studying online
A student watches an online lecture at home because of COVID-19. Source: Shutterstock

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second and third waves in countries around the world, more universities and colleges are closing their campuses in efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

Thousands of students around the world have been sent back home or asked to stay in their dorm rooms. Universities are moving to online lectures and relying on learning management systems (LMS) to keep the semester running as much as they can.

It’s a dramatic shift going from 300-person packed lecture halls, spending hours studying in the campus libraries with your squad, to studying alone indoors, checking the internet for resources and doing all your assignments online.

With all the COVID-19 news swarming on your social media feeds and WhatsApp groups blowing up with the latest updates, it can also be distracting and anxiety-inducing time for some.

If you’re finding it a bit of a struggle to keep up your typical productivity levels during this time, but still need to buckle down while studying online, here are some handy tips for you. You’re welcome.

Put on Spotify when studying online

Listening to music can help you concentrate. Studies have shown that quality of work improves and time-on-task decreases when one listens to music.

This is consistent with several studies that show that people are more productive when they are listening to music. However, it also depends on the type of music.

Songs with lyrics are supposedly more distracting, while relaxing songs enhance performance better than others.

There are a number of productivity playlists on Spotify and YouTube so there’s no harm trying them out to see if you’re able to focus more when having it in on in the background and studying online.

Stick to a schedule

Just because you don’t need to wake up at the crack of dawn to make that 8am class doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Experts say that’s important to stick to your typical schedule as much as you can while studying online so you don’t veer off-course and watch Netflix all day.

Come up with a daily schedule, including coffee and meal breaks, to help you organise your day and keep you on track.

Take notes the old-fashioned way

online studying

Taking notes by hand is a better way to retain information than to type them on your laptop. Source: RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP

While watching an online lecture or presentation, use a pen and paper to take notes instead of typing them out on your laptop. Studies have shown that it helps you focus better.

Researchers of “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking” found that students who typed out notes on their laptops “performed worse on conceptual questions” than students who took notes longhand, and that  “laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning”.

Take breaks

Make sure you take regular breaks as this actually helps you retain more information and be more alert when you’re studying online.

According to MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Bob Pozen, author of the bestselling book Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, “Working for 75 to 90 minutes takes advantage of the brain’s two modes: learning or focusing and consolidation. When people do a task and then take a break for 15 minutes, they help their brain consolidate information and retain it better.”

Block out distractions

Finding Twitter or Netflix a bit too distracting when you’re trying to concentrate? Can’t stop checking your WhatsApp for the latest unverified forward from that one auntie who never bothers to read the link? There are certain apps you can use to help you block out these distracting websites, such as FocusMe, Freedom and Forest.

If it’s your smartphone that distracts you and you can’t help picking it up every so often, try keeping it away from your reach and line of sight during your study time, or putting it on silent and muting your notifications so they won’t pop up on your screen and distract you.

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