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Learning Online

 Virtual Lectures: Skip the commute, but stay on track!

Establish a new context: Create a physical context for “attending” classes to improve focus.

  • Your environment influences performance and well-being (Sander, Caza and Jordan, 2018). Set up a formal, clutter-free workspace, and be prepared with a pen and paper.
  • Minimize distractions and ask others in your home to avoid interrupting you.
    • Use headphones to concentrate on the talk. Limit background music, which can worsen performance (Cassidy and MacDonald, 2007).
    • Block notifications and focus on the lecture. “Multitasking” divides our attention and performance between several tasks (Rosen, 2008).

Transition to study mode: Even simple preparation habits can boost productivity. (Rampton, 2019).

  • Get dressed and sit upright at a table. Eat breakfast and practice self-care.
  • Review course content before a lecture.
    • Look over past notes to highlight key concepts and write focus questions (Tofade, Elsner and Haines, 2013). Meet with peers to discuss past readings, notes, and questions.
    • Identify interesting topics and do a bit more reading about them. 
    • Check your syllabus. Write down your questions about assignments.

Develop engagement strategies:  Don’t scroll through social media! Write notes to pay attention.

  • Use pen and paper. Handwriting encourages you to process and summarize information (Smoker, Murphy and Rockwell, 2009). 
  • Add to your notes before, during, and after a lecture (Porter-O'Donnell, 2004). Write practice questions and emphasize possible exam content.  
  • Connect prior knowledge and experience with new content to help you remember.

Beware procrastination: Try to watch lectures in real-time to establish a routine. 

  • Get timely announcements about assignments, readings, and schedule changes.
  • Avoid ‘cramming’ recorded lectures. You’re unlikely to retain information this way.
  • IMPORTANT: Don’t skip! Not all lecture content will be available in your readings.


Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email

References (Special thanks to Henrietta Den Dekker and Joseph Oluwasola for providing research support): 

Cassidy, G., & MacDonald, R. (2007). The effect of background music and background noise on the task performance of introverts 

and extraverts. Psychology of Music, 35(3), 517-537. doi: 10.1177/0305735607076444

Porter-O'Donnell, C. (2004). Beyond the Yellow Highlighter: Teaching Annotation Skills to Improve Reading Comprehension. The 

English Journal, 93(5), 82. doi: 10.2307/4128941

Rosen, C. (2008). The Myth of Multitasking. The New Atlantis, (20), 105-110. 

Sander, E., Caza, A., & Jordan, P. (2018). Psychological perceptions matter: Developing the reactions to the physical work 

environment scale. Building and Environment, 148, 338-347. doi: 10.1016/j.buildenv.2018.11.020

Smoker, T., Murphy, C., & Rockwell, A. (2009). Comparing Memory for Handwriting versus Typing. Proceedings Of The Human 

Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 53(22), 1744-1747. doi: 10.1177/154193120905302218

Tofade, T., Elsner, J., & Haines, S. (2013). Best Practice Strategies for Effective Use of Questions as a Teaching Tool. American 

Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 77(7), 155. doi: 10.5688/ajpe777155

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