Online & Onwards

birds on a power line - image

Finding ourselves in the unexpected position of studying and learning entirely online may not be what we bargained for.

Absorbing yourself in learning is such a rewarding way to spend your time. It’s a great way to expand your thinking and develop knowledge and understanding of yourself and the world. What you probably didn’t bank on was your learning being interrupted by a pandemic! So unexpectedly you are having to study and learn entirely online. This format will work really well for some but might be difficult for others.

Unexpected changes and transitions can be challenging, and transitioning to an online learning format is no exception. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies that can be explored.

Strategies often suggested

  • Create a daily study schedule that suits your learning needs
  • Schedule in breaks and free time in your day to maintain a balance
  • Make technology work for you: to limit distractions use apps like Forest, Freedom or Rescue Time
  • Develop a morning routine that includes getting dressed and eating breakfast before sitting down to study
  • Set up a space in your home that is conducive to study
  • Consider how you use your breaks so that you feel refreshed and primed to continue studying
  • Contact academic staff early on if you feel like you’re struggling to understand content or keep up
  • Develop an evening routine so your mind knows to switch off until your next study session the next day
  • Identify any thinking patterns that might be contributing to procrastination and reframe these thoughts 
  • Get visual - use a calendar or diary to write in all your assessment due dates
  • Introduce a “buffer zone” into your week - a scheduled time to catch up on anything you didn’t complete 

Download our tip sheet  for a little more detail about these tips.


Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can prevent us from effectively engaging in the challenge of online learning.

  • I don’t have a structure to my day

    Typically the time and structure of our day is influenced by other people e.g. when lectures are set, bus timetables. You may find that your day is now lacking the normal structures which can leave anyone feeling less motivated. When we are busy, we forget that motivation naturally ebbs and flows. It is a rare person who feels motivated all of the time.

    When planning a structure, start small with a few key target areas and break study periods down into small, achievable goals. A regular daily study schedule for example is an important antidote to low motivation. Then, rather than relying on how you feel to determine whether you study, refer to your study plan for the day. 

  • I can’t concentrate when watching online lectures or attending zoom sessions

    counsellor and dog having a zoom session

    Studying online requires an added level of focus and self-regulation. The devices we would usually put away while in a lecture are the very tools we need in order to learn. To combat distraction, we have to put extra energy into focusing and staying on task. Initially this can be quite cognitively draining and can lead us to feel demotivated.

    It is normal to feel lots of emotions at this time, including frustration! These feelings have an effect on us but there are things we can do to reduce their impact. Our 'boosters' section provides some strategies for ways to improve your concentration and manage those feelings of frustration.

  • I feel isolated from my peers, lecturers and tutors  

    Part of what makes university a great experience is the people that you get to meet and connect with along the way. It is understandable that adjusting to an online learning space can leave you feeling isolated and lonely.

    As we transition to this way of learning, it can be helpful to find ways to maintain contact with your university community. This helps to keep you engaged with your study and reduce isolation.

    • Attend all online lectures and tutorials
    • Maintain contact with your lecturer and tutors. Reach out for help early
    • Organise a regular online catch up or study group with your peers
    • Schedule a remote session with the Writing Centre, Maths Learning Centre, PASS or Studiosity


Below are three things you can do to boost success.

  • Create a daily schedule and stick to it

    This is important to help us build our focus and motivation back up:

    • Set up your study space and ensure you have everything you need e.g. laptop, headphones, stationary
    • Remove distractions from your study space
    • Schedule high demand tasks to times of the day when you’re most alert 
    • Design a morning and end of day routine to transition you between relaxation and study mode
    • Take breaks from study and include rewards and downtime in your routine e.g. facetime a friend during your lunch break
    • Reflect on your study and life goals. Write them down somewhere visible. Think of study as one of the steps that will move you closer to achieving these goals
    • Aim to work for shorter blocks of time. Instead of planning a four hour study period, aim to work for 30 minutes then have a break. Or, try splitting your workload up by task. For example, instead of trying to complete the entire assignment in one go, divide it into quarters and tick off each completed quarter as you go along
  • Acknowledge your feelings

    Often when we have an uncomfortable feeling, we try to distance ourselves from it. Whilst it’s understandable, this method often doesn’t work in the long term. We can find ourselves trying to escape a feeling that keeps running after us. What can be helpful is to change how we respond to our feelings. Instead of pushing away or trying to run from how you’re feeling, try practicing ACE:

    • Acknowledge the feeling: Take notice of whatever you might be experiencing, e.g. emotions, memories
    • Come back into your body: Find your own way to reconnect with your body, e.g. take a deep breath, stretch, get up and out of your seat
    • Engage in what you’re doing: Find your own way to re-engage with the world around you, e.g. notice 5 things you can see or hear, or bring your focus back to the task at hand
  • Control what you can

    When life is uncertain and overwhelming it can be useful to focus on the things that are in your control. This can give you a sense of stability when things around you feel unpredictable. Some areas you might want to focus on include:

    • Physical health, e.g. exercise, eating healthy and delicious foods, sleep.
    • Structuring your day.
    • Problem solve where you can. Ask for help if you can’t fix the issue yourself. For example, if you’re experiencing difficulties with your online course, contact your faculty or the IT department. If you have concerns over how you can do your assessments, speak with your course coordinator. You can also find the latest student information regarding COVID-19 on the Student Information page.
    • For further strategies head over to our Facing the Future page.

Question and Answer session on coping with COVID, particularly in relation to managing studies online.

Need more info?

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    Study issues

    View our general Study Tips section on the Wellbeing Hub for information on: