Five Tips for Better Learning Online


It’s spring 2020, and we’re hanging out with friends online, we’re logging into online yoga studios, we’re participating in our book clubs online, we’re working online, and yes, the students among us are taking their classes online.

Today’s high school and university students may have grown up with the internet, yet the transition to online learning isn’t without its challenges. Here are some tips to make navigating this new educational landscape a little easier, efficient, and graceful.

1. Create a workspace that works for you

This is the first step: tidy up your desk, find a comfortable chair, and organize your notebook, pens, and computer. Check out this post on this very topic (and get a glimpse into the Options team’s working-from-home set-ups!).

2. Limit distractions

(Politely) dismiss your younger brother from the room. Shoo your cat. Place your phone somewhere else in the house. These are good first steps. Next, think about the greatest distraction of all: the internet. Paradoxically, the tool you use to watch your lectures, access your assignments and readings, and communicate with your teachers, counselors, and tutors is the same tool that brings you social media, online shopping, videos, music, articles, and endless—truly endless!—links.

Here’s our advice: use a website blocker to help keep distractions at bay. You can set the blocker for certain times of the day, allowing you to access your favourite websites when they won’t interfere with your work, such as in the evening or on the weekend.

3. Use your calendar

Online learning may seemingly give you more time—you have nowhere to be, so no commute—but the days of staying in and logging on can begin to feel a little shapeless. Using a calendar is an excellent way to keep track of your time and ensure you’re staying on top of your deadlines and assignments.

First, enter into your calendar your fixed blocks of time: your classes, tutoring sessions, video meetings, online karate classes, etc. Then enter in any upcoming deadlines. Then work backwards, adding time in the preceding days during which you’ll work on your assignments or study for your exams.

4. Set goals and make to-do lists

Use a to-do list app or simply take out a pad of paper to track your daily, weekly, and future tasks. Before doing anything else each morning, assess the list, identifying priority items. How long will each task take? Assign these tasks spots in your calendar, so you know what to work on and when.

5. Get organized

Organize your digital files. If you’re using Google Docs, make sure you have separate folders for each of your classes. Make sure the folders on your desktop are equally organized. All of this organization will be in vain, though, if your file names are confusing. Choose descriptive file names. For example, “English Essay – Macbeth – V.2” tells me this is my essay on Macbeth for English class, and it’s my second draft.

Online learning means logging onto more online programs or apps, and with those come more passwords. Put all your passwords in one place or perhaps consider using a password manager.

Don’t forget to organize your physical materials. You may have papers, textbooks, assignments, etc. Find a place to store these, and take out only what you need for each work session, which allows you to maintain a tidy workspace.

If you want more helpful strategies for online learning, join us for our upcoming workshop, Thriving in an Online Environment. It’s a two-hour workshop taking place Saturday, April 18th, from 9 to 11 am. To register, contact our office managers at

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