Tips for Law School Online Courses

Do you want to know how to study for a law school online class?  Are you curious about how to earn good marks and always stay motivated through online learning in this COVID-19 pandemic? Unfortunately, we have seen that many law students that do very well in a traditional classroom but fail to do well in an online class. If you find yourself taking an online class, keep in mind that your experience will be different in each class, depending on the professor’s online experience, course design, and the technology used in the course.

Law school online courses

For example, your professor may be new to online teaching, which means they will generally default to what goes on in a traditional face-to-face classroom. Also, the course might not be designed to maximize the online environment. And finally, the technology that your professor uses can influence how you learn. Not everyone uses state of the art video, decent audio, or multimedia. Because none of this is in your control, let me shift focus and discuss what you can control. Ultimately, your enemies are distraction and procrastination. 

This is a biological problem called temporal discounting, where we prefer immediate rewards over distant rewards. So instead of studying we spend hours on social media, cleaning the house, running to the store, eating nachos, or just about anything else other than studying. So to overcome temporal discounting, you need to develop strategies to keep you disciplined so that you can succeed. 

1. Work Triggers.

A huge challenge is getting your brain to understand that class time at home is the same as class time at school. You need to ask yourself, what are your work triggers? This could be something as simple as finding out what kind of clothing works best for you when studying? The answer isn’t always pajamas, though it might be. For me, when I work from home I need to get up, I need to take a shower, I have to shave, and get dressed. Not in a coat. There is something about the formality of getting ready for the day that gives me the energy I need to become productive. If I stay in bed clothes, then I don’t work at my highest level. If you don’t know what works for you, try both approaches and see which one works better for you. 

2. Space

Create a place where you can study without distractions. This means taking your smart phone out of your room, clearing your desk, and taking other steps to avoid any visual distractions that can derail your study and class time. If you work best somewhere other than at home, then make sure the location is as distraction free as possible. If you want more tips on study spaces, you can watch my video on that topic. 

3. Specific time to study

 “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” John C. Maxwell. Differentiate between class time and study time—they are different. Just because you spent three hours for one class doesn’t mean you spent any time studying for that class. This means blocking times on your calendar for specific tasks. And when life throws you a curve ball, which it will from time to time, what you need to do is move that studying to a different day or time. Just don’t eliminate it from your schedule. Always remember that you are the referee between immediate gratification and delayed gratification. 

4. Planning

 Successful students use calendars to plan and manage their time. Decide when you are going to study, how long you are going to study, and what you are going to study. Then, at the beginning of each week, review what's on your calendar and work hard to complete everything on time. For each day, you might also want to create a to-do list to keep you motivated for that day. More on this on my video on study schedules. 

5. Guard your study time

 At home, your friends and family need to know you are not available for other things during study time. Let them know by setting boundaries with your time, which might include closing a door or maybe a sign near your desk that says “studying.” 

6. How to study

Do not study any one topic for more than one hour, otherwise our brains get bored and they work less efficiently. Cognitive science indicates that we learn best with variety, so after about an hour of studying one topic, switch to a different topic. 

7. Breaks

Your brain needs short rests so that it can keep working at its most efficient level. The popular Pomodoro technique can be used to help you stay on track. You set a timer for 25 minutes and you work till it rings. Then you set the timer for a 5 minute break. And then you set it for another 25 minutes, you set it for another 5 minute break. Well you do this through a set of 3 "pomodoros" or sets:  25, 5, 25, 5, 25 and at the third break you take a longer break: 15 minutes. The breaks will help you operate at your optimal level. 

8. Enjoy Your Study Time

You can learn at a deeper level if you enjoy what you're doing. The material might be boring--maybe it's bankruptcy. I don't know. But you can change some of the circumstances in your learning environment. Take, for example, music. I enjoy listening to Bach. So I have some Bach playing in the background. Your music will be different. You just need to make sure it's not distracting. I also enjoy coffee, so before I begin studying I make a pot of coffee. If you enjoy food, maybe a bagel, or a scone if you're at a coffee shop. 

9. Communicate

When you have a question, reach out to your professor. This is more critical in an online setting, because you won’t have the luxury of asking a question in class or having another student task the question in class for you. This means you have to be proactive and ask the professor a question, not ignore it hoping it’s not important. Even when your professor has a synchronous online class session, they may not see your question in the chat box. When that happens, send the professor an email for clarification. And when you get confused, see if you can set up a video call with your professor 

10. Participate

If your class has a time when you meet, be there on time, have the right technology, and participate. Video interaction is best, as it allows you to fully engage with the professor and other classmates. And whatever you do, don’t be a lurker. This is a sure sign that you are not engaged and you might be trying to multitask. Sorry, but our brains don’t do multitasking very well. 

11. School email

Check your school email regularly or at least once a day. Some of you only check this every once in a while, resulting in you missing an important email 

12. Alerts

Set alarms to remind you when to complete tasks. This could be something like a dentist appointment to mentor a class meeting time. Depending on the time of day and the importance of the task, give yourself an appropriate amount of time to prepare. 

13. Exercise

There is a strong correlation between exercise and brain cognition. This means building exercise into your routine. It doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym and it might be something as simple as a walk around your local park. If you're in the city, going around the block or two blocks. 

14. Rewards

After you meet a goal, give yourself a reward. Maybe that means watching a movie, going to the coffee shop, or just having a snack. The setting of a reward, in advance, gives you something to work towards. 

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