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Online Learning

Staying motivated during COVID-19

Finding and maintaining motivation to study when you are alone or when you are experiencing sudden changes can be challenging at any time. We've included here practical and proven strategies for helping to keep motivated when studying online.

Build a routine

Moving to online learning is a big shift, and it can be hard to be motivated when so much has changed. Developing a routine can be one way to help increase motivation.

  • Ensure you have a productive study space.
    • Try to study in a space or at a desk set aside only for studying -- not watching shows, chatting with friends, or eating dinner. This will help remind you that it is a space for work. 
    • Put your phone away, mute notifications, and use website or app blockers to help you focus.
  • Consider what your routine was when attending classes in person. If this was a good routine for you try sticking to it.
    • Engage with course content at the same time of day and on the same days of the week when the in-person course was scheduled.
    • Determine how much time you would spend on each course if classes were on campus, and try to spend that much time engaged in your online classes.
  • Determine what your best time of day is.
    • Do you feel more alert in the morning, afternoon or evening? Plan to spend your most alert time of day studying.
  • Plan time for breaks, meals, exercising and socializing.
    • It's unlikely you spent all day studying when classes were in person; you walked between buildings, ate, checked your phone, talked to your friends. Make time for these when building your routine.
  • Use your time management tools to help you visualize your routine.
    • Use a calendar, agenda, post-it notes, phone reminders, or other tools to help you stick to your routine.

Check out the LibGuide Master Time Management for more ideas.

Set a goal

Setting clear goals can increase motivation, help with accountability, and remind you what you have completed each day.

  • Write down two or three goals for each day, and review your progress on your goals the end of the day. Did you accomplish what you wanted? If not, what did you do instead?
  • Many people get discouraged because their daily goals are too big or unrealistic. Use the SMART goals criteria to help guide your goal setting.
    • Specific: your goal needs to be clear.
      • The more specific your goal, the more likely you'll accomplish it. Try answering the who, what, where, why, which of your goal.
      • For example, instead of setting the goal, "Do more Physics," try "I will complete 5 problems from chapter 3 after lunch. I will try two without looking at the textbook to see if I'm prepared for the exam."
    • Measurable: your goal needs to be quantifiable.
      • Measurable goals are often either time-bound (ie. one hour) or task-bound (ie. solve 3 problems).
      • Measurable goals help you identify an end point and help you evaluate whether or not you completed the goal.
    • Achievable: you need to be able to complete the goal.
      • Make your goal one that you can actually accomplish given the time and resources available to you.
      • Setting the bar too high will decrease motivation if you cannot complete the task.
    • Relevant: your goals needs to be related to what you're trying to achieve
      • Make sure your goal will help you achieve success.
    • Time-bound: when will you finish this goal?
      • All goals should be time-bound. Some can be very short, such as spending 10 minutes looking for articles to read later, while other can have longer timeframes.
      • You might be unrealistic about the time needed to complete a goal. If you don't finish on time, use it as a learning experience for next time.

Connect with others

While classes are now online, it is still important to connect with the people in our lives. Interacting with family, friends, classmates, and coworkers can help motivate us. 

  • Find an online study buddy. Set up a time to study with a friend remotely. Connect with each other using Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or any preferred online platform to keep each other company and to help keep each other accountable while you study. 
  • Tell your friends and family what you are working on. Ask them to check in on you (texts, calls, etc) to ask how your work is going. 
  • Ask a friend or family member to text you something motivating; keep the text so you can look at it again. 
  • Share your goals with friends and family so that you can discuss what you are working on. Ask them to ask you specific questions about your goals to help you stay on track. 
  • Don't forget to socialize. Taking a ten minute break to chat can help motivate you to focus when it's work time. Just make sure your breaks align with the amount of work you want to accomplish. 
  • Clearly communicate to people what you need. Whether that is encouragement, accountability, or just a social break, the more specific you are the better they can help you. 

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