The perfect tools and practices to build your ideal online learning environment

October 8, 2020 — by Jason Cheng
Screen Shot 2020-10-08 at 7
Photo by Atrey Desai

A guide to help you stay focused and motivated during distance learning.


We’ve all been there: a miserable Monday morning of online classes, topped with Internet issues, sore eyes and good ol’ Zoom fatigue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there’s going to be a cure for our Zoom pains any time soon, so instead, here’s a simple guide to staying comfortable during your online classes. 

Now that we’re all stuck inside our homes, take advantage of the extra time you have, especially since you don’t have to physically be at school anymore. Believe me, an extra hour of sleep or an early morning run can go a long way.

First up on the list are a pair of quality headphones. It’s especially hard to focus on learning when your mom is cooking in the background, so headphones are a perfect way to block out any distractions. You’re going to have to keep these headphones on for several hours at a time, so I strongly advise you to look for more comfortable cushions for your ears.

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of AirPods. To be fair, they’re convenient, wireless and portable, but clogging your ears for hours on end isn’t great for your long-term health. It doesn’t help that the sound quality is poor, so you’re better off spending your budget elsewhere.

You’re going to want something that lasts for the foreseeable future, and my recommendation is $150 Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50x headphones. 

The pads that wrap around your ears have a fantastic cushion, and these medium-sized headphones are a very suitable fit. A wireless version does exist, but I’ve sacrificed that convenience for a more stable connection to my computer. 

Of course, $150 is a bit pricey, but hear me out. This is an investment — for your convenience and for your health. These headphones offer a very balanced sound, and I can assure you that you won’t miss out on important deadlines your teacher mentions. 

Once you’ve established your hearing utility, your eyesight is your next worry. We spend up to five hours a day on mandatory synchronous sessions, and that’s disregarding the extra time we spend on our phones or TVs. 

Your best bet is to minimize unnecessary screen time as much as possible. Instead of scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, go for a walk around the neighborhood, read a book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf or even take a nap. Quarantine has opened up a plethora of opportunities that we never really had time for before. 

Finally, let’s talk about your online learning setting. Find a quiet pocket of your house where you can concentrate. Have all your materials with you along with a glass of water beforehand. Make sure to be punctual. Most importantly, find a comfortable position to sit — trust me, you don’t want to wake up with a sore bottom or back aches the next morning.

Posture is often overlooked. Yes, slouching in your chair may be comfortable for now, but in the long run, you’re better off sitting in an upright position. 

Teachers give you breaks for a reason, so take advantage of that time, even if it’s just three minutes. Standing up and stretching can alleviate built-up soreness and stress, and it really allows you to clear up your mind. Anything that helps to refresh your mind after staring at a screen for hours is valuable, whether that’s listening to music or taking a breath of fresh air. 

It’s up to you to make online learning truly worthwhile. I have to admit, I’m exhausted, and I’m sure a lot of you are too. Yet staying motivated and comfortable in these dire times goes a long way, and no one expects you to function at 100 percent every day. Take care of yourself and prioritize your health — that’s what matters. That and a good pair of headphones.


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