Study Skills for Online Learning

Barry the Study Dog is keeping his eyes on the prize: efficient online learning, more free time, and fun side projects.

T his situation isn’t going to last forever, but it’s going to last a lot longer than you think it is!

Keep your eyes on the prize!!!

Even if you’re confident that you’ll be back at regular school in six weeks, consider that although six weeks is not enough time for classroom teachers to become great online course instructors, it’s plenty of time for students to develop bad habits.

The good news is that you don’t need school to learn stuff, and you can’t learn anything without working hard at it every day for a reasonable amount of time because you want to learn it!

But you’ve got to want to learn it! Figuring out how it relates to your life and why it matters for your future is crucial.

If you can get yourself interested in the material and stick to your proven study skills system then you’ll probably learn twice as much as you would have at regular school, and in only two-thirds of the time.

You can then divide your extra time between hanging out with your friends online and pursuing your own side projects.


Here’s how to get motivated, be successful, and have fun with online learning:

Stay Disciplined

Keep a regular schedule! This is a lot easier to do if your school requires you to attend live lectures on Google Hangouts or Zoom or a similar platform. If you have this luxury, make sure you log in five minutes early to every session and look presentable. And if you enjoy playing around with technology, use a green screen and custom background to make it look like you’re chilling all alone on your private beach or in your favorite national park.

Print yourself several Weekly Schedules, one Quarter Calendar or Semester Calendar, and several To-Do Lists.

Fill out a new Weekly Schedule every Sunday, update your Quarter/Semester calendar daily, and track every piece of schoolwork on the To-Do List. Always do your hardest work earliest in the day.

Participate More than Ever

Preview all course content by using YouTube or Wikipedia to find out why it’s interesting to you or why other people like it. Share your findings with your instructor and classmates.

If your courses have discussion forums, group chats, or comment threads, be the first to post each week so that you have a better chance of getting feedback from the students who are more on top of things. Comment positively on posts made by students you like or would like to get to know better. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to be negative.

Summarize every live discussion, video, audio lesson, or assigned reading with 3-4 key points.

Be Patient

Expect that you and your teachers alike will make lots of technological mistakes during the transition to online learning. Schedule time in your day and week for novel chores related to online learning, like organizing your schoolwork docs into folders with crystal-clear file names so that a parent could find it in the family cloud if they had to.

Share what works for you with your classmates and teachers so that those who don’t catch on to the new norms as quickly as you do can get as much out of the online course as you are.

Help Your Teachers

Remember that the first rule of school is, “Keep your teachers happy!” With an exclamation point.

Show them you’re taking online learning seriously by asking them to post all slides before the accompanying online lectures so that everyone can appropriately and efficiently preview the material in time to think of a question and comment that they’d like to contribute to the discussion.

Email each of your instructors after the first three days of online learning to thank them for their efforts, let them know what you got done that day, ask questions, and make suggestions.

Then email them every Sunday to update them on your weekly progress, emphasizing the fact that you’ve updated your course study guides every weekend. This will inspire them to continuously improve their online course.

Get Organized

Use the To-Do List to keep track of everything you have to do, including readings, videos, slides, assignments, updating your study guides for each class, and quizzing yourself from your study guide.

Ask your parents for a heavy-duty holepunch and whatever else you need from this list of recommended school supplies.

The whole point of being organized is to make it easier to review all content in each course weekly to determine what needs to go into your study guide for each course.

Ask for Help

It’s crucial that you let your teachers know when things aren’t clear or aren’t working properly. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll get out of the course.

If you need an answer faster than your teacher can give you one, try Google, YouTube, Khan Academy, Bozeman Science, Grammarly, Hemingway app, Purdue OWL, Noodle Tools, your smartest friend, your most academically-minded friend, your most generous friend, or – as a last resort – your parents.

Work Efficiently

Sleep at least 8 hours per night, exercise every day, eat healthy food, and schedule virtual hangouts with friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Take 10-15 minutes off after every hour of honest work. After two or three hours of real work, take a 30-60 minute break for lunch or exercise. Do not eat while doing schoolwork.

Print all readings and slides so that you can review them offline, without distractions. No phone, music, or InstaFacing allowed while doing schoolwork!

Help Those Around You

There will be unforeseen chores to do, and somebody’s going to have to do them. Figure out how you can help your family, neighborhood, and school community in new ways.

And Finally…

This is a historically challenging time. How do you want to respond? What do you hope to learn? Whom can you help now and in the future?

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