6 tips to help college students adjust to online learning

The explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people live their lives in almost every place on the planet. Beginning in March of 2020, college students were focusing on upcoming exams and getting into the pace of on-campus life. When the pandemic hit, many schools began to restrict campus access and started to slowly switch over to online learning.

The beginning of the 2020-2021 college semester was almost unrecognizable. Few campuses are open to students and those that must attend specific labs or hands-on work must do so with social distancing and mask ordinances in place. This means that millions of students are left to try to navigate their college education from home.

Online learning is not a new concept however, and it has quickly become the norm while systems have undergone a rapid update. It’s been an incredible shift from occasional students using an online platform to complete a minimum of courses, to full fields of study being offered completely online.

Students are among the most affected by the changes brought about by the pandemic. They’ve gone from diving into life independently, living on campus and being surrounded by their peer community, to being isolated with a computer as their only outlet. It’s not surprising that many students are finding it tough to make the changes that will help them to be successful.

Staying focused, maintaining interest, and dealing with isolation are all valid issues that students are now facing. Let’s look at a few tips that will help college students to adjust to online education.


Online classes (apart from live lectures) are often offered virtually, meaning that online students can “attend” class at any time. This type of freedom may be liberating, but it also requires discipline to stay on track. It’s a good idea to look over your full itinerary and make a formal class schedule to follow. Include time for virtual classes and scheduled lectures. You should also include blocks of time in your schedule to complete assignments and do homework.


When students are outside of the structured classroom environment, it can be easy to become distracted. Watching the latest show on Netflix, or chatting with your family are normal things when you are at home but can interfere with your class time. Keeping the television off and sharing a copy of your class schedule with your family or housemates can help them to understand when you are working and need privacy and quiet.


It might be fine to work on assignments while sitting on your bed with your laptop set across your legs, but for long term productivity, this isn’t going to work. An organized and dedicated workspace should be created somewhere in your home where you can go to focus. Keep all the tools that you need to conduct your classes and assignments in one place including class folders, your printer, and textbooks.


The lack of structure that comes from online learning can be a real struggle for many students. Without the rules and schedules of on-campus life, students may struggle with motivation. To help you get into the right mindset for optimal learning you need to create a productive zone and attitude. Before you start your lessons each day, get out of bed, and get dressed. Your wardrobe doesn’t have to be fancy, but putting on proper clothes will help your mind get down to business.


Going to college via online classes is a relatively new experience for everyone. There are going to be lots of questions that you need to have answered. It’s important to speak up when you have a question. Regardless of the subject or how inconsequential you think your question is, it’s important to ask as it could be helpful to you and your fellow classmates. Keep an eye on the discussion boards through your classes to get the answers that you need.


If you want to be a successful student, it’s important to not create a schedule that is unrealistic. The brain needs a break after learning something new. When you make out your study schedule, it’s important to include time for breaks in between subjects or assignments. Head to the kitchen for a healthy snack or take the family dog out for a quick walk to help your brain be ready for more learning.

With the frustrations of online learning and this whole new college experience, it’s important to remember that you're not alone. The best that you can do is to dedicate yourself to your studies by following some of these tips and remember that eventually, things will get back to a new normal.

Photo: Karolina Grabowska, Pexels