With at least 70% of schools in America closing, students need to adapt to online learning. However, online school can be frustrating and tiring, especially with hours of staring at a screen. In fact, according to Dr. Susan Blakeney, an optometric adviser to the College of Optometrists, even though staring at screens won’t permanantly damage your eyes, it can strain your eyes, causing you to feel more tired. It can also be more difficult to focus during class, since there may be more distractions while working at home, such as phones or noise. Yet, even though learning may be more difficult with the online format, you can still make the most out of your education despite the pandemic, so here are my top tips for how to survive online school!
1. Have a designated workspace
According to studies, noise levels above a normal conversation can negatively influence concentration and cause fatigue, and 99% of employees reported that they had a harder time focusing due to office noise. This is true for students too, as it can be more difficult to focus if you’re working in a busy area with lots of noise from Zoom meetings and conversations from other people.
Choosing the right area for a workspace can make a huge difference for your productivity, so make sure to choose an area that is quiet, organized, and has minimal distractions so you can focus on your classes. It’s important to choose an area that has decent internet connection, since different areas of the house may impact how stable your internet is, especially if you have a big house, so choosing an area that’s close to a source of internet can minimize lag or other internet issues.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a good desk chair, since you’ll likely be sitting for hours on end, so having a comfortable desk chair can make a huge difference for your back and your productivity.
2. Have a planner to write down your schedule in
With online school, there’s no bell to remind you that you have a class, so it’s a lot easier to forget about a class. I started out my constantly checking the school schedule on my computer, but sometimes I would misremember the time that a class started, so it can be helpful to write down or record your school schedule somewhere you’ll check often.
Google Calender is a useful tool that allows you to set dates and times for both one-time and recurring events. Apps on your phone are particularly useful during online school, because previously, I would use my physical planner to write down due dates and exam days and review them after school, but now, I found it harder to remember meetings and class times with a physical planner, since it doesn’t remind me if I forget to check my planner.
However, apps such as Google Calender will send a notification around 15 minutes before an event, depending on your settings, so it’s extremely helping in reminding you about a class even when you’re not constantly checking your schedule.
I would still recommend having a physical planner or bullet journal though, because it’s helpful for writing due dates for assignments without getting distracted, creating a to-do list, setting goals and habits, and writing down personal thoughts.
In summary, make sure to set reminders or alarms for class times and important meeting times! Many apps, such as Google Calender can help remind you to make sure you never miss a class so your grades don’t slip.
3. Stay focused and block out distractions
With the online format of online learning, it can be incredibly hard to focus and avoid distractions. I’ve been there too, especially when teachers lecture about boring concepts or assignment instructions, I start to drift off to going on YouTube and Instagram.
Even though social media can be tempting, it’s important to make sure to focus during class, especially since there will be no one to remind you to listen in class. I’ve found that by turning my camera on, it helps me stay off my phone and avoid wandering around the house, since I do have to appear focused in class.
If you’re unable to turn on your camera or don’t feel comfortable doing so, not to worry! Apps such as Forest: Stay focused helps you stay off your phone, and there are many similar apps for your computer as well. However, as a high school student in the 21st century, it’s hard to completely stop using my phone, since a lot of work-related apps and communications are on there.
For me, I’ve decided to open the desktop version of specific apps, since the limited functionality available on the desktop version makes me much less inclined to browse Instagram on my computer compared on to my phone. This can vary for different apps though, so you can try a couple apps to see what works for you!
4. Take good notes during class
It can feel really weird taking notes for an online class, since I normally don’t take notes during online seminars. However, despite the online format, it’s still school, which means notes are still necessary, so make sure to take good notes during class.
Unlike college students, high school students usually can’t take notes by typing, but since classes are online, it’s now an option for many students and a lot of teachers actually prefer it. Evernote, Notability, and OneNote are all great options for a notetaking app that you can download for free or for a low cost. Some school districts provide these apps for free, so check with your school to see if you are able to use these apps for free or get a student discount!
In addition, if you prefer typing your notes, I found that creating Google Docs and organizing them into folders works fine if you’re looking for an easy and accessible way to take notes. However, writing your notes can have its benefits too, as researchers found that students who write out their notes learn more because writing allows them to process the information, rather than just typing out the lecture word-for-word.
