Motivational tips for studying at home
These are uncertain times with the corona virus pandemic, with limited teaching on campus and restrictions regarding health and travel. We fully understand that it might be hard to stay motivated for your studies. To help you to structure your workday and to study efficently toward the exams, we have put together som tips and advice.
Many students experience isolation, anxiety and are worried about their studies and work. This might lead to pondering which can prevent you from functioning as well as you normally do. But do not despair, we have some tips that may help you to function optimally despite the current situation.
Associate professor and researcher Lucas Matias Jeno investigates teaching and learning, and his main interest is student learning and motivation and how teachers motivate their students. Here is his best advice for students who are struggling with motivation.
How to function optimally
- Isolation: Even though you have to isolate physically, you do not have to isolate psychologically. We recommend that you contact others, either by video or telephone, to share experience, collaborate, or discuss.
- Solitude: Being alone can be experienced very differently. Can you find something valuable or meaningful about being alone?
- Development: Now is not the time to stop growing as a person. We recommend that you maintain your hobbies, passions, and interests. Could you see this as an opportunity to learn some new skills or develop an ability? What is meaningful to you? What do you think is interesting and fun to do? What do you do just because you want to? Maybe now is the time to do more of that?
- Happiness: Now is not the time to focus on being "happy" and "joy." I recommend you focus on personal development, taking care of family and friends, and your health. Think about how important, meaningful, and interesting these focus areas can be. Happiness and joy will then follow as a by-product.
Studying at home without campus lessons, with distractions such as smartphone, TV, and Laptop, can be challenging. And once you start studying, maintaining concentration over time can be extremely difficult. Here are some tips on how you can find motivation.
- What is your reason for studying? We all have different reasons to study. Some do it because they think it is interesting or important. Others do it because they feel forced to or feel guilty if they don`t. Identify your motivation.
- Start with the tasks that are most interesting and most important to you.
- Before you start doing a task, like reading. Think about what makes this activity fun or interesting. If it is boring and uninteresting, think about why it is important to you personally, to your studies, to a future job, or similarly.
- Choose the learning methods you prefer. If you prefer to follow videos or engage in discussion through Zoom, then do so. Don't feel compelled to participate in activities at the expense of your motivation.
- Choose tasks that are not too easy or too difficult. An easy task may be to watch a TED talk on a related topic. This will not take more than 10 minutes, require little cognitive resources, and provide little mastery. A too difficult task could be to write an entire assignment in IMRAD format in a day or two. A more optimal task would be to identify 10 positive and negative elements of the TED talk, or to write the method section of the assignment in one day.
- Collaborate with others to co-produce mind maps, quiz questions, chapter summaries, oral presentations of topics, or provide written feedback on each other's work.
Many are in the same situation as you. Surveys at UiO and UiB show that most students struggle to structure their workday and find motivation to read. Here are some tips on how to structure your study day.
- Set specific, clear, and achievable goals for the day: A goal that says "read" is too general and vague, and commits you to nothing. We recommend that you set goals like "write a half-page summary of Chapter 2", or "make 10 quiz questions including answers from today's video lessons." Make sure you do not set goals that are too difficult, do not try to do too much at the same time, and that you care about what to do.
- Be realistic: Don't expect that you will study for 8 hours if that is unrealistic. Start realistically and work your way up if that is your goal. Mastering 1 hour of studying is more motivating than totally failing to study for 8 hours.
- Make a "to-do" list: Write down everything that needs to be done. Sort them from high to low priority, and from easy to difficult. It is a good idea to write down when they need to be done.
- Use a structured timeline: You can vary the time interval, but to follow a timeline can help to commit you to studies. An example is: study for 15-20 minutes - Pause for 5-10 minutes- Study 15-20 minutes -Pause for 5-10 minutes.
- Manage your environment: If you have separate rooms for studying and watching TV, then we recommend not to bring your phone into the "office". It is too tempting to look at the phone. Use the breaks in the structured timeline above to use your phone. A laptop has the same content as phones. Turn off notifications, turn on "Do Not Disturb", if possible; turn off the Internet while you work to prevent loss of concentration. There are apps to block social media content while you work. Use the technology.
There are different strategies for learning that are more or less effective. From a learning perspective, there is no difference between learning effectively on campus or at home.
However, preparing for the exam under current conditions, compared to “normal” conditions, cause a number of problems that usually are not as prominent (low motivation, unusual work conditions, digital teaching).
We recommend that you study in an active way, where you produce specific deliveries, which have also proven effective for learning. We offer you some learning tips that also contribute to and overlap with optimal functioning, increased motivation, and better structure in everyday (study)life.
- Create mind maps: The mind maps must be hierarchical and structured. Each node must be linked to a different node. This link must be explained. For example, biology ->BIO102. Then the link can be explained by "is a course".
- Quiz: Make questions with answers from each chapter that you can use for a quiz. Try answering the questions and elaborate in your own words. Then look at the answer. Maybe a group from your course can meet on Thursdays or Fridays at Zoom or Teams for a scientific quiz? That way you can socialize and learn at the same time.
- Teach each other: Collaborate with fellow students to divide sections, chapters, or topics in the syllabus between yourself, and teach each other. You will learn from the preparations, and your fellow students learn from you.
- Peer review: Give written feedback on each other's texts. This can be field reports, lab reports, assignments, training for a home exam, or similar. Provide feedback on Focus, Form, and Formulations.