Online learning can be incredibly convenient. With no need to commute to school or arrange childcare, taking courses online is an attractive educational option for busy, working adults. But without a dedicated study area at home, you might find yourself struggling to find the space and distraction-free environment you need to focus on your schoolwork. Wondering how you can transform a current space into an area that supports your learning goals? Have a look at our tips and tricks for creating a study area that works for you.
How can I create study space at home?
No matter the size of your home, you can create a functional study space. Whether you’ve got a dedicated home office or are carving out space in the kitchen or a living area, you’ll want to pick a spot that
- Allows you to eliminate, or at least reduce, distractions while you’re studying
- Offers reliable internet connectivity (if available) and good lighting
- Feels comfortable, but isn’t so comfortable that you’ll fall asleep (especially if you plan to hit the books after a long day at work)
Your study area doesn’t have to be large or have specialized equipment--it just needs to be a space where you can train your body and mind to focus on schoolwork.
Roommates or family may mean well, but they can stop you from dedicating your whole focus to your classes. If others will be around while you’re studying, the first thing to do is ask them to help you by not distracting you while you’re in your study space. (As a mom of two small boys, I know this is easier said than done!) You might develop a non-verbal signal, like a thumbs up or thumbs down, to let people know if they should approach you, or you can tape a colored piece of paper up nearby when you’re working as a sign that you’re busy.
If you work well with background noise but don’t want to get pulled into discussions, consider listening to cafe sounds or music. If you crave quiet, a white noise machine or a pair of noise cancelling headphones can go a long way to helping you tune out your surroundings and hone in on your classes.
How do I prepare my room for online school?
Though experts advise against working in the same area where you sleep, sometimes setting up your study space in your bedroom is the best (or only) option. If you need to use your bedroom as an online study space, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t do schoolwork in your bed. You’ll want to ensure that your bed is a dedicated sleeping and relaxing area; otherwise, you’ll open yourself up to potential sleep disturbances.
- Consider swapping out a nightstand for a compact desk. A small desk, especially one with a little bit of storage, can do double duty as both a place to keep your school materials and your nighttime must-haves.
- Use a small screen to partition off an area of the room. Screens fold and store easily, and they’re great for helping establish a boundary between your study and sleep area. (As a bonus, they can also provide a decorative backdrop if you’re taking synchronous online classes and need to hide a messy bed or pile of laundry.)
What are some things that should improve my study space?
You can upgrade your study space even on a tight budget. Consider investing in some of the following items for low-cost, high-impact upgrades:
- A desk lamp that fits your space and offers you task lighting to keep your eyes from straining during late-night study sessions
- Ergonomic products, like chair pads or keyboard rests to keep you comfortable and injury-free
- Headphones (noise canceling if desired) to keep you focused and in the flow
- Wall-mounted storage solutions, like shelves and file holders, to keep necessary items nearby when you don’t have surface space
- A second monitor--this is a total game changer if you’re reading online and working on an open-book test or writing a paper at the same time
- Other small tech upgrades, like a wireless mouse or an adjustable desk phone holder to keep your study space organized, even on the go
COVID has led many of us to repurpose spaces to accommodate working and learning from home. With no home office area myself, I’ve had to carve out some study spaces, too--one for my pre-schooler and one for me. With a little bit of creativity, we’ve added two multipurpose, functional spaces that help us all concentrate and learn. However you organize and upgrade your space, don’t be afraid to have fun with it! It’ll make your schoolwork feel more fun, too.
Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom.
Looking for study tips to help you successfully complete an online course? Check out this great article: Tips for Effective Online Learning