Adapting to Online Learning

Written by 21CL Youth Ambassador Madison Kenney, Georgia Connections Academy, Class of 2021


In this article we are not only covering ways you can adapt to online learning, but as someone who attends a fully online school, I am hoping that sharing my experience will help. But I also want to inform you about how online learning is impacting everyone, in hopes to help you adapt to online learning and to making your own opinion on the matter while accounting for more than your own experience.

Our Current Circumstances with COVID-19 and Online Learning

At the beginning of the year most of us had to transition to online learning at the flip of a switch. It was not planned, and it was not easy. Because of this many of us have a negative view of online learning, and rightfully so.

However, it does not look like we will be back to in person classes soon. Especially as schools that do open, put students and teachers at risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Yes, the transition to online learning could have been A LOT smoother than it actually was. And schools could have done more to aid both teachers and students.

Most schools are conducting synchronous classes, which is where there are specific times when the class meets virtually. This type of class is very limiting to some students, as you aren’t able to get ahead in work. You also are not able to work at your own pace or when you want to. 

However, those qualities are supposed to be what makes online learning better than face-to-face learning. 


General Tips

  1. Have a separate space for studying/learning to prevent being distracted
  2. Plan out your week, what is coming up (maybe a test or an essay), and things you learned last week that you can improve on
  3. Stay connected with your teachers and friends. Remember to ask questions and make study groups (trust me those REALLY help if you are stuck)
  4. Set goals, even if they’re small, to help keep yourself on track
  5. Remember to take breaks from looking at the screen. Eye fatigue can be really draining and distracting when you are trying to learn or complete an assignment

Time Management

Now there are a lot of ways to do time management, and it is very important to try which method works best for you. Some people like to manage their time down to the minute, others like to go more with the flow of what is most important to get done first. 

It is all about finding what styles and techniques work best for your personality, routine, and lifestyle.

Here are two articles that show different types of time management (one is very short, and one is very long). 

Now of course there are some essential things that someone would need for online learning. The most important of which is a calendar; it does not matter if it’s an app or a physical calendar, just have one and use it. 

The best calendar in my opinion would be digital because it allows you to cross out tasks (which feels really rewarding), and notifies you of your classes and assignment due dates.

You are most likely not going to be constantly told about upcoming assignments and it’s very important to keep track of them. In addition, it’ll help create a routine of sorts, which is something all of us are missing right now.


As someone who has taken all online college level classes this semester, I can tell you that self-discipline is likely the best quality you can have while learning online. Yes, college in general requires more self-discipline, but you might as well start practicing self-discipline now to prepare yourself for college.

The reason self-discipline is important is because a lot of things can feel optional, especially without teachers constantly reminding you. It is very easy to forget when things are due or if you even have an assignment or not.

One of the most difficult aspects of self-discipline is accepting your failures and learning from them. A lot of people think self-discipline is about getting everything right and having everything in order. It really is not; it’s about learning from your mistakes to improve yourself and work towards your goal.

To improve self-discipline, it’s very important to have goals, even simple ones like “I’ll have this assignment turned in one day early.” Start small and build up to more difficult goals.

Try to remove temptation. Once again, a small action like putting your phone screen down while you work. But at the same time reward yourself. Once you turn in that assignment a day early, treat yourself to something, reassure yourself that your work is not for nothing.

For more information about building self-discipline click here: 


The Reason to Consider

The reason we want to do a pros and cons list is because online learning is likely here to stay. Mainly because it is the safest way to learn during the COVID-19 Pandemic as mentioned before. 

In addition, if you are going to college, there are many online classes that you have the chance to take. And deciding if you would want to take those classes (without taking the risk of damaging your GPA) would be an important decision to make. 

If you are someone who wants to make a change in the school system, then this portion of the article is for you.


Anytime, Anywhere, Any Pace: By far the greatest advantage of online learning is the ability to do work whenever, wherever, and at your own pace. It is the main point of even taking online classes, to have that flexibility in your schedule. 

However, many schools are currently not giving their students this type of flexibility. Basically, requiring students to spend eight hours at their desk just switching between classes.

So, while normally this would be a pro, it is mostly void due to the way some schools are conducting virtual learning.

Eliminating Discrimination (mostly): When you are learning online you normally don’t know anyone’s age, gender, race, or ethnicity. As well as any other visual indicators that might cause people to be discriminatory. The exception to this would be turning on your video such as in a zoom call.

Access to More Information: Obviously, everything is on the internet, and learning online means being able to take advantage of this. However, this of course makes it easier to cheat on quizzes or tests.


Lack of Access to Technology: The most obvious problem with virtual learning is the simple fact that not everyone has access to it. Some homes simply do not have a computer at all, or someone else in the household other than the student needs to use it. 

Technical Literacy: Let’s face it, we all have that one friend or family member that just doesn’t know how to use technology. Whether it be their phone, iPad, laptop, or PC, they just are not good with technology. This problem can apply to both students and teachers. If a student does not work well with technology, then they might focus more on learning the platform than learning the actual content of the course.

Students are Easily Distracted: When you are at school you know that you are supposed to be learning. Because that is what your brain has been conditioned to do when in a certain place. But when you start doing schoolwork somewhere else (maybe at your desk, livingroom, etc.) your brain is not conditioned to think that you’re supposed to be working. This makes it a lot easier to be distracted by things.


In case you did not have time to read all that here is a recap of the most important pieces.

We all know that online learning is here to stay as it is the safest way to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, we might as well adapt to it the best we can. In addition, skills that help adapt to online learning are skills that can help you through college and your career moving forward.

Without a doubt the two most important skills you can learn to adapt to online learning are time management and self-discipline.

Improving time management:

  1. PLEASE use a calendar, I cannot stress this enough. The best type would be one that gives you notifications on BOTH your phone and PC/Laptop to keep you up to date with your assignment and classes.
  2. Set goals for yourself to keep yourself on track.
  3. Find the style of time management that works best for you. Here’s two articles that show different types of time management, one is very short, and one is very long. 
    1. Short (4 types of time management):
    2. Long (58 styles of time management AND a top ten list): 

Improving Self Discipline:

  1. To improve self-discipline, it’s very important to have goals, even simple ones like “I’ll have this assignment turned in one day early.” Start small and build up to more difficult goals.
  2. Try to remove temptation.
  3. Reward yourself when you complete a goal.
  4. Learn more about improving self-discipline here: 

There is also a Pros and Cons section of the article for anyone who is considering taking online classes in college. The reason I included this is because college online classes are very different from high school online classes. 

College online relies more on the student than the teacher, so it is suggested to start off with easy classes online, such as an art or music elective. 

And as said before, this really is not going away. So, we should all do our best to pick up new skills to adapt to online learning and help others do the same.

This article is part of a series written by the 2020-2021 Youth Ambassadors as part of their “Empower Youth Voices” social justice initiative during the 2020 fall semester. 

Originally published by 21st Century Leaders: Source

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