Adjusting to Unexpected Remote Learning

Unexpected remote learning can bring new challenges, from coping with unstructured time to understanding new technologies and ways of working. After you've been sure to become Remote Ready for Learning you may find the following tips and strategies helpful for adjusting your mindset and habits for remote learning success.

Avoid Multitasking

When working at home without the structure of being in the classroom, you might be very tempted to multitask. Multitasking is often represented through micro-tasking which unfortunately, has some major drawbacks:

  • Your work will take longer.
    • Every time you switch back to your original task you will have to remember where you were and what’s next.
  • You’re more likely to make mistakes.
    • Switching between tasks can be distracting and overall require more focus and effort; ultimately creating mental fatigue.
  • You’ll remember less
    • Your brain will be divided amongst multiple tasks meaning you’ll be less able to commit what you’re learning to memory.
The Adjustment: Mono-tasking
  • Use the “ Pomodoro method” 
    • The Pomodoro method uses a timer to help you focus for 25- or 50-minute periods followed by a 5- to 10- minute break. It is ideal to structure your time and stay on task.
      • Benefit: Concentrating on only one task at a time.
      • Benefit: Built in breaks between tasks.
      • Benefit: Still able to get multiple things done in one day but without the mental fatigue and memory challenges. 

Make the Most of Video Lectures

In high school, movies during class usually meant an easy day where you could pay less attention. During remote, learning video lectures, whether live streamed or prerecorded, are vital to your understanding and engagement with material. 

The Adjustment: Treat video lectures like an in-person lecture
  • Stick to a schedule
    • Consistency will be key to not falling behind. It will help you to manage your many school & life demands at once. 
  • Watch recordings at normal speed
    • It may be tempting to speed up videos to save on time but increasing playback speed to just 1.5x can lower your retention, particularly for more complex material. This means you may have to rewatch the videos or you can miss key concepts/themes/info.
  • Know what to do before, during, and after the video

Recreate Your Old Study Space

While studying remotely, one of the big changes can be a loss of your usual study space and what it offered beyond simply a table and chair. After you've looked into choosing a physical study space for remote learning, look for ways to adapt the environment of your new remote learning space to mimic some of your old study space's sights and sounds.

The Adjustment: bring the outside world (virtually) into your new world at home
  • Consider the sounds of your old study space.
    • If you usually study in a coffee shop or library, consider including background sounds of those spaces into your new study space! Use a Spotify playlist, white noise app, or YouTube video for ambient noise that won’t pull focus. There are already playlists created that offer coffee shop or library sounds.
  • Consider the movement of your old study space.
    • If you use to walk across campus to get to your study space, consider incorporating movement breaks between classes at home. After you finish one course's scheduled study period get up and move around or go for a timed walk; then start a new course's classwork on your return.
  • Consider the classmates you use to study with. 
    • try a virtual study session with your friends or study group - study together virtually or just meet online while doing individual work. If they're unavailable, try a YouTube study-along video for company or motivation (or to help you use the Pomodoro technique!).

Stay Connected

When you're learning remotely it is key to stay connected with both your campus community and your personal community. Staying socially engaged can make a big difference academically and emotionally for students while they learn.

The Adjustment: Create community online.
  • Join or create a study group for your course.
    • working with your classmates can help keep you accountable, reduce procrastination, and offer an easy way to get to know other students. Check out our tips on creating a study group to begin developing your academic community.
  • Ask your instructor.
    • Stay in touch with your instructor - find their contact information in your course syllabus and reach out for help or clarification if you need it via their preferred email or virtual office hours.  Check out communicating with instructors if you need some advice on reaching out.
  • Connect with University supports
  • Call and say hello to your closest contacts
    • Keep in touch with friends and family by scheduling regular video calls. It can be a great way to take a study break or to reach out when you’re feeling stressed. 


Adapted from the University of Michigan's Centre for Academic Innovation, Adjusting your study habits during COVID

Looking for more strategies and tips?
Check out MUN's Academic Success Centre online!