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10 Tips for Staying Sharp During an Online Class

posted by Peter on October 1st, 2010

online schoolsAs we might have covered in the past, one of the greatest benefits of attending an online college is being able to go to class at your leisure. However, with that freedom comes challenges, such as staying awake and on top of things when you decide to start class at 11 o’clock at night. You might need help staying awake though your online nursing school lecture, for example. Here are ten tried-and-true pieces of advice you can employ the next time you’re attending class by moonlight.

Eat and Drink. Stimulation of any kind helps to keep your brain awake and focused, and not daydreaming about butterflies and bunny-filled fields. Protein-rich foods (meats, cheese, soy) are known for promoting brain function, fruits like blueberries and bananas give you antioxidants and happy, wakeful nutrients, and anything spicy will give your mouth something to think about other than your pillow. To be avoided: milk, turkey, sugary stuff and excessive caffeine, since those either contain the food-coma inducing tryptophan or cause catastrophic brain crashes further down the road. EduBook has a few other ideas you might use.

Move Around. Should you feel your concentration slipping midway through a PowerPoint lecture, one of the best solutions is physical activity. Getting up and walking around the room, going outside, or simply looking around at your immediate surroundings will make your sleepy brain start churning again. Jumping-jacks, push-ups and jogging in place will jump-start your tired muscles and get the blood flowing again, if you can handle it in your sleepy state. eHow has some pointers for office-style exercises you can use. At the very least, tapping your feet while working will keep you from falling into red-zone relaxation.

Stretch a Lot. Doing the early-morning stretch-and-yawn is surprisingly effective at restoring blood flow to the space between your ears, and more active stretches are even better. Touching your toes, twisting your back, swinging your arms, and craning your neck side to side will all help you stay alert, so you can actually remember the subjects you’re learning about. Here are some good ones from Career-Intelligence.

Listen to Music. It doesn’t have to be rowdy music. All it has to do it add something your brain can use as fuel so it can handle the accounting lecture you’re slothing your way through. Listening to your favorite band, composer or even nature sounds can instantly put you in wakeful spirits and help you concentrate. Grooveshark is a good place to play streaming music while you study, and has nature sounds you can mix together and stream through headphones. Now audiophiles may have a problem, since your brain may become too absorbed in the music to concentrate on the reading. Be careful with this one.

Get Fresh Air. Opening the window or stepping out onto the porch is a good way to get more of the oxygen your brain needs to breathe. A chilly breeze also has a definite way of keeping you awake and active — which is why corporate offices tend to crank the A/C. A graph posted on Productivity Science shows about 70 degrees Fahrenheit to be the best temperature for productivity.

Chat. Your online school’s resources should give you access to Web chat and message boards, so make use of them. Human interaction is a proven method of staying alert, so even if you’re IMing a classmate or responding to posts on the class message board, pausing your work for a little interaction can help keep your mind sharp and refreshed. No one online right now? Try some of these chat bots for an entertaining break.

Take Online Study Breaks. Besides chatting with classmates (or bots), taking a general study break is always a good idea for an online student chasing the dawn. You can jolt your mind awake pretty quickly with social media sites like Reddit and Digg. Clicking a few links can lead you to any number of blogs where you could knock out a few minutes of recharging time ( is always good for a random laugh). You may want to set a timer if you’re the type of student who forgets to get back on task.

Sit Up Straight. Posture is important when studying, especially if you use a laptop. At all costs avoid laying down, because you are a head-nod away from dreamsville — put that laptop on a desk or table. The best way to stay awake in front of the computer is to sit up straight and relaxed, with both feet flat on the floor. This position is best for ergonomic reasons as well, as it won’t cause long-term spine damage or eye strain. The posture experts at Fitness Programs For Life give you an overview of healthy office chair posture.

Chew Gum. Besides being fun (layers!), chewing gum gives you a lot of the same facial stimulation eating food does, without any of the side effects of food, such as getting full and sleepy, having to watch out for nutrition, etc. Strong-flavored gum can even snap you awake by giving your tastebuds the same sharp ring you get from sour foods. Fruity gum is best for staying awake, and sharp mint comes in close behind with its wintery coolness. For crazy gum warriors, there’s always caffeine gum, but overdoing it can lead to that crash we talked about earlier.

Do Not Nap! If there’s one thing you should definitely not do to stay sharp during your online class, it is power napping. Yes, taking an online class means you can be in and out of class as you see fit — but the danger of napping, even with an alarm, is extreme reluctance to rejoin the world of the wakeful. From a blissful semi-slumber it is far too easy to rationalize your way out of leaving your horizontal state. Then before you know it you’ve put off class until next time … when you will have twice as much work to do. Use the tips in this article wisely, and keep your focus strong during class. Your online education is, uh, on the line.

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