Are you going to be attending classes virtually in some capacity during the fall semester? If you answered yet, then you’ll want to check out the rest of this blog post to how to set yourself up for success in attending college courses virtually!

For many, attending virtual classes is a new experience. You may not know the proper etiquette even if you do know the basics of logging into Zoom or Google Classroom. You may have more distractions during your online classes like other windows open, ongoing chats with other students, or your parents or siblings being loud if you’re at home.

Despite all the downsides of virtual learning and studying, you should know how to make your space as ideal as possible for both attending online classes and studying.

  1. Pick your space that is
    • A Separate Room or Quiet Space — Ideally, this is a separate room from a shared living space — if you are living with anyone else like your family or a roommate. If you can’t find a separate space, make it a quieter part of your house/apartment/dorm.
    • Big Enough for a Desk & Chair — It should be able to comfortably fit a desk that has enough width and length for your laptop/desktop, a notebook and/or textbook, a lamp, and some pens. And it should be able to fit a chair to sit at the desk.
    • Not Used for Leisure Activities — Don’t make your learning/study space a multi-purpose space. Dedicate it to your college classes! This way, you are not as tempted to get distracted. This means that your designated space should not be a kitchen or dining table or bed.
  1. Set up your space so that…
    • It has Everything You Need — This means you should keep your computer/laptop, note-taking materials, textbooks, etc on or in the space or desk. You may need some extra storage bins or shelves. Make sure you have a power source for your computer nearby. Also, if you can be close to your internet router to ensure your online class connection is good.
    • It’s Easy to Tidy Up — You can’t study when your space is cluttered or dirty. Keep it clean and try not to eat snacks or meals in this place to maintain your focus! Keep designated bins, drawers or shelves for your study/learning materials. This will also help you keep your materials organized!
    • It has Some Visual Aids — Not everyone is a visual learner, but having a calendar, memo, or dry erase board on the wall near your learning space could keep you more organized and make sure you’re never late for class or turning in an assignment late. You can also keep a schedule of when you’ll have classes or be studying so that if you’re in a shared space others will know when you need some quiet time!

  1. Minimize distractions by…
    • Putting Your Phone Away — Smartphones may be smart, but you’ll work and listen smarter without one! Notifications and texts are major distractions when you’re trying to learn and study, so put it on silent and out of reach while you’re in your virtual learning space. You can also schedule Do Not Disturb modes on your iPhone or Android device to prevent disruptions.
    • Removing Browser Temptations — It’s easy to get distracted by having the internet at your disposal during an online class. You’ll be tempted to check social media or other fun sites, but if you employ an extension like StayFocused or Work Mode, you’ll save yourself from temptation!
    • Canceling Background Noise — You could tell your roommate or family to be quiet during class or study time, but they’re human and not always perfectly quiet. It’s highly suggested that you invest in some noise-canceling headphones/earbuds that you can attend classes with and use to block out noise during your study time. Make sure these devices can connect via Bluetooth or headphone jack to whatever you’re using to log into online classes!
  1. Prepare your “virtual” workspace by…
    • Readying Your Device — Don’t wait until the last minute before your online class to update your device! Make sure your virtual tools are ready at least 15 minutes before class. That means that your computer is on, charged/plugged in, connected to the WiFi/ethernet, audio device ready/connected, and you have your digital or physical notes available.
    • Keeping Track of Due Dates & Class Schedules — Things may change more quickly in the virtual classroom world. Make sure you know what’s going on each week by consolidating your calendars! Connect everything from classes to due dates to exam dates to your iCalendar or Google Calendar. You can also access these from your smartphone for easy access. Set up alerts for at least 30 minutes or an hour before classes and notifications for at least a week and a day before due dates or exams.
      (Author note: I like to also use a paper or dry erase desktop calendar to visualize my week ahead.)
    • Making Folders for Each Class — You may have less papers to organize in your virtual classes, but you’ll have to keep them virtually organized. Create folders on your computer or in a cloud storage drive (Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive, iCloud, etc). The great thing about online documents is that they save automatically and you’ll be able to see the different versions of your file in case you need to go back.

It may be a new style of going to class for you, but having your own dedicated space to virtual classes will help you stay on top of everything and learn better. Don’t forget to take a deep breath and remember that it’s a strange time and everyone is trying to adapt. Being adaptable and flexible will help you in the long-run and even when you start your career. Be resilient and stay positive!

Come back to the Future Blog for more articles on college and career success!