to take a mental health break from the Internet.
4. Avoid Working From Bed
It can be tempting (and comfy!) to work from bed, especially on those chilly mornings where anyone would rather stay swaddled up under the covers than poke one toe out of bed. But, working from bed can actually change your bed from a place where you feel relaxed and safe into a space you might have trouble sleeping in. Additionally, it can cause bad posture, make it harder to concentrate, and decrease productivity.
Encourage students to try to wake up around the same time each day, at least 30 minutes before they need to be online for class; change into fresh clothes; and set up a designated work space so that they can set a boundary between where they rest and relax and where they focus.
For some students, the bedroom or bed might be the only available space where they can work at home. If this the case, encourage them to invest in a lap desk or breakfast tray, where they can set their mobile device or spiral notebook on a hard surface and try to work at the foot of the bed, rather than where they lay their head at night to sleep. Creating a perceptual boundary between an at-home workspace and a place to decompress and recharge is essential to both mental and physical health.
5. Keep Mobile Phones Out of Reach
What’s that? Did I hear a chorus of protests? Stay with me. Tell your students to put their phones at least 5 to 10 feet away from them.
It’s no secret that smartphones can be a time suck and easily turn a task that should take about 30 minutes into a 4-hour assignment. When distractions are too accessible, productivity and the ability to focus suffer as a result. Schoolwork can feel frustrating, and the longer it takes to get things done, the more discouraging it can become. So, have you students play safe and social distance from their social media.
If students say they need their phones so they can listen to music while they do schoolwork, note that Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify all have desktop apps (so that we can still avoid the temptation of clicking between web browser tabs) that are significantly less exciting than the mobile apps.
For more advice on helping students with virtual learning, read our article on making the most of unexpected school closures.