How to Excel in a Virtual Setting


With the pandemic, nearly all college learning is virtual. This is an overwhelming change from the usual dashes between lecture halls, turning assignments into drop-off boxes, and in-person office hours that are the staples of the college experience. Although the COVID-19 vaccine distribution is in process and there is hope for a return to normalcy, most universities will likely keep the virtual format until the 2021-2022 academic year. Here are a few helpful tips for excelling in a virtual setting:


1. Stay Engaged and Focused

One benefit of the virtual classroom is not trekking across campus to get to class on time; however, the environment where your virtual learning takes place might pose other challenges. One of the biggest challenges is staying focused and engaged while looking at a computer screen. Not only may you be participating in lectures with your family members going about their daily routine in your background, but the internet is an oasis of distractions. Quickly checking social media or reading news articles may be more tempting in a virtual setting compared to an in-person setting, so you should take measures to eliminate these distractions.

Keep your Video On

Sometimes keeping your video on in the virtual classroom may be intimidating or awkward, but it will keep you accountable. You are more likely to be attentive and listening if you think people are watching you. Also, your lecturer probably appreciates seeing your faces to help him/her assess how engaged students are.

Cut the Cord to the Phone

If your cell phone is a distraction, consider putting it on silent or “Do not disturb” setting during your class period. Sometimes putting your phone in a different room to ensure it is not a distraction can be an option.

Ask Questions

Hopefully, your lecturer has clarified whether to interrupt them or to keep questions till the end. If you are in a larger virtual setting, keeping questions till the end is probably better. Asking questions or participating in the discussion sessions is an important way to stay engaged. Just listening to lectures all day can get exhausting, so if you can find a way to speak up, the monotony of the day will be broken up.

Take Handwritten Notes

One thing that has helped me during virtual lectures or presentations is taking handwritten notes. Although I preferred electronic notes before the pandemic, during the pandemic, I have noticed that taking handwritten notes keeps me more engaged and also creates a non-electronic medium that I can reference. Especially when you are on Zoom all day, this can be very helpful.


2. Stay Organized and Productive

Getting behind when everything is virtual is common. You might be tempted to watch recorded lectures later or save working on assignments till they are due. While giving yourself small breaks if you are feeling burnt out is important, try not to fall too behind. We all procrastinate, but the work you do not complete today is just extra work for tomorrow.

Find a Planner

There are so many virtual organizers that have become popular. I personally enjoy Notion and use my iCal calendar for scheduling. Other popular organizers or planners include Asana, Evernote, and Hemingway. Planning out your week or day may be a time sink; however, it will ultimately make your week more efficient.

Set Boundaries

With almost all learning occurring on the computer, work can take over your life. Setting boundaries between work and personal time is important. Set a time for when you will stop working to eat, workout, or watch TV and don’t feel guilty about it.


3. Stay Sane and Healthy

With everything being said, the top priority during this time is your health and well-being. The pandemic has been a very difficult time for everyone, especially if you have lost a loved one during this time. Excelling in college is important, but mental and physical health can dictate your success in the virtual setting.

Connect with Friends

Many extracurricular activities and clubs you usually participate in probably had to cancel their major events; however, you can still stay connected and do amazing things virtually. For example, consider hosting an online event rather than an in-person event or volunteer for virtual opportunities. Keep in touch with your college friends as they are going through the same things that you are. You can always do a virtual Netflix watch party or just send them a Zoom link. Sitting in front of a computer all day can be very lonely, so don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends.

Communicate with your Professor

Your professors are also adapting to the online format, so you should reach out to them if you are having trouble with material or meeting deadlines. More likely than not, they will be flexible during this tumultuous time and try to support you.

Combat Zoom Burnout

Zoom burnout is real. Taking a walk to get fresh air or listening to one of your lectures outside can be a great way to combat burnout.

Check-in on your Mental Health

The best way to excel in a virtual setting is to be your best self. You should continue to incorporate activities that make you happy every day. Whether those activities are watching TV or going on a run, you should remember to schedule a time for them because they are just as important as your lectures.


Finding your own path to success in the virtual format is important. Strategies that your friends might use may not work for you. Experimenting with different strategies and implementing which ones work best will help you excel in the virtual classroom setting. There are many benefits also associated with learning in a virtual setting — a more flexible schedule, better sharing of resources. It is important to take advantage of these benefits so that you can have the best learning experience possible.


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