11 October 2020

Zoom University fatigue? Here are 9 tips for getting back into online learning

Feeling a bit disengaged in Zoom classes, falling behind or just fed up with sitting at your desk all day? Here's some unprofessional advice from yours truly on how to get back into the groove...

Back in March when everything went online, no one was ready. Now, this autumn, it almost feels like there's no excuses for not doing well - we've done it all before and we've got the hang of it, right? Well, not necessarily. It can still be tough for many and I'm sure a lot of people have been in a Zoom or technology slumps at least once this term already. I know I have, but I feel like I now know what to do when I'm feeling a little unmotivated:

1. Get reorganised in whatever way suits you: Sometimes, starting afresh with your organisation system is a very effective way of getting out of a slump. I can occasionally spend a bit too long reorganising myself, so I recommend keeping things simple. I like to have daily to-do lists on view on my phone home screen (thank you iOS14) and in my Girl Gotta Change planner (shoutout to Alicia :D). I'm also getting into the app Notion!

It can be hard to keep up with things when every day looks the same and you're not constantly out and about and going from A to B to C to D - at least it is for me. I like to keep busy, but with online learning, 'busy' now feels different. Recently, I've been setting some of my own goals and deadlines for assignments and projects, even if they don't need to be completed by a certain time, just so I can get them done.

2. Treat your classes like in-person classes: It is incredibly tempting to switch off, check your messages or even take a nap during an online lecture or class, because, in reality, you're alone - you're not in a lecture hall or classroom, and no one can stop you. Here's a challenge for you: if your class doesn't require you to turn your camera on but the option is there, leave it on (unless you'd be the only one doing so... that'd be awkward, I feel that). If it's a recorded lecture or a class with no video options, pretend your camera is on and that your class can see you. It'll make you more aware of your attentiveness and can hopefully help you stay engaged. Here's another challenge: try to participate once in every discussion class you have. Participation can be as simple as asking a question over text or video. I always feel great for speaking at least once!

3. Break things down into smaller tasks and prioritise: Since life has slowed down a lot this year, it can be easy to just sit down for hours slowly ploughing through your workload. While this may suit some, for most, it's better to take regular breaks - even if they're just for two minutes. I don't strictly follow it but the Pomodoro technique is quite good and it can help you get more things done sooner. Switching things up and focusing on one thing at a time can help make a heavy workload more manageable. When I do switch between tasks, I can sometimes get caught up in other less important things, so I try to remember to prioritise. 

If you're missing the library, check out Study With Me videos. I'm currently loving elloitsangela's videos and I leave them play in the background when music isn't doing it for me. Or, set up a virtual study group with friends. I haven't done this yet, but even having your friends and yourself on view on a call while you're all working away can make you keep each other accountable.

4. Have a go-to workspace: Make sure your workspace is comfortable and that it helps you to work well and to concentrate. Have everything you need on hand and have your desk decluttered in a way that keeps your mind at peace. Try to delineate your workspace's function, so minimise phone scrolling and web browsing when you have work to do (guilty). Ensure you aren't hunching over your laptop or books too much - back pain isn't nice (I literally had to fix my posture while typing this). Laptop stands can help a lot with that, or find a chair or cushion that can ease lower back aches.

5. Change up your workspace environment (if or when possible): Sometimes changing your surroundings can help you feel more refreshed. Hopefully you have the opportunity to leave your room and work elsewhere in your house or accommodation, whether that's the kitchen or living room. If you feel safe doing so, you could go to the library if it's open. Even changing up your angle in your main workspace area can make a difference, whether that's sitting on the floor or even your bed (I don't encourage you to do work in your bed at night as you might... drift... off...).

6. Get moving! My FitBit reminds me when I haven't taken many steps in a day and it makes me realise when I've been stuck at my desk or in my room for too long. So, I when I need to get some blood pumping, I try to go for short jogs or walks. You don't even have to leave the house to get moving: get away from your desk and stretch, open a window for fresh air, do yoga, dance to BTS or musical soundtracks... whatever makes you feel reenergised!

7. Connect with peers: Wherever you are, it's likely hard for you to meet up with some people because of movement restrictions or social distancing comfort, so you may not have seen some of your classmates or friends in person for a long time. I'm pretty good at working independently, but I still value having people to talk to about classes, even if I don't have any queries or problems. To feel more of a sense of community, make sure you have group chats for your classes. Usually, in my experience, people are quite quick to make them, so I'm sure you have some by now. However, you may not have chats with some tutorial/seminar peers or friends, so I recommend setting up those smaller group chats. These can help replace the lovely mingling and chats between classes in college that I oh so dearly miss. 

8. Fill your heavy online class days with activities that make you happy: This is my favourite tip, as it's something I try to do any time I'm doing a lot of work at home. I don't mean finding something fun to do to procrastinate on my work, but little things to do on breaks or to reward myself with when I'm finishing up for the day. Previous exam or essay seasons have involved a lot of ice skating watching, musical theatre jam sessions or reading young adult novels. If you're spending a lot of time doing school work, you deserve some time off to have some fun! Planning on doing something that makes you happy on breaks or days off can make online learning feel a little bit more exciting and can help motivate you to do what you need to get done, done!

9. Remember that you're not alone: 2020 has been such a crazy year, so you need to give yourself a clap on the back for getting through it first of all. Online learning can be tough - really tough - and it's easy to feel alone when you're struggling with it. But you're not alone. Professors or TAs are always willing to support you if you need help or if you can't keep up. Pretty much every student around the world is experiencing the same thing, and most are finding it hard. Yes, some students are thriving, but a lot aren't. So if you're not feeling the best mentally about it all, use the support systems from your university or reach out to those close to you.

Here are some StudyTuber videos about online classes that I recommend: 


I hope you found my tips somewhat helpful! 

I'm getting on alright with my classes at the moment. My final assignments with Trinity back in March and April went smoothly enough, and I began my Columbia journey early with a really interesting Psychology summer class. I felt like I got a head start with Columbia's online class structures that way, so I knew the deal once I started astronomy and sociology this autumn. Even though I'm only taking two classes, I find myself a little fatigued every now and then, so I can only imagine how some of you feel! Next term I'm sure I will be even busier, so I'm hoping these tips will come in handy for myself again when they're needed!

I wish you the best of luck this term!

Talk to you all soon,


  1. These tips are definitely going to help a lot of people. Learning this way must be such a huge change!
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  2. I love these tips. I'm finding it so hard to switch off after I'm finished college. I have also started using Notion and I find it great for organisation and hope to start getting back to some content creation.

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