Updated: Jan 27, 2021
Online school is a lot harder than many students were expecting. Lots of students are feeling overwhelmed and are unable to keep up with the vast amounts of classwork, homework assignments, quizzes, and tests. School takes up many extra hours of your day, and the more you procrastinate, the more often you'll find yourself burning your eyes in front of a screen at 2 am working on something you forgot or put off. At the beginning of the school year, I was feeling a overwhelmed and stressed out. Online school felt so different and new, and I hated being on a screen for 8 (or more) hours straight every day. Luckily, I did a few key things that helped me stay on track and stay productive in online school, and I'm going to share them here with you today!
Set alarms and hold yourself accountable. In regular school, bells, teachers, and class schedules help keep us on track to attend every class on time. Unfortunately, in online school, that task falls on the student. There's no bell or hall monitor or late penalty to keep you from falling asleep and accidentally missing class. This is why it's so important to hold yourself accountable for your education. As I was getting the hang of online school, I set a few alarms on my device each day that helped me know exactly when my classes started and my breaks ended. This really helped me arrive on time or early for every class/commitment I had that day. (Alarms also kind of sound like a bell, which makes it seem just a little bit more like regular school!)
Write everything in a planner. I can't stress how important a planner is, especially in online school. Planners allow you to keep track of every assignment and commitment you make each day, and it's extremely satisfying to cross something out in your planner once it's finished. Planners also allow you to check back on what you were up to the week before, which can help you reflect on what went well and not-so-well in the past week. If you don't have access to a physical planner, you can use an online planner or planner app like Tiimo, Planner Pro, or Pocket Schedule Planner.
Create a weekly commitment list. Now that many club meetings and after school activities are also online, it's important to keep track of them as well. You can do this easily by creating a weekly commitment list or printing out a graphic of the week like this one. For the commitment list, instead of writing down your assignments, write every activity you have besides school for each day. This way, you can look at your commitment list daily and budget your time so that you have enough room in your schedule for the day to attend the writing club meeting, study for your math test, and complete your English assignment.
Use your break time wisely. Staring at a screen for hours a day can be extremely fatiguing. Luckily, many schools and teachers have recognized this and have given students blocks of time in which they don't have to be in school. Make sure (and this might sound counterintuitive, but I promise it works) that you do NOT do any work on your computer during these breaks. If you have a workbook or paper assignment that you need to complete, that's fine, but do your very best to stay off your computer for the entirety of every break you get during the virtual school day. The more rested your mind is, the better you can focus in your next class and on your homework after school.
Stagger your assignments. A lot of us are great in some subjects and not the best in others. I've found that if I try to complete all of my most difficult assignments at once, it can be really frustrating. This is why it can be really beneficial to switch between classes, difficulty, and due dates when doing homework- I call this process staggering. For example, if you are doing some difficult math homework and you get stuck on a problem, don't bang your head on your computer and spend an hour trying to figure out the right answer. Instead, email your math teacher and ask for help, then move on to an easier Spanish homework assignment you might have. And if you have history homework that's due soon, do that. If you have no other homework, check your email. If you teacher has responded, great- finish your math homework and relax or move on! If not, you can work on crossing some other items off your to-do list while you wait. This brings me to my next tip, which is...
Ask for help. Online school has been a big and difficult change for teachers, as well- don't be rude or disrespectful when asking for help! On the other hand, do not be too shy to ask for assistance with a problem or question that you are really struggling with. Your teacher will appreciate that you took the initiative to ask for help, and you'll do better in the class as well. Asking for help when you need it will also help you develop a relationship with your teachers, which is very difficult to do through a screen. So don't be afraid to send your teacher an email the next time you're stuck on an assignment!
Start studying early. Sometimes, we find that we have no homework, activities, or commitments on a certain day. I know, it's an amazing feeling. But before you pull up Netflix, consider starting to study for a big test you may have coming up, even if it's a week or two away. Studies have shown that you retain more information from studying a bit everyday than from cramming the night before. Plus, you'll avoid the stress of trying to remember all of the material right before your test. Studying early will allow you to study each topic in depth without getting fatigued, because you'll only be studying for a little bit each day.
Create your own study guides. While you're studying early, consider making your own in depth study guide for the unit. In certain classes, teachers don't provide study guides. Often, if a study guide is provided, it's not very thorough and doesn't provide a comprehensive review of the material. Making your own unique study guide is one of the best ways to study, and can be a lot of fun. You can add everything you've learned, organize it in a way that makes sense to you, include practice problems, color code it, draw pictures- whatever you'd like! The best part of making your own study guide is that you can tailor it to fit your studying techniques so that you can retain as much information as possible and ace your test!
I hope these tips help you become more productive and organized so that you can make the most out of this school year. Now, go out there and ace online school!