How to Set Up a Home Office for Online Learning
Before you can get started on any assignments, you need to find a place to study. A separate space for your online class will help you stay focused on your work, and keep your study materials organized. This area should be designated only for academic work and test taking.
If possible, keep your work area clutter-free and comfortable. Ideally, you would want an entire room designated for you to study, so that you can stay on task.
It's not always easy to have a space for yourself, especially if you have a family or a small home. Here are some guidelines to assist you on deciding how to design and set-up a home office area just for online learning!
Find some space.
If possible, try to dedicate a whole room to your new library/home office. Otherwise, it may be easier just creating a dual-purpose room like a guest room and home office, or setting up a home office area within an unused portion of the house (like the attic or basement).
Make sure your room has a door that closes; this will help cut down on noise and interruptions. By identifying a specific area or room as your home office, it sends a clear message: "When I am in here, it is because I am studying."
Pick a quiet location.
Road traffic is noisy, so try to pick a room that does not have a window facing a main thoroughfare. The kitchen is also a hotspot for noise: clanging dishes and pans; cupboards swinging shut; the refrigerator door being opened and shut. You may not notice small or repetitive noises now, but when you are reviewing for an exam or drafting a 15-page paper, these little distractions can have a big impact on your concentration.
Make it comfortable.
Consider your working style: do you want to feel energized and upbeat when you are studying or would you prefer a feeling of tranquility and reflection? If you want a feeling of stimulation or activity, paint the walls with warm yellows or chose red drapes for your window dressing. If you want serenity and calm: soothing, cool blue tones or deep, rich greens. If you want classic simplicity in your workspace, stick to taupe, grays and even chocolate browns. Do you like to stretch out while you take notes? Add some throw pillows or a beanbag. Don't be afraid to add some personality, but make sure that everything will help you stay productive. Too many pillows and you may find yourself curled up next to your laptop, asleep!
Choose appropriate furnishings and equipment.
To optimize your space, list all the items that must go into your home office. By doing this, you can plan the best layout for your room. Depending on the size of the space, you may need to take some measurements to ensure that everything will fit and that you won't feel crowded or uncomfortable.
Think about what you may need:
- A desk and chair
- Desktop or laptop computer with an Internet connection
- Printer, scanner, and/or fax
- Shelves for your books, binders, print-outs, and reference materials
- Filing cabinets
- Floor lamps or desk lamps
- A bulletin/memo board to keep track of notes and other bits of information
Caution! Don't place your computer in an area that receives direct sunlight or gets too warm. Electronics are temperature sensitive, so make sure the room receives adequate air circulation and that the sun can't damage your equipment.
Distractions are plentiful, especially if you are a parent. A message board on the door or outside of your home office will help with communication (especially with older children). Signs like "Studying until 7:30," or "Preparing for exam at 8," will tell your spouse or kids what to expect, and prevents any unnecessary questions or interruptions like, "What are you doing?" or "Are you going to be done soon?"
Keep everything close at hand.
Have enough storage space to keep extras around. Items like: a dictionary, thesaurus, pens, pencils, notepad paper, printer paper, highlighters, 3-hole punch, stapler, book flags or sticky notes, etc.
Coping with noise.
The perfect room is one that is completely sound-proof, but that would require renovating! If noise is a problem, consider purchasing a white noise or sound machine for your home office. These machines produce sounds that drown out other distracting noises and can help keep you focused when you're reading, posting to your discussion board, writing and studying.
Maintain your study space.
A messy area can lead to coffee-stained papers, damaged textbooks, and misplaced notes. Give everything a designated area on your desk and shelves. Use an old coffee mug to hold your pens, pencils, and highlighters. Use bookends to keep your books stacked nicely on your desk.
It is essential that you keep your notes up-to-date. Have a filing system, so that you can file away new papers, graded assignments, and exams. This will prevent lose papers and keep your desk tidy.
If you enjoy a cup of coffee with your daily textbook reading, be sure to take the empty mug back to the kitchen when you are done. Remove all dirty dishes after using them so that they don't pile up and consume precious space on your desk. Another consequence of leaving old dishes around? They might begin to attract bugs and other unwanted critters, as well as getting smelly or moldy!
By taking a few minutes every day to keep your work are neat and tidy, you can come home and start your work right away without searching for items or getting distracted by useless clutter.
Use your room for studying. Period.
Avoid the temptation to your home office for other projects. If you enjoy crafting, building models, knitting or anything else, do not bring them into your work area. Though these activities are great hobbies and smart stress-relievers, they will lure you away from your academic goals. Also, try to dissuade your children from using the space. It is okay to have a place you can call your own!
Studying in a shared space?
Not everyone has space or an extra room in their home just for their studies. If you are studying in your living room, den or another shared space, be sure to communicate your needs to others. Maybe put up a sign that reads, "Quiet, please - Working," or "Reserving the Living Room from 8 - 10 Tonight." If you are trying to write a paper in the kitchen, but you can hear the television in the next room, you may want to purchase noise-cancelling or noise-reduction headphones or ear plugs.