16 Distance Learning Hacks for Students

Online call on computer

by Giselle Abramovich

posted on 05-14-2020

Seemingly overnight, students everywhere have had to quickly transition from in-class learning to distance learning due to COVID-19. While it hasn’t always been easy, the good news is they are finding some really interesting ways of coping.

We reached out to 16 college students and asked: What do you do each day to ensure you stay inspired, connected, and productive?

Here’s what they said:

“Whenever I’m stressed about online classes, I find the best way to cope is by providing myself some kind of structure, especially in the activities I do. Puzzles are a kind of mindless way to create a sense of control and relaxation when everything seems so crazy.”

—Margot Banen, Rutgers University

“Ambiance and my surroundings are things I find to be very impactful on the way at which I do schoolwork. Being in my bedroom inhibits me from this, so I try to complete my work in different rooms to avoid the temptation of being totally idle.”

—Cyann Camaya, Rutgers University

“The switch from in-person instruction to online classes has been a stressful and daunting task for most students. I find that taking walks outside as the weather gets warmer helps me regain a sense of normalcy during these troubling times.”

—Vasu Garg, Rutgers University

“I find it tough to concentrate for a long period of time, so it’s important to give yourself breaks every hour or so. It’s important to accept your circumstances and cut yourself slack during a pandemic. And I always shut off my phone when I do work. It’s extremely distracting.”

—Brandon Kalika, Rutgers University

“Too much screen time tends to give me a headache, which lowers my productivity considerably. So I try to ensure that I stay hydrated while I am working. I always keep a water bottle or a glass of water with me while I am attending classes and keep taking sips of water every now and then.”

—Aditi Kapoor, Northwestern University

“I try to start my assignments ahead of time because there is way less structure to my day now that we are in quarantine. This prevents me from procrastinating and allows me to take mental breaks in between assignments.”

—Fiona Kniaz, Rutgers University

“Instead of falling into my old habits, I have done my best to re-create who I am at home. I redecorated my room, work at different hours, exercise regularly, and do my utmost to hold on to these newly made constants in a time when my old reality seems to be fading into the fog of the past.”

—Josiah Myers-Lipton, Swarthmore College

“Transitioning from a fast-paced college environment in NYC to pausing all of my routines and working from home was both an unexpected and difficult reality to face. To maintain a sense of normalcy and keep myself motivated, I try to time block my weekdays in order to make the best use of the abundance of free time I have.”

—Elsa Lopez, New York University

“Creating a consistent routine that most resembles my on-campus life is what I find to be the most helpful. Exercising in the mornings, spending time outside, and participating in virtual study groups and club meetings normalizes the situation.”

—Allyson Maroyka, Rutgers University

“I struggled to stay productive the first few weeks we moved to online classes. I eventually realized that I needed to change my expectations of myself. I found looking at productivity from a much more holistic lens provided a lot of comfort. I incorporated things like going for walks and Facetiming someone into my to do lists. I never had to consciously think about those things when I was on campus because I’d always end up spending time outside when I walked to different buildings on campus.”

—Ashley Muflam, Rutgers University

“I like to break up my work with breaks of going outside, drinking tea and having a snack, or doing a non-school-related task. Doing something like the crossword (I have been using Duolingo as well) that is mentally-driven but casual and low stakes keeps you sharp but gives you a break….I also like to leave my phone in another room while I’m working so it doesn’t distract me.”

—Calvin Pyle, Rutgers University

“I found it easier to work for hours on end at school, but now that I’m home I can’t work for very long before I need a break. I feel the best way to do this is with a bike ride. I’ll go for 20 minutes, start to feel the burn, and then come back to the desk and keep going.”

—Cole Raymond, Lafayette College

“I believe that the environment or learning scenarios, such as the classroom or the classmates around you, help students to switch to ‘focus’ mode. E-learning doesn’t provide that kind of stimulus, and that might be one of the reasons why students find it hard to concentrate or be productive during this online course period. I embedded my previous office routine into my current ‘learn-from-home’ life, such as making coffee before starting the day or dressing up as what I normally would do when going to class.”

—Tiara Ping Shia, Northwestern University

“One of my favorite parts of college was the dining hall. Although at home I don’t have access to the amount of food there was at college, I make sure I don’t slip into bad habits and skip meals like a lot of young people do (especially in quarantine).”

—Jonathan Slovak, Muhlenberg College

“Once we began online school, I no longer had the resources and quiet spaces that I used to utilize. To help stay focused, I started to do my schoolwork outside, which helps me get fresh air and be productive without distractions. I have found that it is helpful to start assignments in advance to allow me to take mental breaks in between.”

—Kiera Walsh, Rutgers University

“It’s been a transition for everyone, but we all find our ways of coping. Personally, at the beginning I started to fall into cycles of negative thinking without realizing. Thankfully, this changed when I started taking each day as an opportunity to do something positive, and I would always have something to look forward to doing. I found that exercise has helped tremendously, as well as doing something creative.”

—Harry Wiley, Rutgers University

Topics: Education, COVID-19