3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Remote learning can take some getting used to. And often, you’ll notice a few hiccups along the way.

In order to keep on track and make the most of remote learning, here are the top 3 challenges that most people report and what you can do to overcome all of them.

Top 3 Challenges During Remote Learning

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them

1. Inability to remain focused

2. Difficulty staying motivated

3. Reduced productivity in learning

Just remember, it’s completely normal to experience any one of these challenges.

After all, if you’re stuck at home, unable to see your friends or loved ones who live across town or even across the country, your daily life feels disrupted, and can easily interfere with your ability to learn.

Instead of a dedicated space for learning, you’re in a space where lots of other things are happening in that same environment. This is what makes the whole remote learning situation, and everything else, feel even more uncertain.

We humans always like to feel we have plenty of control over ourselves, and our lives. Remote learning that suddenly changes the routine where you felt comfortable actually creates an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and create new and creative solutions for yourself. That way, you regain a sense of calm and control over your life.

With the right strategies, you can take control of your remote learning success – and this means gaining on-demand focus, motivation and productivity.

How would you feel when you’re back in the driver’s seat and can quickly set up a new routine to get rid of the uncertainty you’ve been feeling? Well – you’re about to find out!

Table of Contents

1. Chunk Your Learning

2. Take Brain Breaks Between Learning Sessions

3. Use Focused Breathing to Reduce Anxiety

4. Remove Distractions When You Study

5. Switch Out Coffee for Tea

6. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Quality Sleep

7. Make Sure You’re Staying Physically Active

7 Ways to Overcome Remote Learning Challenges

1. Chunk Your Learning

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Have you ever done something like running and felt that hit of reward to your brain and body? That “runner’s high” is actually a neurotransmitter in your brain called dopamine.

You might have heard this brain chemical nicknamed as a “pleasure hormone” but a better description would be “motivation molecule.”

Your dopamine levels are what cause you to feel motivated (or demotivated).

You know the feeling when you work really hard on something, like putting together a project proposal or studying for a test, and you come out with great results?

Even though you put a lot of hard work into it, you still feel really good when you’re finished, like it was all worth it.

This feeling of accomplishment activates your brain’s mesolimbic or reward pathways.

Your dopamine levels surge up, and you experience that feeling of satisfaction, pleasure and achievement.

And your brain loves this feeling, so you feel motivated to do what you did again to experience more of it – and this is what regulates your motivation!

And an excellent brain-science proven way to motivate yourself on demand is to chunk or break down your learning.

When you break what you need to learn down into smaller tasks, every time you accomplish one of the tasks, you’re experiencing a dopamine spike.

This in turn keeps you motivated to go through the rest of the task!

Your brain actually releases dopamine in anticipation of a reward when you complete what you’re working on, and this drives you to keep going.

On the other hand, if your brain anticipates a reward, but you’re not able to complete the task, your dopamine levels fall, and you feel demotivated.

This is what might happen when you give yourself tasks that are too broad or challenging to complete in one go.

On the other hand, chunking your tasks down not only helps you stay motivated to accomplish the same end goal, you also do this in a very systematic and planned out way, so the output is better in quality!

2. Take Brain Breaks Between Learning Sessions

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them Because remote learning has greatly increased the amount of independent studying you’re doing, it’s crucial that you remember to schedule breaks in between your learning.

Neuroscience backs up how this is an extremely important part of how your brain learns best.

You typically remember what you learned at the beginning of a study session (primacy) and at the end of a study session (recency) than what you learned in the middle.

The longer the gap between the beginning and end of your study session, the more you’re likely to forget – a concept illustrated by the Ebbinghaus curve of forgetting.

This curve charts how people who studied for longer periods of time, without making any extra attempts to retain what they are learning, are more likely to forget what they learned in the middle compared to what they learned at the beginning and the end.

The solution? Make this gap between the beginning and end of your study session shorter!

Studying for roughly 30 minutes, following by a short 5-minute break afterwards, is a science-proven way of retaining more of what you learn, staying productive and focusing consistently.

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In fact, the longer you study without a break, the more likely you are to grow unfocused, because your working memory, which you’re using as you process information in real-time, has a limited capacity.

If you overuse your working memory, you not only end up not absorbing what you’re trying to learn, but also lose some of what you had already learned because your brain does not get a chance to convert it into long-term memory.

When you do take a short 5-minute break though, your brain both recharges your working memory, and processes what you learned. It reviews this information in the context of what it knows, making sense of the information and working to consolidate it in your memory.

Here’s another tip – after every 5-minute break, quickly review what you learned in the previous session before moving on to the next one.

Reviewing keeps activating the connections your brain cells create for new information and makes these connections stronger, thus strengthening your recall.

In this way, with more brain breaks, you’re actually improving your focus and productivity!

3. Use Focused Breathing to Reduce Anxiety

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them It’s natural to feel anxious, tense and stressed out during remote learning.

And these feelings can make being productive, focused and motivated very difficult.

However, plenty of scientific evidence shows that by focusing your breathing, you can not only reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and tension, but also ease yourself into the ideal state for learning.

Think about what happens to your body when you’re anxious and stressed out.

Your breathing is shallow, palms are sweaty, heart is beating quickly, pulse thudding in your ears, your entire body stiff – sound familiar?

