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Updated on Sep 5, 2020. Posted on Sep 2, 2020

14 (Very Doable) Tips That'll Actually Improve Virtual Learning At Home

How to prevent eye strain, save your lower back, and still learn everything you need to graduate.

BuzzFeed / Brooke Greenberg

As many schools opt for either partial or fully virtual learning sessions, it can be hard to get excited for the upcoming academic year if you're just stuck at home.

HBO

Studying without a campus or IRL classmates can be a drag on top of an unprecedented challenge. To help with that, here are some tips for breaking up the school day and distance learning at home. 📝

1. If you can, set up *several* good spots to work in so you can switch around when you feel cooped up.

2. Print out some of your reading material or transfer to an e-reader if screen fatigue (or eye strain) is getting to you.

Focus Features

Reading an e-textbook plus additional readings on top of all-online classes can put a ton of strain on your eyes. It can also make it more difficult to actually absorb the info you're reading.

According to studies, printed textbooks can help students retain more of what they learn — especially if they highlight and write on the pages. If you can at least print out some of your readings or download an e-textbook to Kindle, it can make a difference in reducing eye (and screen) exhaustion.

3. Consider writing at least some of your notes in a regular notebook.

A student holding a notebook in her hand.
Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

While digital note-taking is usually faster and easier to copy and paste, writing down notes (especially during a live class) can help you focus as well as remember some of the bigger concepts mentioned. It also breaks up screen time!

4. Follow the 20/20/20 rule when it comes to screen time.

5. Plan out which assignments you can do outside.

6. Upgrade your WiFi connection so laggy Zoom calls aren't an issue.

IFC

The good news is some providers have already upped their speeds and/or lowered their prices. But if you still have a spotty connection from time to time, it's worth checking your router placement or doing some troubleshooting to make sure your WiFi is good to go for those 100-person Zoom lectures.

7. If you have the money, invest in an ergonomic chair.

I'm telling you that I had physical therapy every week in which she would work knots out of my back that were so hard I would cry while it was happening ... then I spent $1,000 on an nice chair and haven't been back

Twitter: @olgakhazan

Ergonomic chairs can be expensive, but if you anticipate sitting a LOT in the near future, that money could be well spent on something that offers crucial back support and comfort. Or, if a new chair isn't in the cards, build in a break for this (free!) 14-minute WFH stretch break that targets your lower back and hips.

Read more: 26 Of The Best Desk Chairs You Can Get Online

8. Disable Zoom chat notifications (or any notifications) if they always derail your concentration.

A scene from 'SNL' with four confused people on a Zoom call.
NBC

The more people in your lecture or class, the more likely you'll have classmates who chime in to ask questions all the time. While you unfortunately can't prevent someone from interrupting your instructor, you can change your Zoom settings to stop the notifications (or, alternatively, just drag your screen to hide the chat).

9. Keep your phone in another room (or use site blockers) when you absolutely have to get work done or focus in class.

truly cannot recommend the following enough: - periodically deleting the Twitter app - setting a screen time limit - for the love of god turn off notifications - in the morning, don’t check the phone right away — do bathroom routine, coffee/tea, journaling/tarot first

Twitter: @jeannakadlec

Nothing can sabotage you quite like Instagram or Twitter, or just falling into a reading-worse-and-worse-news hole. That's why physically keeping your phone away from you during crucial productivity hours is so important, as is putting it on Airplane mode before you go to sleep so you can jump into the day instead of wasting an hour scrolling away in bed.

10. For live lectures, sit up at a table or desk instead of laying in bed.

11. Keep your home (or at least your main study areas) organized and clean.

A student's bed before and after it's made.
Natalie Brown / Via BuzzFeed

Cleanliness not only ups your mood and physical health—it makes it easier to complete other difficult tasks, like that essay.

If you feel like you need to do a deep clean after months of quarantine, here are some tips.

12. Be especially on top of group projects.

20th Century Fox

When everyone's schedules might feel looser, it's easier to start slacking and fall behind. If you get assigned to a breakout group for a project, exchange phone numbers and set up clear communication around when you're free to work. Using Google Docs to throw ideas into can also make it simpler to simultaneously work on a project.

13. Keep to a schedule for walking outside, calling your friends, working out, mealprepping, journaling, and anything else that's necessary for you to feel good.

Atlantic

To prevent burnout, make sure you find time for all the self-care you need to show up to class as recharged as you can be.

Read more: I Tried A Daily Gratitude App And It Actually Helped My Mental Health

14. Dress up for classes and buy school supplies, just like you would any other September.

A student's art supplies for the upcoming school year.
Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

Just because you're learning from home doesn't mean you can't experience that beginning-of-school excitement. 😊

What's something that's improved your distance learning routine at home? Share in the comments!

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