Staying Motivated with Online Learning

Lizzie Ottenstein
Shreejana Mainali
A person viewing some online learning materials in a big screen monitor.

The transition to online learning can be a less than inspiring adjustment. It’s hard to conjure the same level of enthusiasm learning through a screen when we’re used to in person lectures with classmates and professors. Confined to our homes in the midst of a pandemic, it can be difficult to find the concentration and motivation we enjoy in our favorite on campus study spots. Despite the challenges we’re facing due to COVID-19, there are a number of helpful things we can do to stay focused.

Dedicate an only study space

While our favorite on campus study spots are no longer available, we can try to replicate them remotely. We all have different study styles. Whether you prefer a buzzing coffee shop or silent library, set it up wherever you’re quarantining. Make it an only study spot. If you don’t need your phone, put it away. Let whoever you’re quarantining with know about your study space so they don’t disturb you. Reserve this space for school work only.

Set attainable goals

Goals are only helpful when they’re realistic. It’s easy to be overly optimistic, so be honest with yourself about what you’ll actually accomplish. Write down upcoming dates, assignment deadlines, exams, etc. using whatever planner you would have used at school. Planning your weeks according to this schedule gives you an idea of what your goals are and allows you to plan ahead. Create to-do-lists and rank by priority. Be the master of your schedule. 

Manage your time

It’s easy to get carried away being home and you may find yourself engaged in more household tasks than normal. Identify your distractions (social media, Netflix, etc.). Undownload or block apps that distract you Set time limits on your phone to make sure you don’t waste half an hour scrolling through Instagram. Don’t multitask and focus on doing one thing at a time. Start early on assignments. If you’re struggling to stay focused, try the Pomodoro technique. Take 25 minutes to work and a 5 minute break. If you complete 4 study sessions without interruption, treat yourself with a 15 minute break.


Online learning can be isolating, but we’re all in it together. Staying connected with your instructors and classmates in and out of class reminds us of this. Make or join study discussion groups with friends and discuss what you’ve been learning. More importantly, catch up on how you’re doing and compare study and motivation tips. Hold each other accountable. 


It’s a win-win: rewarding yourself can boost motivation! Celebrate achievements big and small like completing assignments or scoring well. Do something that makes you happy, call a friend, or treat yourself to your favorite meal. You know what you like. 

Taking online classes is not how most of us imagined finishing the school year and it has presented various hurdles to our motivation. Luckily, we’re all in it together and there are many things we can do to stay focused and motivated despite these tough circumstances. Keep calm and study on!