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Success in Online Learning: Tips & Tricks

This guide provides tools and suggestions for optimizing your online learning experience.


Online Success Graphic (non-substantive)Whether you're taking a self-paced, synchronous, or asynchronous course, online learning has tremendous benefits as well as hazards. Online learning allows for great flexibility for the learner: Asynchronous or self-paced courses allow the learner to work the course into their own schedule. Synchronous online courses, while held at specific times, still allow the learner flexibility of location. For all of its benefits, however, by its nature, online learning can also come with many tempting distractions, and requires the learner to be self-motivated to keep up with the work and stay focused. 

This guide will provide tips and resources for finding success in online learning.

Tips: General

For Optimal Connectivity
  • Make sure you have strong wifi. There are several sites out there (like this one) that can help you determine your internet speed.
  • If you're concerned about internet speed, consider putting all other mobile devices you have that you're not using for class on airplane mode, so that they're not pulling bandwidth away from your Zoom class.
  • Set up your workspace close to your router.
  • If your router allows, purchase an ethernet cable and connect it between your laptop and router for faster speeds.
  • If you're looking for a place with good, free internet around Bloomington, you can get a list of free WiFi hotspots around town.
  • For more online learning tips, check out
Tips for Avoiding Distractions
  • Designate a space in your home where you will attend classes and study.
  • When using Zoom, use Speaker View instead of Gallery View. Using Gallery View may cause you to be distracted by the other students.
  • Keep your camera on so that you are less tempted to do something else during class. If you don't want people to see your space, consider using a virtual background. 
    • For more Zoom tips and resources, check out the Zoom page of this guide.
Tips for Staying Motivated
  • Identify your top priorities and create task-groups rather than one to-do list.
    • For example, Group A: things that must be done; Group B: things that could be done. Finish Group A before moving on to Group B.
  • Consider practicing time-blocking. Set a schedule, and do one specific task during that time instead of having open-ended time. For example, 9:00-10:00: Read for class; 10:00-10:30: answer emails, 10:30-11:00: exercise, etc. 
  • Consider using the Pomodoro Technique. Work on a task for 25 minutes (set a timer), take a 5-minute break, work for another 25 minutes, repeat until you've done 4 cycles.
    • There's even a website, Tomato Timer, that will help you employ and stick to the Pomodoro Technique, if you're interested.
  • Set a time each day when you're going to stop working. Otherwise, you'll just fill up the time. 
Other Sources

Recommended Equipment/Workspace Set-Up

Equipment Considerations

Buying extra equipment for optimal online learning experiences may not be an option for everyone, but some things you might consider when setting up your online learning workspace are:

  • Webcam - though most laptops and mobile devices today have cameras built in, an external webcam can offer better picture, and may come with a better microphone built in.
  • Second monitor or mobile device - if you plan to type notes during a Zoom class, a second monitor or a second device for taking notes could make that experience considerably easier (cheaper alternative: handwrite your notes).
  • Headphones - working from home can be distracting and noisy; you might consider purchasing a pair of headphones to use during class, even better if they come with a built-in microphone.
  • Wireless mouse and/or keyboard -- laptop trackpads and keyboards are not as efficient or ergonomically sound as many wireless computer mouse and keyboard options today; for your own comfort, these might be good investments.
  • Decent computer chair -- getting away from technology considerations, if you'll be sitting at a desk at home for a great deal of time, selecting a a decent desk chair with ergonomic support cannot be understated. Your comfort level can influence your quality of work.