Distance Learning Tips and Tricks

March 26, 2020

By , ACPC 


Distance learning is a type of learning that many of us are unfamiliar with. During this time where the majority of students in the United States (and internationally) are transitioning to all online coursework, it is especially important to learn and utilize different practices for distance learning. This article will provide you with a list of Tips and Tricks to maximize your productivity, retention, and communication during this educational virtual transition! 

1.) Just A Normal Day → Treat your virtual classroom as a regular classroom. Get up at the same time you would to go to an in-person class. Get dressed in the same clothes, eat the same food, exercise the same amount, etc. Try to keep your “normal” routine as much as possible. Having this daily structure can help manage feelings of anxiety and isolation, and will assist you in staying productive. Instead of feeling like you are having a sick day from school, it will still feel like a regular school schedule.

2.) Separate Work Space → Make a specific place in your house just for online classes and coursework. Having a space that feels like your “classroom” will help make other places in your house still feel like home. Also having a designated space will help you to stay on a schedule, stay productive, and keep you organized!

3.) Turn Off Unnecessary Media → If possible, keep your phone, tablet, television, and any other forms of media in a different room than your designated “classroom” space. The only media outlet that should be in your classroom space are ones that are necessary for your online classes and coursework. By eliminating these extra sources of distraction, this will help to maintain your focus and improve retention rates. You can take various 10-minute breaks throughout the day to check these media sources.

4.) Know your Virtual Classroom Etiquette→ It is best to understand the virtual classroom format you will be using BEFORE the course begins. Whether you will be using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. it will be helpful to understand the individual features of each platform. Regardless of the specific application used, it is important to understand some basic online classroom etiquette. 

  • Mute your microphone unless you are the one speaking
  • Utilize the side chat bar to confirm understanding, ask questions, & suggest ideas
  • Put all classes, group-chats, seminars, etc. on your Google Calendar
  • When possible, use the video chat feature (helps to see individuals facial expressions & when others are beginning to speak)
  • Use a non-distracting background (avoid having a TV, a bunch of clothes, your dog, etc. in the back of your video chat)

5.) Use Alarms and Calendars → Utilize alarms and calendars to ensure that you are reaching your goals and milestones. Using alarms can be helpful in completing coursework and minimizing distractions. For example, setting an alarm for an hour of textbook reading will keep you working until you hear that alarm. Avoiding your phone/tv during the time until you hear the alarm will improve productivity. Calendars are useful to stay on top of class schedules and coursework completion. 

6.) Pace Your Work → Take your time! Now that your courses and classwork are online, it may seem easy to rush through work. However, rushing this work will really just hurt you in the long run. Remember that each class builds up to the next class, so take your time with your work! Complete work like you would with in-person classes.

7.) Actively Engage → It can be difficult to fully engage even in a regular classroom. But engaging virtually can seem even more intimidating. Start off simple with your engagement, like commenting in the side chat box. Then when you feel more comfortable actually answer over video. It may also be useful to ask your professor for suggestions on how to be fully engaged in their class. Either way, keeping your participation and engagement up during this time is crucial! 

8.) Avoid Eye Fatigue → Taking care to have good computer etiquette will help you to avoid eye fatigue from all of the time spent looking at virtual screens. Here is an article about how to address eye fatigue caused by displays.

9.) Take Frequent Active Breaks → It is important to take frequent breaks, especially when working from home. Make sure to stand up/move around for at least 5 minutes every hour. This will help with circulation, retention, motivation, and focus. Not only is taking a quick active break good for your body physically, but it is a great way to give your brain a break. For more information on the importance of active breaks click here.

10.) Ask For Assistance → Never be afraid to ask for assistance when it comes to virtual learning. There is going to be a learning curve for many students, so please utilize this time to ask the questions you need answered. Chances are that another student has the same question and will appreciate you asking! There are also many resources online that can assist with any technical issues you may be having. When in doubt, communicate with your professor (and other students), let them know what is going on and ask for help.


We hope that this article provides some useful Tips and Tricks for your distance learning endeavors! If you have any questions about this article or any suggestions for future articles surrounding virtual learning and/or “At Home” practices, please contact Chloe Woodling at cowlacpc@ucsc.edu

Happy Virtual Learning!