Online classes success

While social distancing may eliminate coffee shops as a study option for many, students can try to simulate that environment at home.

On Wednesday, March 18, President Jonathan Alger notified students, staff and families that JMU would continue online classes through the remainder of the semester. While necessary, this decision poses many challenges for Dukes who may have never taken online classes. Studying at home may prove difficult for many, but there are some tactics students can use to avoid falling behind. Here are five tips students can implement to help them stay focused and productive at home.

Save the PJs and bed for sleeping

The sudden shift to working from home can mean more pajama days, but students are more likely to be productive with their day by getting dressed in the morning. It doesn’t have to be a full outfit, but simply changing into something comfortable and casual that isn’t sleepwear can help. People are more likely to work harder and be more active if they feel they look nice and put together.

Plus, if one’s sitting in bed in their pajamas to do homework, they might not get much done. It can be helpful to move to a different area, even in one’s own house. Changing one’s location can improve brain function and recall and increase mental energy. By preparing for the day as if they were actually going to class, students can increase their energy levels, stimulate their minds and become more efficient in their online schooling.


Keep a clean, designated workspace

When working from home, it can be easy to let the mess pile up. However, cleaning one’s space can clear one’s mind. In a time when many are self-quarantining and staying home, students can take some extra time to clean their workspace for a fresh start.

Keeping a designated area for work can help the brain tune in to what one’s doing. For example, one should have a separate space for sleeping and studying. If one tries to study in a space they usually relax or sleep in, they’ll likely not feel as alert or energetic, according to Brian Robben at the American College of Healthcare Sciences.

The Pomodoro method

One tactic proven to increase productivity is the Pomodoro method. Using this technique, one will work for 25 minutes, then take an active break for five minutes. Unlike hours of grueling, uninterrupted study, this method works because it provides short breaks that keep the brain awake and alert. It also has a built-in reward system: for every period of focused studying, one receives five minutes to focus on something else like checking their phone, talking to a friend or getting a snack.

The 25:5 minute ratio may not work for everyone. For those who have a longer attention span, they can divide up their time to work for 50 minutes and rest for 10 minutes. Some can work for two hours and break for 20 or 30 minutes. Everyone studies differently, so Dukes should consider what works best for them to maximize their own productivity.

Alternate between tasks

Studying at home can be boring sometimes, especially if one’s confined to one room or desk space. If one’s unable to change their location or take active breaks — as many may be during this coronavirus outbreak — they can switch up their routine in other ways. By alternating between subjects, projects or tasks, students can improve their focus.

Knocking out easier, menial tasks that take less time first can help people get more done in a short amount of time. The feeling of accomplishing several tasks, however small, can also build confidence and motivation, inspiring one to keep going.

Rotating one’s more demanding projects can boost productivity by keeping the brain keen and refreshed, according to time management expert Elizabeth Saunders. It also helps to break down those overwhelming, time-consuming tasks into smaller, more achievable steps. Dukes who procrastinate in the face of larger projects might alternate their subjects and tasks to accommodate their short attention spans.

Recreate an on-campus study space

As students move away from campus during the coronavirus pandemic, many may miss their favorite study spots at JMU. Whether it be Carrier Library, a coffee shop or the Quad, Dukes can recreate it at home.

While social distancing may eliminate coffee shops as a study option for many, students can try to simulate that environment at home. One can brew their favorite coffee or tea, sit at a table or desk and turn on some music to help them focus. While one won’t be surrounded by people as they would in a coffee shop, a makeshift setup at home can help switch up one’s routine.

If Dukes are longing to study on the Quad, they can find a spot outside. One can go to a local park, and once the threat of coronavirus passes, they can even bring a pet or a friend to keep them company as they would on campus.

In this time of quarantine, which can be stressful for many, there are some methods students can use to help themselves handle all the changes. By implementing these tips, Dukes can ensure more productive study time while they adjust to online classes.

Contact Charlotte Matherly at For more information on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.