4 Steps To Creating A Positive eLearning Environment
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How To Create A Positive eLearning Environment

Most new students in eLearning programs learn quickly what technological behaviors detract from their academic outcomes. When it comes to study or assessment time, they close those windows with social media accounts or clickbait. They swap the sounds of distracting YouTube videos with ambient or classical music. They get focused. But did you know that your physical surroundings can also have a dramatic impact on your performance?

In terms of how it affects our health, technology can be a bit of a paradox. While wearables have improved preventative health and Big Data has transformed the world of nursing for the better, other tech innovations have encouraged mentally and physically debilitating behaviors. For example, new streaming platforms can keep you glued to screens late at night (ruining your sleep schedule), and social media can lead to feelings of isolation.

Last month, I discussed some common eLearning health issues that can hinder progress for students. In a continuation of that theme, this article will look to explore what new eLearners can do in order to create a physical space that maximizes their chances of success in an online educational program. How can you avoid pitfalls and embrace the many benefits of eLearning? Here are 4 steps to creating a positive eLearning environment:

1. Lighting And Temperature: Focus On Comfort — But Don’t Get Too Comfortable

First and foremost, nothing can detract from your academic goals faster than trying to learn in a physically uncomfortable setting. Anyone who has tried to study or take an online assessment in a crowded Starbucks or with the sun glaring off their screen knows that an uncomfortable physical setting can inhibit their ability to perform.

Get comfortable before logging on. Sufficient lighting can keep you mentally alert, though excessive artificial light can strain your eyes — especially when your eyes are glued to a computer screen. Feel free to open the windows and let natural light in, but have sufficient lighting for work during the night or cloudy days. Furthermore, get the space to a temperature that is conducive to learning. Research indicates that 72ºF may be ideal.

Other miscellaneous points to consider include:

  • Which colors make you comfortable? Use those if possible. Neutral colors are always a safe bet, though blue has been shown to have a positive impact on focus and productivity.
  • Consider using an incense when studying. According to Lifehack, pine, cinnamon, lavender, peppermint, and citrus smells can boost your mental acuity in specific ways.
  • Do you live in a noisy environment? Consider investing in sound-dampening panels. You may also want to play non-obstructive music during eLearning sessions to drown out any distracting noises.

Keep in mind that there is such a thing as getting too comfortable. If your lighting is too dim, or the room too warm, your ability to focus can be compromised. By keeping these components in mind when designing your learning space, you can maximize your focus and academic performance.

2. Stay Active: Create Opportunities For Physical Activity Breaks

Taking an occasional break can be a great mental reprieve, but it should also be used to give your body a workout. Long hours of computer use can lead to excessive sitting and associated negative health effects, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise is also mentally beneficial, as physical exertion has been linked to better memory and thinking skills.

If you’re drawing a blank on which physical activities are available to you, find equipment that allows you to physically exercise as you learn. Consider some of the following, additions to your work or learning space:

  • Use a stability ball instead of a chair when working at a desk; this can improve your stability, balance, and posture.
  • Keep a pedal exerciser under your desk if you want easy access to an aerobic workout — a great boon to your cardiovascular health.
  • Consider getting a standing desk, which gives you an opportunity to study without sitting for hours each day. Standing reduces lower back, neck, shoulder, and leg pain, in addition to improving circulation.
  • Don’t let food be a distraction from your goals; a good diary can help with this. Not only can junk food take your attention away from your studies, it can negatively affect your mental health, making learning even more difficult. Consider keeping a food diary or tracker in the vicinity to hold yourself responsible for dietary choices.

If your budget or living space doesn’t have room for this type of equipment, take advantage of your natural surroundings. If you live close to a park or trail, consider taking a short break (10 to 15 minutes) between class sessions to walk outside.

3. Remove Clutter: Strive For Minimalism When Designing Your eLearning Space

In the modern age, a large part of what motivates us is acquiring the latest tech and amassing our favorite games/movies/music into vast collections, but these can only serve as distractions in a learning space. Don’t let them. When designing your learning space, take a minimalist approach.

Minimalism is a life philosophy that focuses on reducing clutter and embracing simple living — if it’s not absolutely necessary, get rid of it. While this mindset isn’t necessary in all facets of your life; it can dramatically improve your academic performance when it is used in your surroundings for eLearning sessions.

This is the time to completely redesign your living space; think of designing your learning space just as if you were moving in for the first time. Here is some advice for those seeking a minimalist approach from the moving and storage experts at LifeStorage:

  • Remove clutter and focus on creating an aesthetic by using key pieces of furniture and decor. Too many objects in your learning space can distract you from lessons, while a completely bare room is just depressing. Strike a happy medium by creating a distinctive look with as few pieces as possible.
  • Aside from the device you’ll be using to complete eLearning lessons and projects, keep any other digital devices away from your learning space. Consider leaving your phone in another room while you work; the need to look at your phone can be insurmountable at times, so remove the temptation.

4. Technology Access: Reassessing The Device You Use

Depending on the specific program you’ll be completing, your device may or may not be appropriate. For example, if your eLearning program will last for several weeks or months, or if the related website/software is not compatible with mobile devices, it doesn’t make sense to expect to conduct all of your class-related activities on a smartphone. If you will be expected to regularly stream video content, it doesn’t make sense to often rely on your cellular network for web access. Think about the needs of your class and get the tech required to succeed.

Also, consider the input devices and accessories at your study area. While practicing proper typing posture is necessary to avoid negative effects like carpal tunnel syndrome, you should consider investing in an ergonomic keyboard and a wrist rest. Accommodations like these can make extended writing sessions or tests far more manageable.

In order to be an effective student, you need an environment that is conducive to learning. These are a few considerations to keep in mind when designing that space. Do you have any other suggestions? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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