Use a clean and organized journal to take notes, but if you don’t like having tons of separate notebooks for each subject, 5-Subject Notebooks can help you take notes in all your subjects with just one notebook. I like writing out my notes and assignments, since it’s easier to format the page through writing and I tend to be more creative on analysis papers when writing compared to typing.
5. Make sure to finish all assignments
Even though many schools have become more lax with due dates and assignments, it’s still important to finish assignments to the best of your ability. Despite the controversy surrounding homework, it can be a good way to review material taught in class, and studies show that there was a correlation between students who did their homework and students who performed better at school — at least for students in higher grades, which includes seventh to 12th grade. Homework assignments are a valuable tool for students to prepare for exams and practice concepts learned in class.
However, it’s important to avoid procrastination when doing homework. Make sure to dedicate a time or day to finish your homework assignments, such as for me, I always try to finish my assignments on Friday night so I won’t have to worry about it over the weekend.
Finishing your assignments early also allows you to edit and check for errors before submitting it, and if you didn’t finish on Friday night, there’s always the weekend to finish your homework, unlike if you started on Sunday and realized you don’t have enough time.
Start with your hardest assignments first, those that require a lot of deep thinking, since other assignments, such as copying down vocabulary words, can be done even if you’re not completely focused on the assignment, like when waiting for someone.
6. Interact with your teachers and be actively engaged in class
Teachers are doing their best to try to provide quality education to their students online, but it can be hard when no one participates in class. The awkward silence that follows after a teacher asks a question but no one responds may be familiar to some of you, and it’s definitely familiar for me.
If you can, break that silence and engage in class, since it’s a good way to get to know your teachers despite being online. Surprisingly, I’ve found it much easier to interact with my teachers through online learning compared to regular in-person school, since I don’t feel the judgement of my peers as much as I normally do.
Next time you have an online class, make sure to greet to your teachers, respond to questions, and be engaged in class! Also, with online school, many of my teachers now offer office hours, which previously weren’t available unless you scheduled a meeting with them, so if you have the opportunity to attend office hours, make sure to take advantage of those if you have any questions about the class material. A lot of students don’t come to office hours, so it’s a great opportunity to have a personalized study session with your teacher!
7. Eat healthy and exercise regularly
As always, it’s incredibly important to take care of your health, so make sure to eat healthy and exercise. While it can be difficult to make breakfast or lunch while rushing off to online classes, there are many easy and nutritious meals that you can make in under 10 minutes, such as a yogurt parfait or a breakfast smoothie.
I also enjoy having garlic roasted potato sandwiches for breakfast, which involves baking a red potato with minced garlic, salt, pepper, and seasoning for 25 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the potatoes are golden brown and tender. You can add these potatoes to a sandwich or just eat them straight out of the dish, so it’s a great, quick meal for lunch!
In addition, it’s also important to exercise regularly, because a study published in JAMA Network Open showed that, “being on the lowest rungs of aerobic fitness gives you a much bigger chance of premature death than smoking, hypertension or diabetes.” Make sure to get some sunlight and go out for a (safe and using a mask) walk if you can.
However, if you’re unable to go outside, there are many ways to exercise indoors, and you can find many YouTube tutorials that show you how to exercise indoors.
8. Socialize with friends
Online classes reduces the social interactions that normally happen during class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with your friends. Now, with the help of technology, people can video call, text, or play video games with their friends and family.
Make sure to keep in touch with your friends with group chats, and you can even study for classes together by creating study groups. These study groups can also help you meet new friends, since you can talk to people outside of school, while also asking questions about class material that you might not understand, so even though it may be hard to socialize during class, you can still connect with people outside of class!
9. Pursue extracurricular opportunities
While the pandemic has cancelled a lot of extracurricular activities that many students had planned for the school year, there’s still a lot of opportunities to improve your resume, despite being stuck at home. Online internships and volunteer opportunities are great ways to get involved in the community and pursue an extracurricular activity, all while being stuck at home.
Quarantine has freed up a lot more time for me to pursue my own interests, so take advantage of the extra time and pursue something you’re interested in, whether that’s by exploring school clubs, making digital art and posting it on social media, or learning a new language. Colleges like to see students who are proactive about their learning, so don’t waste this valuable opportunity to explore topics and ideas.
Being stuck at home doesn’t have to be boring, so make the most out of it!