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This year has presented many challenges for students, and there’s no doubt that distance learning is one of them. If you’ve been struggling to pay attention during online classes, you’re not alone. Remember, as you adapt and grow accustomed to online learning, you will develop time management skills, independence, and discipline that will transfer to other areas of your life! Here are some ways to stay focused and improve your grades.

In Preparation for Class

Write down your goals

Before each online class, think of small goals that will help you stay engaged with your course. This goal can be small like “answer one question,” or “share one thought,” before class ends. Prioritizing small goals will push you out of your comfort zone, participate more often in your class, and hopefully, retain the information you are learning! When you prioritize, you can reach a space of rest and relaxation after accomplishing small tasks. For more productivity tips, check out this article.


This year has resulted in ample amounts of stress in so many different ways. If you have trouble paying attention during your online classes, you may be burnt out or trying to focus on many things all at once. To recover from burnout, it’s important to prioritize sleep and rest. When you are resting, make sure to be gentle with yourself. Often times when people allow themselves a break, they spend their time silently stressing about all the things they think they “should” be doing instead. This isn’t really resting! You will find that when you allow your body to rest without any guilt or shame, you will return to your studies refreshed and energized to complete your work. 

Eat and hydrate

When sitting in front of a computer for hours daily, it’s easy to forget about the physical ways we care for ourselves. This includes eating full meals and drinking water. By showing up to your classes with a full stomach and an empty water bottle, you ensure that your brain is fueled and ready to handle some learning! For some ideas, here’s a list of snacks that are perfect for studying and staying focused.

During Class

Pretend your teacher is in the room with you

It may sound a little weird, but visualize your classes as happening in-person. This will encourage you to treat the class as though you are physically in the classroom. If your teacher was in your room with you, you probably wouldn’t be scrolling on your phone throughout the entire lesson. Using your imagination in this way can serve as a nifty tool to get into a prime headspace for learning. 

Turn on your camera

Similar to our previous tip, turning on your camera will make it easier for you to feel like you’re actually in school. It will also encourage you to maintain a routine, even if it’s just switching from one pair of sweatpants to another. If most of your peers keep their cameras off, it can be nerve-wracking to turn yours on. In that case, reach out to a friend, and plan to turn on your cameras together. You never know, you may inspire others to follow. 

Wear headphones

If you have a pair of headphones, connect them to your computer for class. That way, you can hear your teacher and classmates more clearly. It will also help you to eliminate interruptions from family members, noisy neighbors, and other distractions. 

After Class

Ask for Help

It can be intimidating to speak up and ask questions in the middle of a Zoom class. That’s okay! Write down your questions as you think of them, and then email your teacher afterward. Your teachers are also acclimating to distance learning, so staying connected will make it easier for them to teach and for you to learn. 

Set a timer

When you are studying, set a timer. Dedicate yourself to concentrate for short periods of time. No matter how much you achieve in your allotted time, take a break when the alarm sounds. Stand up, go for a walk, gaze out the window, or reward yourself in any way you see fit. With each short burst of productivity, you’re on your way to completing your schoolwork!

Reach out to your classmates

Set up Zoom study sessions with your classmates. You can bond over the struggles of distance learning, and also hold each other accountable. By working together on study guides and projects, you will be more motivated to pay attention during your online classes. 

We hope these tips strengthen you to stay focused leading up to your final exams and projects. Adapting to online learning is an enormous achievement in itself, so don’t stress if you haven’t caught the hang of it yet. Ultimately, the work ethic you will gain from this time will prove invaluable in the future outside of school. From strengthening basic technical skills to creating a positive working environment, you should be very proud of yourself regardless of the grades you earn.