How to stay motivated while taking only online classes


Image obtained from Flickr

By Ben Blakney, Reporter

EWU, in wake of Washington’s social distancing measures, has gone to an entirely online format for the spring quarter of 2020. Summer quarter 2020 is confirmed online. It’s even being discussed that fall quarter 2020 will be online as well, depending on how quickly the COVID-19 curve can be flattened.

Thanks to this, students have now been shoved into an entirely online class format. Online classes, previously an option, have now become the norm. Now that students have no choice but to attend their classes from their home spaces, students may find they struggle to stay motivated with their schoolwork. The Easterner reached out to PLUS Services, CAPS Services and an EWU student, for their insight on motivation.

Tips for motivation

Jossie Brown, M.A, is a retention specialist for PLUS, or Program Leading to University Success, here at EWU.

T.E.: How can students stay motivated to do their schoolwork?

Brown: “Well, I think the biggest thing for students right now is just to remember that it’s not always going to be like this; this too shall pass. We’re going to come out on the other side of this and we’re going to hopefully get back to normal, whatever that normal is going to look like … it’s important for students to reach out and use the resources that are there for them. All across the campus, there are people who are trying to be there as much as they can for students, but students have to do the reaching out and say, ‘Hey, you know what? I need a line here. I’m struggling. I need some help.’”

T.E.: What tips can you offer for maximum student success?

Brown: “I would say academic coaching is really a great way to do that. But you know some of the things we’re going to talk about in coaching are gonna be: make sure that you have a schedule, make sure that you have all of the technology that you need, make sure that you have created a learning space where you’re not necessarily distracted.”

Brown provided a link to a more expanded article from PLUS touching on similar subjects here. Follow this link for more from PLUS.

Where to go when facing struggles

There are other aspects to success besides academia. For this, The Easterner was interested in what input CAPS could provide for struggling EWU students. 

Michael Ochi, PsyD, is a psychological counselor for Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, at EWU.

T.E.: Where can students go if they need help with their schoolwork?

Ochi:Health, Wellness and Prevention have certified wellbeing coaches who assist students on a variety of topics that affect schoolwork. They help students with sleep, nutrition, physical activity, time management, stress and more. The Student Care Team is able to assist students who are experiencing a more difficult time with schoolwork than anticipated and who may benefit from additional support. They’re able to provide student support advocacy in many ways related to academic performance and success.”

T.E.: Follow-up, what about more personal issues like depression/anxiety, etc.?

Ochi: “The important thing to recognize is that there is no ‘right way’ to feel during this time and our feelings are real. The best strategy when someone is experiencing symptoms is to work through them. All of us have coping skills, but sometimes situations change and they can become less effective … CAPS has self-help resources to help students cope with some symptoms they may be experiencing during the stay at home order. TAO gives students access to an online library of interactive educational modules, practice tools and mindfulness exercises designed to help learn life skills on multiple topics – anxiety, depression, relationships, etc. If a student would like some confidential support, then I would recommend calling CAPS at 509-359-2366.”

T.E.: What sorts of strategies do you recommend to stay motivated?

Ochi: “There are a lot of strategies to help stay motivated. Oftentimes, we implement a lot of strategies without even knowing it. There are a couple things to keep in mind when looking at ways to stay motivated. The first is that not everything will work for everyone. The second is, what does work may not work 100% of the time. And third, allow yourself to be creative with motivational ideas. Sometimes in the moment we can lose sight that we’re trying to motivate ourselves and it ends up working against us. Here are some ideas that may help with motivation:

  • Organize your course work in a way that you can get an overall picture of what needs to be done.
    • Prioritize based on your personal needs, preferences, and strengths — small tasks, large tasks, importance, deadlines, etc.
  • Create realistic goals. Sometimes an assignment might feel overwhelming and breaking it up into milestones can help. For example, breaking up a 25-page paper into smaller chunks may be a more realistic goal for some individuals. Some people may set goals by pages, sections, or length of time writing.
  • Create a sensible schedule that will help prevent procrastination and “Out of sight, out of mind” mentality. The schedule should take into consideration the organization of the course work mentioned earlier and the importance of other responsibilities.
  • Aim for balance or harmony. This includes allowing flexibility in your schedule for short-term or long-term adjustments.
  • Keep a reasonable sleep schedule and wake up like you would if you were going to class.
  • Maintain hygiene practices and get dressed for school.
  • If possible, make a school/study space.
  • Think about the reasons why you’re in school and visualize the outcome.
  • Utilize your support system. This can be friends, family, or campus resources.
  • Reward yourself. Sometimes it’s good to celebrate the little achievements. It allows us to acknowledge our accomplishments.”

How to transform the home into an learning environment

T.E.: How can students transform their home space into an educational one?

Ochi: “The main objective is to avoid combining schoolwork with your favorite home activities – sitting on the couch/bed, watching television, snacking at the kitchen table. (This is) because it helps increase the chances of getting distracted by something we enjoy and decreases our motivation to do work. Also, over time, the dedicated space becomes associated with school work and can help us mentally prepare to learn.”

The Easterner also asked Ochi to provide any closing thoughts.

“Reach out to your professors if you’re struggling with motivation and learning online,” said Ochi. “The transition to all online classes is a process that both students and teachers are dealing with. Open communication between students and faculty can help everyone understand some of the hurdles that are being faced and allows the opportunity to discuss how they can be addressed to increase student success.”

Student perspective

Jem Jibas is an EWU sophomore studying dental hygiene. 

T.E.:How have your online classes been going?

Jibas: “My online classes are going well. I’ve never really had many problems with online classes before, so it hasn’t really deemed much of a struggle for me.”

T.E.: Have your professors been accommodating? (changes in due dates, increased flexibility, ability to text profs., etc.)?

Jibas: “My professors are still pretty strict about deadlines, but they are also accommodating since not a lot of students have ever had to experience online schooling. Deadlines are sometimes moved around to accommodate the students, and the professor’s ability to respond to my questions/inquiries has been quick and helpful. They are doing their best to make this quarter work as best as possible, and it is evident with the amount of resources they have given me and other students for this quarter. Thank you, faculty and staff, for making this quarter possible!”

T.E.: What strategies have you found work for you to stay motivated?

Jibas: “Some strategies I found that work to help me stay motivated is to treat every day of this quarter as I would when I was physically going to class. Setting alarms to make sure I wake up for every Zoom class is a fine example, as well as writing down assignment and exam deadlines in my calendar or planner. Keeping a positive mentality is always helpful in times like this as well.”

T.E.: What struggles have you encountered in online school?

Jibas: “It has been tough trying to find a new routine. How to stay active, staying on top of my assignments and lectures, sleep schedule, etc. I constantly remind myself to treat every day as I would before quarantine, so I was able to find alternatives similar to my routine before. Not having that usual one-on-one talk with instructors and TAs when I had questions was also tough but Zoom chats and video calls were a great replacement for that.”

T.E.: Do you find making your environment more school-like helps with your motivation (like waking up and getting ready, even if it’s for online classes)?

Jibas: “Personally, I think it does. Because I made some alterations to my schedule, I was able to keep that school-like environment that I had before. I feel that with that kind of environment, it helps a lot with keeping up with lectures and assignments.”

Closing thoughts

The Easterner also asked for any closing thoughts from Jibas.

“As tough as this quarter may be for many, it’s best to keep a positive outlook in situations like this,” said Jibas. “Remember to keep looking on the bright side because there will always be a way for you to finish strong. I hope everyone is doing well this quarter and that they are safe and healthy. Good luck!”

The Easterner is determined to provide updated coverage on the online class experience. More resources and stories can be found on socials like Facebook and Twitter.