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Online courses require a lot of reading and shifting from reading physical books to digital materials can be an adjustment. But no matter the medium, the trick to being a good reader is to be engaged. And the trick to being an engaged online reader means bringing in a few tools to help with focus and comprehension. Here are a few tips for becoming a better reader online.
When it comes to studying, the No. 1 thing you can do to make the most out of your time is engage with the text. Engaging in active reading will increase how much you retain.
Recite, Relate & Review: Start with periodically reciting what you've read, reflecting on the material and its key points. Relate the reading to what you've already learned, then review parts of the reading you may need more clarification on.
Don't Study in Bed: It's tempting to want to work in bed while studying at home. However, studying in bed decreases productivity and has a way of tempting you to stop working, lose focus, or fall asleep. The best space to work is at a table or desk in a quiet space.
Print Out the Readings: Shifting exclusively to digital reading can sometimes be hard. If reading online is too difficult, print out the readings. This gives you the option to highlight passages andtake notes in the margins. Everyone learns differently—find the format that works best for you.
If you don't want to print out online reading materials, but miss the ability to write in the margins, you're in luck. There's an app for that—quite a few, in fact. Here are a few study apps that can help you take notes while reading:
Penzu: Penzu is a private, 100 percent customizable online journal. Keep it open on your desktop to easily type your notes while studying. The benefit of online notes is they can never be lost or misplaced and they're accessible anywhere.
StudyBlue: StudyBlue provides intelligent digital learning tools, including flashcards, notes, study guides and more. With its free mobile apps, you can instantly access all of your notes and flashcards on the go.
A key factor to being an engaged reader is focus. This can be tough with a million things happening around you. However, there are a few tried-and-true ways to maintain your focus while studying.
Listen to Music: Listening to music is known to calm your senses, "leading to more conscientious studying, elevating your mood, motivating you to stay focused and studying for longer periods of time," according to Fastweb. Specifically, classical music has been known to create a calm and serene atmosphere—many consider it one of the best genres to listen to while studying, as listeners have reported it puts them in a better mood and increasesproductivity.
Avoid Multi-Tasking: With the internet at your fingertips and the societally-ingrained tendency to multi-task, it's difficult to stay focused when studying on a computer. A 2014 study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found the average American spends only 19 minutes a day reading, mostly because the presence of screens takes away from the time spent reading other things. Luckily there are many online tools that combat this issue. For example, StayFocused is a web extension that increases your productivity by restricting the amount of time spent on time-wasting websites.
When trying to stay focused and retain information, it is important to know when to take a break, especially as staring at digital screens can cause eye fatigue.
20-20-20 Rule: Keep the 20-20-20 rule in your back pocket while studying. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. This will exercise your eye muscles and help prevent straining.
Bluelight-Blocking Web Extensions: Additionally, there are many web extensions that help youstay energized and maintain healthy eye care, particularly if you're studying at night. When youuse artificial lighting to extend the day, various sleep signals are disrupted. The blue light emitted by screens causes you to be more alert and produce less melatonin. Apps like CareUEyes and browser extensions like f.lux work to reduce the blue light emitted from screens by adjusting to the time of day and shifting the color of your display after dark. CareUEyes even locks your computer, forcing you to take a three minute break every 45 minutes.
Online reading takes some adapting, especially if you're not used to doing a majority of your studying online. But with a few simple tricks, you can win at your next study session by optimizing your ability to focus.