It’s September, which means millions of young people around the world are headed back to school.

Maybe. Sort of. It’s complicated. 

Thanks to COVID-19, many schools have shifted entirely to remote/online learning or a hybrid model where some days students are in class physically, and other days they’re learning from home. Even if a school is gung-ho about starting the year with in-person instruction, there’s a possibility that its classes will eventually shift online if a COVID outbreak occurs among its students or faculty. 

Basically, there’s a chance that all students, from grade school on up to college, will be doing some or the entirety of their schooling in front of a screen this semester.

While remote learning can provide the opportunity for educational flexibility, this setup comes with its own unique challenges. Educators that analyzed how online learning went during the beginning of the pandemic found three which were particularly significant: time management, distractions, and Zoom fatigue. 

Today, we look at this trio of online learning’s biggest challenges and offer some suggestions for students (and/or the parents of them) on how they can be overcome. 

Manage Your Time

With in-person school in years past, you probably struggled to make time for studying; it’s easy to procrastinate your reading and note reviewing, and then find yourself cramming before exams.

With online school, particularly in the case of “asynchronous learning,” the problem has doubled in size. Rather than streaming their lectures in real-time, many professors/teachers are recording their lectures and letting their students watch them at their convenience. With that change, the onus for deciding if/when to engage with the class now falls on the individual student not only in terms of studying, but watching the lectures as well. With no part of your education already built into your schedule, it can be easy to keep putting things off and fall very behind and adrift in your curricular progress.

So if online learning doesn’t set a structured schedule for you, it’s up to you to create one for yourself. 

Even though you don’t have to physically go to class, plan and act as if you do. And do something that’s helpful even during in-person school, which is to act is if your studying sessions were inviolable too.

You accomplish this by creating a master weekly schedule for your semester; we wrote about this concept in our article about college study tips several years back, and it’s even more relevant for online learning today. 

Within this master schedule, you block off times during the week that you’ll devote to both attending class (whether in-person or virtually) and to studying:

1. Block off your class times. The most important appointments of your week. Schedule everything else around your class times. 

This is very important to do even if your classes are asynchronous! Decide which times you’ll watch/listen to the recorded lectures, block these times off, and stick to that schedule. Treat those times as if they were a live lecture.

2. Block off reading time for each of your classes. Suppose you have a Monday/Wednesday/Friday class schedule. In that case, you’ll probably want to block off an hour or two on Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday for taking care of your assigned readings.

3. Block off time for note review/outlining/homework for each class.