How to Make the Best of Online Classes

How to Make the Best of Online Classes

Last week, the University announced that all classes would move online as the number of COVID cases rise. For many of us graduate students, this means a huge change in our daily routine. We can no longer learn in the classroom or study in the library, and with Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us are self-isolating before heading home.

This transition comes at a stressful time as final exams and papers are just around the corner, and many students feel cramped and stressed in their apartments or houses. Many of us have also found it very hard to focus during hours of online Zoom sessions. Below are some ways to make the best of online classes:

No Notifications, No Distractions:

When attending classes over Zoom, it can be very easy to get distracted since you’re only one new tab away from Instagram and Twitter, or even from working on other assignments during class time. In order to combat this, I suggest putting both your laptop and your phone on Do Not Disturb. If you get your texts delivered to your laptop, click “quit” on the messages app while you are in class, so you don’t receive any sort of notification that you have a new message. The same goes with email – Outlook, the email service we all use for school, also has an off switch for notifications. I suggest switching notifications off during class so you aren’t distracted by new mail. What it really comes down to is this: social media, email and anything else online can wait until after class is over, and remaining present in your Zoom classroom will be beneficial to you in the long run. Feel free to build in 15 minutes to scroll through social media after class, in order to catch up on things you’ve missed, or even as a reward for getting though class time.

Screenshot of Outlook email settings
How to turn off notifications in Outlook email


Even with these notifications off, it can be very difficult to pay attention through a screen. Without being in a classroom setting, the class and the work may seem more far away than it used to. In order to make sure I’m completely tuned in to the class discussion, I usually take notes on pen and paper. When every session is recorded and we are at home, notetaking does not seem as important as it was before. However, writing down notes, even if you don’t think you will go back to them later, is a good way to keep up with the lecture. An added bonus is that research shows that writing concepts down makes it easier to commit them to memory.

Make your space cozy

Since most of us are now doing class from our living rooms or bedrooms, it’s beneficial to make that space feel comfortable and welcoming. I make sure that I am by a window, so I am still getting some daylight and the occasional sunshine. I usually Zoom from my desk, so I bought some plants and placed them behind my laptop to make the place feel homier. I’ve also added some pictures of places I’ve traveled to, as well as pictures of family and friends, to remind myself of happy times that will come again.

Plants on desk
The plants on the desk where I Zoom from.


Earlier, I mentioned taking 15 minutes after class to scroll through social media. Of course, that’s not what everyone wants to do for a break, especially when social media can be bad for mental health. So, if this isn’t your cup of tea, I recommend doing something else that gets you away from your laptop.

Since we spend so many hours hunched over computers, I try to walk for a few miles every day, just to leave the house, stretch and move around. I also try to work out four days a week in order to relieve stress. If you are really feeling stiff from spending so much time at home, I recommend pilates or yoga, both of which you can find for free on YouTube.

If you want to keep your brain engaged, but don’t want to continue to stare at a screen, you could try taking half an hour to read a book of your choice, or to do some journaling.

With the approval of two vaccines just days away, we can be hopeful that the classroom may have some type of normalcy at some point in 2021. Until then, keeping your grades in check and yourself happy during our time online is crucial.

Alanna Powers