Your Guide to Keeping Focused in Online Classes

Taking online courses, while convenient, can require a lot more focus and dedication than in-person classes. There's nobody to stand over you and help you along, nobody to remind you when things are due, and nobody to brainstorm with during lectures and tutorials. Online courses require so much more discipline to withstand the distractions of the everyday world, so here's your guide on how to battle through all that.

Write Down Due Dates on a Big Calendar

One of the easiest ways of keeping track of everything that's going on is to have it in front of you. After all, you can hardly be expected to focus 100% in Class A if your mind's constantly wondering what's due in Classes B, C and D. A dry-erase whiteboard or 3x3 plastic calendar is terrific for this, letting you write down everything for the week and month, and then erase it to start over for the next round. And while they may be initially more expensive at the get-go than a paper calendar or your iPhone app, they last forever and offer much better immediate access.

Talk to People

One of the biggest benefits of taking courses in person is you can ask questions and exchanges ideas in real time, cementing the knowledge you've just learned. This isn't as easy in online courses and can lead to disinterest, so reach out to your online classmates as a way of staying interested in the material. Every class has at least some way of staying in contact with the other students, whether it's through an online forum, gchat, Skype, or just regular email. Use it, and stay passionate about your courses.

Use the Best of the Offline World

When you enter a classroom and sit down for a lecture, you're armed with a notebook, pen, and that week's readings. You then write down notes in your notebook, refer back to your readings if the prof says something important, and then go back to it all when you're studying. But with online courses, almost everything's done in front of a computer. Why? Why not break up the monotony of going cross-eyed in front of a screen and use the in-person techniques that have worked for thousands of years?

Dedicate a Work Zone to Your Classes

It's easy to carry your laptop around with you to do work anywhere and that convenience is great. But it also means you never feel like one area of your home is for school and school only. If you were on campus, you'd likely study in the library, cafeteria or in an empty classroom, and that atmosphere would launch you into study mode right away. And when you're able to slide into that mindset more quickly, you can stay focused on the topic at hand a lot more easily. Tip: don't set up your study area in the bedroom if you can avoid it, as your unconscious brain will get confused as to whether you're in a relaxing sleep area or a busy work area.

Get Everyone on Board

To be successful in your classes, it helps a lot to have the support of family and friends. Outline what your goals are, what you need from everyone else to make it happen, and when your "untouchable" times are. It may take them a bit of time to get used to it, but once they do, you'll be able to hit the ground running and never look back.