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Essential Skills and Habits for Virtual Class (A Handy Online Learning Guide)

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Despite being in the comfort of your own home, virtual classes somehow feel more tiring than face-to-face classes. Unlike school where it's an environment specifically made to help you learn and study, your home is where you and your family relax and rest after a long day. So, there are many potential distractions, and that's not even taking into account internet connectivity issues. Suffice it to say, online learning can sometimes make studying a bit harder.

This guide is here to help you better navigate online learning by giving you four essential skills and some tried and tested habits to improve on them. Improving these four skills will ease the difficulty that comes with virtual learning and may even come in handy for thriving in blended and face-to-face setups.

1. Environmental Separation

When online learning became the new normal for school, students were thrown in disarray as the boundary for school and home blurred, and where they relaxed also became where they went to school or studied. Many found it difficult to focus during online classes or to do their homework because their brain was confused. To fix this, you need to create an environmental separation so your mind can regain that boundary between school and home.

In an ideal situation, you would have a place in your house that you set as your work area that isn’t your bedroom, and this place is the only place you do school-related tasks. But some of us don't have that luxury. In this case, try to orient your work area so that you aren’t facing your bed. Additionally, try to make your bed look as uncomfortable as possible. I’ve found that placing lots of things on my bed, making it harder to lie down on, often deters me from lying down when I need to work.

Just keep in mind to never work or study while lying down on your bed. It will not only make it harder for you to focus, but will also affect how fast you can fall asleep. Creating these boundaries in your home will help your brain orient itself when it's time to study and when it's time to relax, depending on where you are.

2. Mental Focus

Concentration is important for studying and learning so that you’re able to absorb whatever it is your teachers or textbooks are trying to teach you. As mentioned already, a school was designed to help you focus on classes. Rules like “no talking in class” or “no cellphones during school hours” are all implemented so that you and your classmates aren’t distracted during class.

There’s no one to enforce these rules at home, and unless your parents are watching over you while you take online classes, no one can catch you looking through your phone or playing a game during a learning session, taking your mental focus away. Just as we have created a boundary between a school area and a relaxation area, you have to set rules for yourself when you're taking online classes and when you're doing homework.

These rules are just like the ones your school would impose. But to make it easier for you, turn your phone's notifications off or put it on silent. You could even turn it off or keep it away from you while you’re doing schoolwork. Another trick is to have two Google user accounts, one for my personal use and one for school or work. My school/work account has different bookmarks and shortcuts. I also hide my desktop icons so that I’m not tempted to open unnecessary applications when I do school or work tasks.

Doing these things will lessen the temptation to look through your phone or play games when you need to get schoolwork done, maintaining your mental focus for the task at hand.

3. Time Management

Time management applies especially to doing your homework or if you have a lot of asynchronous classes. It’s normal in an online learning setup for teachers to give more homework, making it more difficult for you to just cram all the work the night before the deadline. Needless to say, cramming is bad, and gets worse the more homework or projects you need to complete.

Instead of spending one whole day to finish everything, space it out across the week. You can do this either by focusing on one assignment or subject a day, or work 1-2, maybe 3 hours a day. It’s also important that you stop working once you’ve accomplished what you’ve set to do that day or once you’ve already finished your allotted time. This makes your assignments less daunting to look at and gives you a break, making it easier for you to keep up the habit.

4. Self-Discipline

Last, but arguably the most important of the list, is self-discipline. The other skills on this list are useless if you don’t have the discipline to actually follow through with them. Unless you have a parent or guardian watching over you when you do online classes, no one's going to actually check if you’re working at your assigned workspace, or if you’re getting distracted, or if you’ve done your work for the day. Most of the time, it falls on you to check yourself and push yourself to do all these things.

It will be hard at first and will require you to adjust. But the more you practice these habits, the more disciplined you will be. It may take a week or a month, but it's important that you keep practicing these habits so you improve the skills mentioned above.

And that’s it! While the skills and habits mentioned are basic life skills, and probably things you’ve heard of before, this article hopefully proves useful to you. The reason why they’re deemed basic life skills is because they apply universally to everything we do. Remember, the simplest solution is sometimes the most effective. So improving on these skills will not only help you with online learning, but with a lot of other things you’ll eventually do in the future. So when better to start than now?


About the Author

Francisco Luis III is a student at the University of the Philippines Diliman graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing. He has tutored part-time at Aralin Online. Luis was also a member of the University of the Philippines Fencing Team. He enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games, as well as playing video games. Luis also takes part in physical fitness and is a novice weightlifter.


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