10 Ways to Stay Engaged During Virtual Learning

By Anna Nickerson, Babson College, Class of ’22

Whether you’re taking summer classes, doing a summer internship online, or even preparing for virtual learning in the fall, one thing is certain – virtual learning can be disengaging! Here we outline 10 strategies to help you stay engaged during virtual learning. While virtual approaches won’t replace a classroom setting, unfortunately many of us have no choice in today’s learning environment – and virtual classes may become a permanent part of higher ed. I’ve personally implemented all of these strategies as I am currently taking online summer classes!

  1. Turn your phone off. This is the easiest and most effective strategy to start paying better attention while online. It is SO easy to get distracted or think you will “multi-task” during class! Turn your phone off, or at the very least put it in “Do Not Disturb” mode. You could place your phone in another room or even give it to a family member while you’re in your class. After class or during breaks, reward yourself with a quick social media break, but don’t get sidetracked!
  2. Create a productive and distraction-free workspace. Whether it’s at your desk, in your kitchen, or your own at-home office, make sure it is somewhere you can work. While we find ourselves working at home, it can be easy to make excuses that result in trying to be productive on the couch or even the bed – bad idea! Make an effort to designate the same space every day to your class.
  3. Sit outside when you can! While maintaining the same space everyday will help with productivity, it’s okay to work outside! One benefit of virtual learning is the ability to take your class with you anywhere. If that interests you, try it for a day.
  4. Invest in a pair of Blue-Light eye glasses. This one is often overlooked, but it can be very useful especially for those of us who are prone to headaches. I personally wear my blue-light glasses whenever I use my computer and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my ability to look at a screen longer.
  5. Stay Hydrated! This one is so important! Make a goal of drinking at least 8 glasses of water every day, especially during your class. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll feel lethargic and disengaged. Keep a water bottle or glass of water by your side at all times.
  6. Exercise and take daily walks when you can. Learning at home can result in some unhealthy habits, like forgetting to walk around and be as active as you may have been during in-person learning. Depending on the nature of your online learning, you’ll have breaks throughout the day. Even if it’s just a 15 minute break, go outside and take a walk around the neighborhood. Make goals throughout the day that will encourage you to stay active. You can also do some desk workouts and yoga stretches throughout the day.
  7. Take care of your mind. While we’re on the topic of health, don’t forget to take care of your mental health. Mind + Body is so important! Online learning can be exhausting, especially when it feels like you can’t escape it! Take time for yourself by meditating, journaling, or even watching a funny show at the end of the day.
  8. Reach out to your classmates and professor. When you’re in an online class, it can be easy to feel isolated and inherently disengaged. Use this feeling as an opportunity to connect with your professor, teaching assistants, and especially your fellow classmates. You can shoot them a quick email, text, or even private message on Zoom/Skype/etc. Many professors still hold office hours, albeit online, so take advantage!
  9. Participate in class! Turn your video on. It can be so easy to turn your camera off and pretend you’re not even there in class. This is one of the biggest issues with online learning. Hold yourself accountable by both turning your video on and actively participating in class. Your peers and professor will likely respond well to this, creating a positive feedback loop for you to continue staying engaged.
  10. Get enough sleep. Our brains need rest, especially considering the increase in screen-time for so many of us. Stick to a sleep schedule that works for you and try to maintain it all week (including the weekends if you can).

We hope that some of these techniques help you stay engaged during online learning. Although this environment can feel limiting and frustrating at times, there are many benefits to virtual learning environments. We would love to hear from you if you try any of these techniques or if you have any other successful strategies!

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