Tips for Distance Learning
Tips for Distance Learning
Sep 24, 2021

While some students thrive in a distance learning environment, starting this type of learning can prove challenging for students who have never experienced it before. It requires a different set of skills than a traditional classroom. You need an increased level of drive, focus and organization to keep yourself on-pace with the work without attending class.
If you're struggling with distance learning work, you're not alone  many people feel out of their element at first. With practice and patience, you might find that distance learning works better for your learning style and gives you more freedom to customize your experience. We've put together some tips for distance learning so you can make the most of this new experience and manage your classwork from home.

15 Tips for Distance Learning

Realizing this type of learning comes with its own set of benefits can help you conquer your uncertainties about distance learning. Some of the perks of distance learning include:
  • You can learn anywhere and everywhere.
  • You can find a pace that works for you.
  • You take an active role in your own learning.
  • You build perseverance and independence.

Remind yourself of these benefits as you adjust and develop distance learning techniques that work for you. You are learning a new set of skills beyond the course material when you engage in distance learning, and this takes time. Consider the following 15 ways to improve distance learning and excel in your virtual classes.

1. Create a Space Exclusively for Learning

No matter how much space you have, it's helpful to designate a learning area and develop a ritual to get yourself in the studying and learning mode. Everyone has differing amounts of space in their home, so this tip looks different depending on your situation:

  • If there is an office space in your home, ask if you can set up a small table there so you can work in peace. 
  • If you have your own room, set up a small work area that is not near your bed so when you sit there, you know it is time to work.
  • If you share a living room, pick one spot on the couch that is your designated work spot. 

Whether you have a designated room, desk or chair, create a routine so your mind switches into a more alert state. Even if you can't claim a specific spot, find a small item — like a figurine or a plant — to place next to your laptop or notebook to differentiate the space while you learn. You could also light a candle every time you start working and blow it out when you finish, or brew coffee and use the same mug every time you do school work. 

2. Build a Distanced Community

Without classes to attend or roommates to see every day, distance learning can feel isolated. Forming a group of friends who also are experiencing distance learning gives you the chance to talk with people who understand your experience. Use a group chat to talk about your day, discuss your successes, keep yourself accountable and ask questions when you get stuck. 

There's no need to reserve your group chat to talk about schoolwork only — make sure you have some fun together, too. Schedule a night each week when you can watch a TV show together using a screen sharing and messaging platform. Or, hop on a video call so you can see your group members face to face. Setting a specific time each week gives you a routine, and you can get through the day by remembering you have a fun night planned.

3. Find Tutors

Not every professor gets back to students immediately. Sometimes, they don't have time to devote personalized attention to every student. In these cases, it's best to turn to a professional tutor. Digesting material online can feel overwhelming, and a tutor can help fill in the gaps. 

During distance learning, you may not be able to access the writing or learning centers your school offers. In-person tutors might cost too much, and you may not have a physics scholar or theater professional who offers tutoring in your town. If you are distance learning, it makes sense to use a distance tutor as well. Use a site that is available around the clock, so if you get stuck at 3 a.m. and your test starts at 8 a.m., you'll get the answers you need in time. 

4. Use Timers

Some people believe the misconception that you need to work in continuous blocks of multiple hours to stay productive. However, short, timed breaks can increase your productivity and give your brain a chance to reboot and decompress before diving back into your workload.

You can see this principle in effect with marathon runners. A study conducted by the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that marathon runners who took a 60-second walking break every 2.5 kilometers finished in about the same time as those who ran the whole way. However, they finished with less fatigue and muscle pain.

The Pomodoro timer gives you an interesting method to break up your workload. It's based on the concept of focused work sprints and intermittent breaks. You do one focused task for 25 minutes, and then take a five-minute break. You repeat this process four times, and at the end, you take a 15-minute break before starting the cycle over. 

While you only complete a manageable 25 minutes of work at a time, at the end of the full Pomodoro cycle, you've done two hours of work. You can adjust the times to find a specific combination that works best for you. 

5. Continue to Ask Questions

Without the traditional format of a classroom discussion, you may find it challenging to discern when you can ask questions. Every professor sets up their class differently, so the answer varies from class to class. You may be able to use an online chat to ask questions during a lecture that your professor can cover once they finish. You could also email your questions once the class is over.

Whatever the case, asking questions helps you synthesize the material in a new way and gives you a personal understanding of the material. Don't let distance learning take that opportunity away from you. 

6. Determine Your Distractors

Your cellphone probably distracts you, but what part of it diverts your attention?:

  • Is it the email notification going off? Do you feel you need to respond immediately?
  • Is it the Instagram notification? Do you want to focus on something other than your work?
  • Is it a text? Is there a conversation you'd rather have than do homework?

Even if you have your phone set to do not disturb, having any of these sites open on your desktop can provide the same amount of distraction. While email might seem productive, a notification could distract you and prompt you to stop in the middle of your work. Even if you don't check it, the thought of the notification momentarily takes you out of your focus, and it can take minutes to return to your original concentration.

