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Staying focused in an online learning environment

By Christina Meherg, University Counselor, Stamford American School Hong Kong

This month, many parents are wondering how they can support their children to meet their learning goals at home. A positive attitude and some simple steps to prepare for online learning will help students to avoid distractions and stay focused on their school work.

Christina Meherg, University Counselor at Stamford American School Hong Kong has some useful study tips to help secondary students achieve their best at home.

Christina Meherg

University Counselor at Stamford American School Hong Kong


Prepare your work area

Setting up a designated study area at home is always a good idea for secondary students.  To be in the right mindset for learning, students need a dedicated work area, away from the couch or bed. Make sure that the space has good lighting to avoid eye strain and be sure to clear the area of any clutter.  In a productive workspace, students will have all their learning materials close by and be able to focus on the task at hand. Don’t forget to have some water nearby as well!


Avoid distractions

Study distractions can significantly impact your child’s potential to learn.  Many hours of study at home, may result in only a few hours of quality work and a poor understanding of concepts if student focus is regularly interrupted.   To achieve more, students need to log out of social media and switch off other distractions such as online games and television.

“I encourage students to listen to music without words if they work better to music.”, Ms. Meherg suggests, “Song lyrics can be distracting when trying to read or write, however, movie scores, classical and video game music are proven to increase focus.” 

Students should also let family and friends know to be considerate when they are studying and keep the area quiet and distraction-free. 


Stick to a schedule

It’s tempting to sleep all day and work at night, but students will be more productive if they treat this period of online learning like a regular school day. Stamford secondary students are required to log into classes according to their school timetable, which helps with maintaining a routine.  Some students also find that putting on their school uniform allows them to stay focused on the school day ahead.

Ms. Meherg recommends using a paper calendar and To-Do List. Writing down each assignment and when it is due helps students to plan their time better and visually prioritize their workload.

“It is also helpful to delete unnecessary emails from your inbox so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.”


Take a break from screen time

Using paper and pencil for tasks as much as possible is a great way to have a break from the screen and avoid eye strain. 

It is also important to get up and stretch regularly.   Even if it’s just a ten-minute walk or some exercises in the house, students will feel revitalized and rejuvenated after some activity away from the desk.   Here are some great suggestions on Staying active and healthy at home from the Stamford PE Team.    As a family, you may like to join Stamford’s ‘Beat your Record Challenge’ and exercise with Leo.  


Stay in touch

Encourage your child to reach out and ask for help when problems come up. It is vital that students communicate clearly and advocate for themselves during this period of online learning.

“Teachers can’t help if they don’t know you’re struggling.”, Ms. Meherg shared.

This month, it is also important to stay connected with people.  Parents should ensure they are available to listen to and speak with their children.  Dinner table conversations are a great opportunity to check-in with children, to hear about their day and discuss what they are learning.

“Whether it’s a group chat or spending more time with family, make a conscious effort to not become isolated.”, says Ms. Meherg.

Social connections are essential for good mental health and well-being, particularly during times of stress or anxiety. Please see our Counselor Blog, Its good to talk for some more advice.


Stamford’s team of guidance counselors offer a range of support services to members of the school community.  For more information on our culture of care, visit: https://www.sais.edu.hk/school-life/safeguarding-stamford/ and for further information on our school program, please contact our admissions team: https://www.sais.edu.hk/contact-us/


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