Of all these ways your body responds to stress and anxiety, your breathing is a function you can modify or control at will.

When you take in deep, slow, focused breaths, you activate your vagus nerve, which is part of your parasympathetic nervous system.

By slowing your breathing down, you basically start off a chain reaction throughout the rest of this system. It helps slow down your heartbeat, ease the tension in your muscles, lower your blood pressure, etc.

Deep, focused breathing also switches your brain over into its alpha brain wave state, which is great for learning.

Out of the four brain wave states, alpha, beta, theta and gamma, your alpha brain wave state puts you in a headspace where you’re both calm but also alert.

This means you’re in the perfect state of mind to focus on your learning, without panicking or growing stressed and in effect struggling to focus.

So, when you start feeling a little anxious and stressed, or during those 5-minute breaks in between learning, do this.

Sit up, with your shoulders straight, and take in a deep, slow breath, for 4 counts.

Hold this in, for 4 counts, and then slowly breathe out, again for 4 counts.

Do this a couple of times – you’ll notice a marked difference in how clear-headed, calm and focused you feel afterwards!

4. Remove Distractions When You Study

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them

School is designed to help you learn, but at home there’s no shortage of things you could get distracted by.

And this is bad news for your focus and productivity, because according to a University of California Irvine study, it can take you almost 24 minutes to refocus after a distraction.

That’s basically one entire study session gone every time you get distracted.

This translates into unproductive learning sessions and falling motivation because you’re unable to complete the tasks you set for yourself.

This is why it’s so important that you create a dedicated space for yourself in your home for remote learning.

The space should be away from any distractions like the TV or any place where people might gather.

You also need to avoid studying in your bed or on the couch, or any space that you typically associate with relaxing. This is because it’ll make it difficult for your brain to focus when it associates your surroundings to relaxation instead of work.

Since you might be using a device for a lot of your learning, make sure you block or turn off notifications of distracting websites.

Even if you don’t intend to, a notification popping up from your socials can distract you, and a quick second of scrolling can easily turn into several minutes of scrolling.

(And this is science-backed too – your brain releases dopamine in anticipation of a new message, notification or something interesting online even when there are no updates, and this dopamine can keep you stuck on your social media for ages.)

5. Switch Out Coffee for Tea

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them Remember how you learned that the alpha brain wave state puts you in the ideal state for learning?

Drinking black and green teas – especially green teas – can help put you into this focused, relaxed state of mind thanks to an amino acid called l-theanine.

L-theanine not only puts you into this calm and alert state, it also helps stimulate more dopamine and other mood-boosting, motivation-inducing neurotransmitters like serotonin in your system.

Green and black teas contain caffeine, which basically interrupts the work of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that makes you drowsy.

Unlike coffee though, the l-theanine helps counteract the caffeine jitters you’d get from coffee, which might, in the long run, lead to unhealthy addictive symptoms and withdrawals resulting in headaches, brain fog, lethargy, etc.

6. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Quality Sleep

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them L-theanine can also help you get better sleep – which is great, because sound sleep is critical for better productivity, focus, motivation, and learning and memory overall.

When you wake up after a good night’s rest, you are naturally in your alpha brain wave state – you’re ready to start the day relaxed and rested but also alert and focused.

Moreover, not getting enough sleep the night before results in flagging dopamine levels the morning after – meaning you are automatically less motivated and focused without getting the rest.

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You’re also more likely to feel upset, moody and anxious, because when you don’t get enough sleep your amygdalae (almond-sized nuclei in your brain that regulate these negative emotions) grow in size.

Being reactive to negative emotions from day to day life can, as you know, interfere with your ability to learn, stay motivated and focused.

Sleep is also when your brain consolidates what you learned throughout the day into your long-term memory.

Your brain, specifically your hippocampus and neocortex, review what it learned through the day, processes it, and stores it more permanently and reliably so you can access it the next day.

This is also when your brain pieces together information it already knows with what you’ve learned, resulting in new ideas, and creative solutions to problems.

Studies show that people perform better in tests or at work after a good night’s rest or even a short nap, compared to those who don’t give their brains a chance to connect the dots in your learning.

7. Make Sure You’re Staying Physically Active

3 Remote Learning Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Attending classes, moving from classroom to classroom and getting to school itself, all involve some level of physical activity.

And this physical activity plays a huge role in your brain’s ability to learn and grow.

Exercise expands your breathing and speeds up your blood circulation. As a result, more blood, rich with oxygen and nutrients, pumps to your brain.

This speeds up the rate at which your brain cells can create connections as you learn and process information.

It also helps your brain grow by creating new cells through a process called neurogenesis, particularly in your hippocampus, which is an important player in your learning and memory.

Exercise also stimulates more dopamine in your system, along with chemicals like serotonin and endorphins.

So as a result, you feel more focused, motivated and in a great mood to learn!

An hour of aerobic exercise is recommended, but any degree of physical activity, like doing some quick stretches or jumping jacks during your 5-minute study breaks, can help flip the focus and motivation switches on in your brain!

If you find that you’re stuck in the same position all day when remote learning at home, exercise might make all the difference in switching your brain into learning mode.

With these 7 brain hacks, I hope you’re more than ready to take on the top 3 challenges in remote learning and accomplishing study success!

I’d love to hear how they work out for you!

pat wymanPat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™. 

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

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