Your distractors could be anything from a pet and sibling to chores and music. When something pulls you out of your work, take note of it, and brainstorm how you can reduce the impact of that distraction in the future.

7. Reward Yourself

Learning in any capacity is hard work. If you're constantly working, you'll get bogged down quickly. Even if you continue to work through brain fatigue, your productivity levels may plummet. Enjoy a sense of achievement by giving yourself small rewards like the following:

  • If I finish reading this chapter, I can sit outside for a while.
  • If I finish taking notes, I can eat a piece of chocolate.
  • If I finish writing this draft of an essay, I can play fetch with my dog.

Break your assignments into smaller pieces so you can reward yourself for your progress. If you wait to reward yourself until the end of an eight-page essay, you may feel less motivated to complete further tasks than if you reward yourself after the research and every two pages of writing.

8. Plan Ahead

If you don't look ahead in your syllabus, you may be caught off-guard by a large assignment at the last minute. See when assignments are due and break them up into manageable pieces. Knowing what projects you have ahead of time allows you to work on pieces in advance and helps you take notes when you see material that could help you create a better project.

Split a more significant task into mini assignments and write these chunks on a calendar along with your regular homework assignments. 

9. Stay Organized

While it may seem like you don't need to be organized because you're not physically going to class, you still need to keep your electronic files and physical materials categorized. You may waste time when you can't find a file of an old essay or need to search through four notebooks to find a fact from a lecture.

Take time upfront to organize all your files into individual folders for each class. Name each of those files with the date and a title that makes sense. If you download a file for a class, rename and save it to the folder you made so you don't lose it or have to keep downloading it.

Find a spot in your home to store your folders, notebooks and binders and refrain from throwing them in a pile when you walk past. Everyone's brain works differently, so your preferred organization system will look different from someone else's. No matter what works for you, remember it can save time to organize materials upfront rather than frantically searching for a lost document.

10. Stick to a Schedule

While you have the liberty of choosing how you use your time, you should still make a schedule. Designating different times of your day as "work hours" helps you take your schoolwork into account when you're creating a study plan for distance learning. It also helps you stay focused and create a working mindset when you switch from relaxing to learning.

11. Take a Walk

When you sit in one location all day, you can get tired and lose focus quickly. Getting outside and taking a walk can give you an excellent change of scenery. Even walking around your home gets your blood pumping and helps your brain reset. If you start to lose focus, try walking around, getting a drink of water and returning to work. If you've tried this a couple times and you're still losing focus, take a break to reset.

12. Take Breaks From Your Screen

Between phones, TVs, computers, e-readers, tablets and even LCD car displays, it's hard to escape screen time. Americans spend, on average, 42% of their waking hours looking at a screen. If you're spending both your working hours and entertainment time on a screen, it's easy to surpass that figure.

Give your eyes and mind a break and spend time off-screen. Here are a couple of things you can do when you feel like you've been spending too much time in front of a screen:

  • Cook a meal.
  • Read a book.
  • Take notes in a physical notebook.
  • Call someone on the phone, rather than with a video.
  • Start a craft or art project.
  • Play a board game.
  • Do a puzzle. 
  • Try yoga.
  • Listen to a podcast.

13. Communicate With Peers

If your school has a learning management system (LMS), you may be able to see who is taking your class. If you work with a peer on a project, continue your relationship with them after you turn it in. When you have someone to talk to about the class, you can ask questions when you get stuck and feel less isolated. 

14. Prioritize and Manage Your Time

Make sure you spend time doing essential tasks before you tackle your fun to-do list. Taking breaks from your essential list with fun items could help you get more done in the long run, but you need to strike a balance.

Make a list of your essential homework and study items and fun reward activities. On the essential column, estimate the amount of time you'll need to complete each task. Pick a task, set a timer and begin. If you said you'll finish your essay in two hours, and you finish in an hour and a half, you can use the remaining time to work on a fun item from your list. When that timer ends, start the timer for your next essential item and repeat the process with appropriate breaks.

15. Think of the Big Picture

Stay motivated by reminding yourself why you are pursuing higher education. While taking a general education course online may feel superfluous, consider the degree you're working toward. What job are you excited to get after graduation? What do you hope to do with your degree? 

Even if you feel you cannot get excited about the course material on its own, think about how succeeding in a course will help you achieve your dreams in the long run. 

Ready to Take Distance Learning to the Next Level?

With over 30 subjects available, 24HourAnswers offers the tutoring assistance you need whenever you need it. We connect you with qualified tutors who can help you better understand your course material and succeed academically. We have tutors available around the clock because we understand that when you need answers, you need them now. 
Submit the question that's got you stumped to get a tutor and quote quickly so you can finish that physics problem, write that essay or understand that astronomy concept. We're here to help with distance learning and support you, so get started finding answers today.

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