Five tips for learning better from home

Here’s how to optimize learning when your working conditions are less than ideal

a photo of a girl studying in front of a laptop

When home is the “classroom,” you may need to carefully manage not only when it’s time to focus intently, but also when it’s time to connect with others — and even break for a little exercise.

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Sometimes attending school is not an option. Sickness or wild weather can force schools to shutter their doors, sometimes for weeks or months. Structural or other problems (such as a lack of water or nonworking heating or cooling) may make buildings temporarily uninhabitable. But throughout, learning must go on. Fortunately, today’s internet allows many classrooms to assemble virtually. Dealing with the new normal will take some adjustments. Here are tips to get you through such periods.  

Create a learning space

Make yourself a specific space just for studying. It could be at a desk in your room or a table in any part of the house. This will give you the feeling of “going to class” and help sharpen your focus. Reduce distractions by studying in a quiet place or use headphones (if available) to minimize outside noises. Don’t forget to turn off background entertainment, such as phones, radio and television.

Manage your time

Staying motivated can be a challenge. Create a daily routine based on your timetable. Make a to-do list to help you complete and turn in work on time. Also, if you do not have access to your own tablet or computer, make a daily sharing plan to ensure everyone in your household gets their turn.  

Ask for help

Reach out to teachers and instructors if you need help. Just remember, if you are emailing them outside of normal school hours, it may take longer for them to get back to you.

Participate in online discussion groups set up for your class. Making a connection with other classmates lets you know who to reach out to when you have questions, says James Pitarresi. He is executive director of the Center for Learning and Teaching at Binghamton University in New York.

Look after your wellbeing

Take regular breaks and go outside for a walk or a run (while keeping a social distance from others doing the same). Get plenty of sleep. And if you are anxious, reach out and connect with parents, teachers and friends. We need to support each other and remember we are in this together. Also, stay flexible about the conditions around you and open to change.

As you do homework, verify online sources of information

Your teacher will likely provide you with suggestions for websites to conduct research. If you wish to find additional information, make sure your online resources are reliable. Ask yourself: Does what you are reading make sense? Who created this site? When was the site last updated? Can you find more accurate or reliable information on other sites (hint: no Wikipedia)? Such questions will help you determine if the information you are researching is unbiased and accurate. Good journalists do this type of fact-checking all of the time. So act like a journalist!

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