6 ways to stay productive while distance learning

The old saying ‘change is the only constant’ has become more relevant than ever. Not only have we changed how we work, where we work and how we shop and pay for goods, but we’ve also had to change how we learn. Many schools, colleges and universities have had to scramble to make it easier for the teachers and the learners in a world where face-to-face contact is becoming rarer. If you’re a student who was used to going to classes and visiting the library, it might be difficult to adapt to this new way of learning. If you’re heading into tertiary education for the first time, you might be worried you’re missing out on the ‘traditional’ student experience.

In either case, remember that you’re not alone. But at the same time, you need to keep up with your studies and make sure that you pass your assignments to graduate, which can be difficult if you no longer have the structure that face-to-face lessons gave you. Here are 6 tips to help you bring structure into your new way of learning.

1. Create a learning space

Every self-help book, article or inspirational Facebook post has stated this, and it may sound silly, but it helps to structure your learning in a big way. Just like being in a noisy environment can make it difficult for you to have a phone conversation, working in an environment that isn’t suited to your goal will make it harder to concentrate.

You need to set up a dedicated study nook. A separate room is a bonus, but if you don’t have that much space, it’s about creating a proper study environment. To avoid distraction, you need to make sure that this space is not in those areas of the house that get the most traffic. Make sure that you have a comfortable chair and a desk that you can use only for your studies. You shouldn't eat, watch series or play games there – it is a space reserved only for studying.

2. Have a schedule

It seems too simple to mention, but if you have a clear schedule for assignments and course content, you’ll make it easier for yourself to get through the material and meet your assessment deadlines. With a schedule you can prioritise your assignments according to their due dates and then set time aside to work through the course content, leaving enough time should you have questions  for your facilitator.

3. Stick to your normal routine

Although your routine isn’t ‘normal’ in the sense that you go to campus and attend classes, you should take the time that you usually would have attended a class to work on the course content. That way you can condition your brain to use this time productively, rather than to kick back and relax when you still have a lot to do.

4. Take breaks

Taking breaks is just as important as working on your studies. Your brain needs rest, and it’s important for you to get up and leave your study area now and then to relax and take your mind off work for a while – say, 10 to 15 minutes. This could be a quick coffee break, watching an episode of a series or doing some quick exercises. If you prefer to sit and just stare outside, that’s fine too – the important part is that you take some time to keep your mind clear.

5. Make use of available support

In the absence of physical classes, most tertiary institutions provide recordings, Q&A sessions, consultation hours with your lecturers or online real-time classes to help you work through the study material and complete assessments. Make use of this help to ensure that you don’t get stuck. These resources are available, and part of the course you’re paying for, so use them to your advantage.

6. Keep your end goal in mind

It’s easy to procrastinate when you don’t feel like you have the usual responsibilities of a student, such as attending classes. But this will only hurt you in the long run. Keep in mind that you are working towards a qualification, and that everything you do right now is actively contributing to you successfully getting that qualification. If you start slacking off now, it will only cause you unnecessary stress and could ultimately mean that it will take you longer to get your qualification. Make it your motto to ensure that you work gets done every day.

Your studies are important, and with these tips you can make sure that you’re productive while learning online.