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Studying is obviously an essential part of being successful when you’re attending college. When you’re attending an online college, however, where and how you study is even more important. Because there isn’t a physical classroom and you may not talk to your instructor in person, taking the time and effort to study and learn the material is entirely on the student.

Depending on what type of student you are, studying may be easier, limiting distractions may not be a problem, committing to two hours of study time each day may be a breeze. But dedicating the time and creating a study space can be much harder for others, but still incredibly important nonetheless.

At Pathways College, our staff and instructors want to help our students in any way possible, including offering advice for how to create a dedicated work and study space. With years of experience in education and offering online courses, we believe we have a unique insight into what is effective and beneficial for a wide base of student needs. Regardless of what you are studying, we strive to create an environment where students can get the support and guidance they need to succeed.

Tips on Creating a Dedicated Study Space

Find the Space

However comfortable it looks, the couch is usually not the most effective place to set up a study area. And even though the public library is a quiet, low-distraction zone, it often takes a considerable amount of time getting there and getting set up. Typically, the best place to study is somewhere at home, where you can sit in a comfortable, but upright position, where you can set up your computer, books, and other study materials and know that they will be exactly where you left them. A desk and office chair provide stability and a work surface that is reliable and comfortable.

Limit Distractions

We talk a lot about being able to limit distractions when you’re studying, but if you have a family, pets, neighbors, or roommates, that is often easier said than done. In order to avoid the greatest number of distractions, try to determine the best time of day and week when there will be the fewest distractions, whether from people or activities. Keep in mind that distractions come in many different forms, and it’s not just the TV or the fridge. If your study zone is set up in front of a window, birds in the trees or traffic going by could be a distraction, so make sure you can cover the window if necessary. Make sure you have everything you need before you sit down and get to work, including water, snacks, and study materials. Learning how to focus is often the greatest way to avoid distractions, as our minds will often invent distractions when we want to avoid working.

Take Breaks

When you’re in the zone working on a project or studying for a big exam, it’s easy to feel like powering through just to complete it and move on. But our brains need to rest and to focus on something else for a period. Then when you return to the task, you feel refreshed and ready to do more. You don’t need to take a long break to give your brain a rest, though, it could be as simple as stepping outside to get some fresh air and then returning. If you’re looking at a full day of studying, give yourself one longer break and several short breaks to give your mind and body an opportunity to refresh.

Consider Your Study Music

Obviously everyone has different taste in music, but the style, tempo, and whether or not there’s lyrics can have a significant impact on how focused you are. If everything is set up how you like it, but you still can’t seem to focus or get much work done, a simple change in music might make all the difference. Try various styles of instrumental music or ambient music, or maybe even no music at all until you find a style you like and feel focused listening to.

Invest in High-Speed Internet

When you’re completing a research paper or trying to use software necessary for the class, there’s nothing more frustrating than the Internet lagging or the software freezing. There are certain components to your computer that will help things run more smoothly as well, such as the graphics card and storage limit. By investing in quality technology, studying will be much easier and more efficient.


The temperature, brightness of the lights, glare on the computer, and other factors can greatly impact how easy or hard it is to focus. When your fingers are cold, it’s harder to type. When there’s a glare on your computer you’ll struggle with eye strain. Make necessary adjustments until you feel comfortable and can focus without worrying about certain issues.


Trash from snacks, piles of paper, your phone — pieces of clutter that accumulate on and around your desk can be distracting. Don’t let cleaning become a distraction itself, but try to clear any clutter before sitting down to work. Remember, though, that just about anything can be a distraction if you let it, so make it a habit of simply sitting down and focusing on your work rather than looking around for possible distractions to eliminate.

Attending an online college has dozens of benefits, including flexibility to work when and where you choose. But there are also dozens of distractions that can make it challenging as well. With a dedicated and comfortable work space, you can sit down and really focus on earning your online degree.

Pathways College wants to be a resource for students seeking to attend an online college. Learn more about our business administration and liberal studies courses, and sign up for classes today!