Tampere University Student's Handbook
Distance learning study skills
Tips and instructions for distance learning
1. Set up a dedicated space for working from home: Collect the necessary tools around you and maintain order. Try to make your workspace as comfortable and ergonomic as possible to prevent aches and pains. A dedicated workspace will help you draw a line between work and leisure.
2. Maintain a healthy work/life balance: When working remotely, it becomes more difficult to draw a line between the time you spend working and the time you spend relaxing and recovering. While it is easy to potter about and make little progress, it is equally difficult to switch off from work. Set yourself a clear schedule that provides a framework for your daily tasks and helps you maintain effective progress. It will also help you maintain your well-being and turn off work mode.
Our level of alertness naturally varies during the day, so you should schedule your work hours to the times of day when you are most alert and able to concentrate. You should reserve certain hours of the day for work. It is usually best to maintain a normal daily routine. To maintain a healthy work/life balance, do things that you enjoy and find meaningful in your free time. This will help you return to your studies the next day feeling refreshed and energised.
3. Establish and maintain a daily routine: Routines provide a framework for our day and increase our sense of security. They also help us focus on the essentials (such as studying) as we do not to expend a lot of brain power on routines. Plan your activities in advance and try to stick to your old daily routines as closely as possible.
Take breaks and a proper lunch break. Your brain needs a lot of energy. Schedule virtual coffee and lunch breaks. Avoid sitting for extended periods of time and squeeze in short workouts in the middle for our workday. SportUni offers workout tips (SportUni at Facebook, @SportUni).
If you have not had daily routines before, now is a good time to consider the benefits and create some. Avoid temptation by minimising bad routines in your environment (for example, keep phones and games away from your sight while studying). The creation of routines takes a great deal of repetition, so show compassion for yourself and allow yourself time. Read more: Atomic habits by James Clear (2018).
4. Plan your daily or weekly tasks in advance: Create plans and to-do lists that are as concrete as possible. Start with something that is relatively easy and interesting. You can split your workday into shorter periods and start with your most important task or one that requires intense concentration. Remember to set aside time for breaks. It is easier to continue your work the next day when you have planned where to go from here the day before. Think back on plans that have worked well for you in the past.
5. Focus on the essentials: It may be challenging to concentrate on studying for extended periods of time. We are all so used to checking our messages or different media that our brain may seem to be positively craving for these interruptions. However, to learn effectively, it is important to reduce interruptions and multitasking.
Mute your phone and put it somewhere you cannot see it when you are studying. You can check your messages later.
Limit your exposure to the news and focus on your studies at the scheduled time. This will help calm your mind. Intense concentration and flow experiences are rewarding for us people.
6. Start work and motivation will follow: Being able to study with your fellow students and having access to social support help you maintain your motivation. With distance learning, completing the assignments alone can feel hard and affect your motivation. However, motivation is not born in a vacuum but is affected by your thoughts, beliefs and actions. Develop and embrace a growth mindset towards learning and remember that skills and abilities are learned through hard work. This will help you tolerate mistakes.
You can consciously increase your motivation by considering why you are doing what you are doing and what makes it meaningful. Achievements are important from a motivational perspective, so you can set suitable goals to help you experience feelings of success. Do not wait around for motivation; when you start work, motivation will follow. If you have difficulty getting started, split your tasks into smaller chunks that you can complete in one sitting. Set deadlines for your tasks and use rewards/incentives. Remember to celebrate all your achievements, big and small!
Read more about student motivation in the Student’s guide.
7. Study in a group and ask for support: It is important to continue active collaboration although we are not able to meet face-to-face. For some, virtual collaboration may feel unnecessary or difficult, but it is important to embrace the digital transformation and get used to new ways of working. Try to schedule regular virtual meetings with your fellow students, also for purely social reasons. Having the opportunity to share your experiences is now extremely important. All students are also encouraged to reach out to their fellow students who are not keeping in regular contact. Ask them how they are doing and show an interest: you will not only help others but also foster a sense of community.
Your teachers will answer your questions even though you cannot meet in person. We are all individuals, so some of us may need more support to make effective progress when working remotely. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your fellow students, teachers and other University staff.
8. Show compassion for yourself: As the current circumstances are new to us all, it is important to allow yourself time to adjust and get used to the new ways of working from home. It will take time to learn new routines. You may not be as productive or focused as you wish. Learn more about self-compassion.
(The text is based on a text written by Klara Schauman-Alhberg, study psychologist at Åbo Akademi University. The original text was translated into Finnish by study psychologists at Turku University of Applied Sciences and edited by study psychologists at Tampere University. Thank you to the national network of study psychologists in higher education institutions for their collaboration.)