You love the flexibility and independence of online learning but sometimes struggle to remain motivated. It's possible that your issues have little to do with your study skills, but rather, center around a problematic workspace that neglects to provide the comfort or accountability you need every time you hit the books.
Thankfully, this problem is easily remedied. To help, we've outlined all the essential elements of a productive workspace design for online studies. Keep reading to learn how you can create an environment that helps you fulfill your most ambitious academic objectives.
Find Your Designated Workspace
First and foremost: Select a space that will serve as your primary study area. While you can diverge from this from time to time, the simple act of incorporating a designated physical location into your study routine will help you get into a productive mindset.
Depending on your situation, you may have numerous options available—or you may be incredibly limited as to when or where you can study. Either way, it behooves you to take a quick stroll through your home or apartment to identify a few workspace candidates. Keep an open mind; your home office doesn't have to look like an image from a magazine or a Pinterest account to work for you.
If you don't already have an area conducive to studying, determine where you can make room for such an environment. This could be as simple as moving your furniture around a bit so you can squeeze a desk and chair into an underutilized corner. Consider how your home is currently set up and whether any rooms are not currently being used to their fullest potential.
Don't forget to account for possible distractions from other people. As you select a study space, make it clear to roommates, family members, or significant others that this is where you'll be studying—and that you'd appreciate privacy so that you can focus on your coursework. Good luck getting the message across to your pets, though.
Organize Your Space for Productivity
You've found the perfect space to dedicate to your studies—or committed to making the most of whatever space happens to be available. Either way, how you organize this area will determine whether you're actually able to focus.
A gorgeous home office can quickly become a concentration nightmare if it's chock full of distracting devices. Conversely, a space that initially seems inhospitable may actually be great for studying if you keep all the essentials within reach and ditch the clutter. Set up a simple organization system that allows you to access key resources (such as books, notebooks, or pencils) as you need them.
Keep in mind that study space organization is not a one-time endeavor. In all likelihood, you will need to tidy up your space at least once every few days. Clutter tends to accumulate quickly. Some students find it easiest to set aside a few minutes each day to reorganize their workspaces, which then feels fresh in time for the next big study session.
Distractions are best avoided, but that doesn't mean your study space needs to feel sterile. Ideally, you will look forward to spending time there, so do what it takes to make this area hospitable without encouraging you to slack on coursework.
Begin with an ergonomic chair. This is non-negotiable. The wrong chair can cause not only short-term discomfort, but also, long-term aches and pains — or even chronic injuries. Your chair should promote excellent posture while also providing plenty of support for your lower back. The seat height should be adjustable. Depth and width also matter, so take your chair for a test drive before your online course kicks off.
Seating is by no means the only element that determines personal comfort. Decor can also have an influence. Many students find houseplants comforting. Pictures of loved ones can also make you feel at home in your chosen study area.
Don't Forget About Lighting
Online students often focus so much on layout and furniture, they neglect one of the most important elements of a productive workspace: lighting. This accomplishes far more than merely creating a flattering view for video chat; it can impact your energy, mood, and much more.
Poor lighting often leads to eye strain, which is not only problematic for productivity, but downright uncomfortable. Thankfully, this problem can easily be solved, even if you lack access to natural lighting.
Proper positioning is key for all light sources. Lights or windows situated directly behind you tend to cause annoying screen glare. Meanwhile, task lighting—while essential for keeping desks illuminated—often casts unintended shadows.
Invest in one or two simple lampshades, plus an articulated desk lamp to provide the most flexibility possible. Feel free to experiment until you discover a setup that produces a desirable glow without prompting unsightly glare or shadows.
Create a Schedule and Keep It
You've developed the perfect study space, but it will do you little good if you never actually spend time there. It's easy to blame your jam-packed schedule for your academic struggles, but if you're like many students, you have far more available time than you realize.
To ensure that every minute is used effectively, establish a schedule. If you find visual cues motivating, outline your obligations on a whiteboard calendar or in a color-coded planner. Otherwise, a scheduling app such as Google Calendar should do the trick.
As you develop your schedule, resist the urge to overbook yourself. Determine where your priorities lie and which obligations you can set aside for now. This may mean scheduling breaks from time to time. Evaluate your schedule periodically and don't be afraid to make changes when necessary.
Hold Yourself Accountable
At the outset of each online course, set a few goals that you find personally meaningful. These should not relate exclusively to your grades. Yes, high marks are desirable, but you'll be far more invested in the day-to-day learning process if you feel it benefits your future in some way. Write these goals down and display them somewhere easily accessible so that you will be forced to confront your objectives on a regular basis.
In addition to setting goals, find simple ways to build accountability into your academic routine. Remember, the reality of pursuing education in an online format is that you need to be more of a self-starter. Don't think of this as a burden, but rather as an opportunity to craft your academic experience as you see fit.
For example, develop a ritual to reward yourself after a successful evening of studying online. This could be as simple as jamming out to your favorite song or eating a much-deserved piece of dark chocolate. Other students take comfort in the ritual of checking items off physical to-do lists. Commit to your rewards just as you commit to your goals, and you'll quickly find yourself making progress on both.
Many online education novices are surprised to discover that this format lends itself remarkably well to forging strong connections with instructors and fellow students. Some actually feel that it's less intimidating to introduce themselves digitally than it is to reach out when attending class in person.
Classroom discussion boards and messaging tools provide ample opportunities not only for discussing coursework, but also for building deeper connections that can prove helpful even after online classes are complete. This can provide powerful motivation and accountability when you need it most.
As mentioned previously, you may find it necessary to schedule breaks into your day so that you have a moment to relax. These breaks are not wasted time; without them, you'll find that you're far less productive even when carrying out seemingly simple tasks.
Digital breaks are particularly important. Yes, it's perfectly acceptable to move from your laptop to your phone for the occasional Instagram session, but don't forget to also find time for device-free relaxation. This might mean setting down your phone and taking a walk. Simply meditating for five minutes can make a world of difference when you're feeling overwhelmed.
Excel at Online Learning with University of the Cumberlands
With the right approach, online learning can transform your life. Take this opportunity to gain the skills you need as you join a passionate community of online learners.
If you are interested in learning more about the online undergrad & online graduate programs offered at University of the Cumberlands, contact an admissions counselor or request more information today.