Hitting snooze is easy when you have nowhere to be, at least when you have nowhere to be in person.

Finding the motivation to get out of bed can feel impossible when you look forward to a full day of staring at your computer screen, jumping from one online class to another. After nearly one year of pushing through hours of Zoom calls, students are struggling to stay motivated in their virtual classes. 

Bryce Thomas, the associate director of learning strategies for Gonzaga University, said that this lack of motivation in online classes stems from a less interactive learning environment.

Most students are used to learning in person, experiencing both verbal and nonverbal communication inside the classroom. Sophomore Emily Anderson spent her fall semester learning from her home in Olympia, Washington.

“I didn’t feel as connected to my classes, my professors and my classmates,” Anderson said. “It is hard to fully be engaged when there’s that disconnect.” 

Zoom does not allow for the same level of engagement as a classroom setting. Nonetheless, Thomas suggests following a few key steps to stay motivated and organized. 

Set goals: what do you want to get out of this?

Thomas recommends setting goals for yourself prior to beginning your online class. He says that having a goal allows you to have a good sense of direction.

Before attending a class for the first time, ask yourself what you want to get out of the class overall. While getting an outstanding grade is a good objective to have, make sure your academic goals relate to your personal goals as well.

After establishing goals for the semester ahead, set daily goals for each class. Think about one thing you would like to achieve before the class ends and work toward accomplishing the task. 

Goal setting should be used outside of virtual classes and during study time. Setting goals such as “I will finish my French assignments” or “I will get through a textbook chapter” enables you to focus on a few tasks each time you sit down to study, allowing you to make better use of your time.   

Be intentional with your time

Alongside goal setting, Thomas said that proper time management keeps students motivated.

“Spend time to organize your time,” said Thomas.

Sitting down with your planner or calendar and organizing how you will use your time creates an outline to complete your work promptly. Remember to keep your scheduling practices realistic and consistent in order to create healthy habits.

“It’s a lot of times easy to fall into the trap of having high hopes,” Thomas said.

Avoid overambitious scheduling by prioritizing assignments based on due dates, and working at a steady pace.

Incorporating free time into your schedule is crucial to avoid feeling overloaded with work. Often people forget to take breaks, so setting aside time for yourself should be a priority. Balance plays a key role in staying motivated because it prevents you from getting caught in a cycle of constant work.   


Hold yourself accountable to following the schedules you create. By maintaining good study routines you create habits for yourself. Thomas said that consistency is crucial to staying motivated through online classes.

Check in and reflect on your habits

If something is not working for you, change it. Continuously reevaluate what methods of study help you learn and which ones do not. Remember also to check in with yourself emotionally. Ask yourself if you are pushing your mind too hard. 

Anderson said reflecting on her habits and modifying them to better serve her played a crucial step in being a successful student.

“Initially, I was taking classes from my bed,” Anderson said. “I set up a desk in my room halfway through the semester with a dedicated space for schoolwork after I realized I needed to adjust how I was studying.”

Stepping back and checking on your emotions plays an essential role in staying focused. After checking in on your habits, take action and change the ones which harm your ability to stay motivated. 


Schedule little celebrations into your study time to motivate you. Whether you reward yourself with a small walk around your neighborhood, a piece of candy or an episode of your favorite TV show, you should celebrate your progress. 

Thomas said that an important part of staying motivated is to praise yourself for a job well done.

After you complete a project or take a big test, reward yourself with something meaningful for the effort you put into your education.  

Online learning is hard to do. Educators and students alike have had to adapt to a virtual world of education. Thomas said to remember to give yourself grace in your journey through virtual learning.

Elise Jawed is a contributor. 

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