Online High School: 5 Tips for Success | Silicon Valley HS

Education is essential, especially in these difficult times. Online homeschooling comes with a variety of benefits. Students can be flexible with their curriculum, learning on their own time, and taking a break when they feel overwhelmed. However, this is quite the adjustment from a regular classroom setting. There won’t be a teacher pushing the student to finish their work or stay motivated, this will be up to them. It is important to remain driven and focused to avoid falling behind. So, as a student, you might be wondering how to succeed in online school, since a new learning environment can be quite intimidating. Here are five online school tips to help you progress in your remote learning journey!

1.) Organization = Productivity

In a disorganized space, it will be difficult to get any of your online schoolwork done. Keeping your work area clean and tidy will allow you to be more productive and efficient in your studies. There are many ways to stay organized while learning from home, let’s highlight some helpful ones!

Make a To-Do List

It is easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done in a day of working from home. Keeping a to-do list will allow you to lay everything out and check tasks off as you go. Not to mention, writing things down helps clear our brains. There is only so much information the brain can hold at once. If you surpass that limit, it begins to slow down and become weak. This means that trying to contain every important deadline or assignment in your head will overwhelm you and cause you to forget things. According to Dr. Kenneth Freundlich, an excess of information negatively impacts your memory and focus as well.

Keep a Planner

Planners are a great way to stay organized, think of these as long-term to-do lists. You can map out your entire school year if you’d like. Keeping a detailed schedule means setting deadlines, which will make you more productive. Setting start and end dates for your tasks means you will be more motivated to complete them on time. Not planning out your work schedule means responsibilities are open-ended, making the due date a non-factor and encouraging procrastination.

Do It Now, Not Later

Don’t procrastinate! Putting your online schoolwork off until later will only cause it to pile up over time. Pushing back one assignment means you will delay your learning of the next lesson, causing you to fall behind. You might then try to do both lessons at once to avoid being a step behind schedule, which will only overwhelm you and cause you to fall behind regardless. Adding to that, learning two lessons at once means that only 50 percent of your focus is on each one. Each section should have your full attention. Do your work as it is assigned to you, don’t let it pile up.

Everything Has a Place

Books, papers, notebooks, pencils – it can all get pretty chaotic. Make sure everything has a place but is still readily accessible to you. Get an organizer for your papers, a cup holder for pens, pencils, and highlighters, and maybe some bins that can be labeled by category. Every time you are done using an item, make sure to put it back where it belongs and only keep things on your desk that you need at that moment. Remove everything that is unnecessary for the task at hand. This will prevent clutter from building up and limiting your efficiency. A clear desk is a clear mind!

2.) Study Smart

Let’s talk online study tips! There are a variety of ways to study and even make it fun while you’re at it. Here are a few online learning techniques that you can use to make your studying process smoother.

Mind Mapping

Mind maps are diagrams of ideas and concepts that are all connected to each other. These allow a student to easily comprehend complex elements in their lessons and even share their findings with others in an easy to consume way. They can also be used as a planning tool for big projects. Mind maps are great for achieving a better overall understanding of a lesson by creating a simple structure for a large or overwhelming concept or idea.


Self-learning is all about figuring out what you need as a learner (what methods of learning are most effective for you), and setting goals based upon your findings. It is important as a student to find what works for you and stick with it. Not everyone learns the same way, so don’t be afraid to shift away from previously taught methods if they do not work for you.

Retrieval Practice

Retrieval is essentially the “digging up” of previously learned information. It is an active learning technique that increases long-term retention. When we are trying to remember something we have learned in the past, that is when we are learning. Retrieval practice is when a student is giving permanence to what they have consumed from their prior lessons by bringing the idea back to the forefront, thus, strengthening their memory.

Spacing (Distributed Practice)

Think of spacing as taking a break. Giving your brain a moment to breathe in between lessons or study sessions will allow you to forget some of the information you’ve learned. Upon coming back to said lesson, you will be able to quickly know what you have retained and what you need to spend more time studying. Spacing encourages retrieval! Distributed practice in a nutshell is, giving your brain space to forget so you can figure out what you know.


Also referred to as “mixing it up,” interleaving is the act of combining multiple subjects to improve learning. For example, if you are trying to learn French, you should combine a few different categories together. Instead of focusing on only “foods,” try mixing those words in with other French categories such as sports, colors, and animals. This way, you are learning multiple subjects at once, expanding your learning. Interleaving also promotes retrieval by improving the brains ability to differentiate between subjects. Differentiating requires you to “dig up” or retrieve information about those subjects in order to spot the discrepancies.

3.) Set Milestones

Milestones are small victories on the way to your main goal. You can set these up and they will allow you to monitor your progress. For example, you are tasked with writing a 15-page paper for your mid-term. Setting up milestones (and maybe even small rewards!) will allow you to efficiently progress without becoming overwhelmed. The first milestone might be to complete the outline, the second is perhaps to write the first three pages. You could then go on to set up four more milestones for the remaining 12 pages. Breaking important tasks up into smaller ones is a great way to stay motivated and avoid putting off large projects.

4.) Online Exam Tips

Taking a test online is much different than a paper test. There are a variety of factors you have to consider that you wouldn’t otherwise have to. How strong is the Wi-Fi connection? Is my computer dependable? Is there a time-limit? If so, how do I effectively manage my time? Here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to online test taking.

Is Your Computer Working?

This might seem like a silly question, it was working yesterday, right? Before any big exam or quiz it is a good idea to check your computer and make sure everything is functioning properly. Install any updates that need to be installed and if you are using a laptop, make sure everything is plugged in, so you don’t lose charge. The last thing you want is to have a technical glitch in the middle of your final exam. If you catch it early, you will be able to adjust either by fixing the problem or gaining access to a different computer.

Time Yourself

Timing yourself, even when the exam has its own timer allows you to manage your time more effectively. Limit yourself to a certain amount of time per problem and don’t exceed that limit. You can always come back to difficult problems, but if you spend 25 minutes on one of them then you may run out of time to do some others. When you hit a snag, just move on, oftentimes when you come back to it, you’ll realize you knew the answer all along!

Check Your Answers

It is important to check and even double-check. Accidental bubble clicks happen all the time. Some tests are even set up to where you have to submit answers one at a time and you can’t backtrack. There may not be an opportunity to flip to the previous page. This means you should make it a point to look over each answer as you complete it, especially if there are any word problems or essays involved. Make sure to check for spelling and grammar mistakes in regard to those.

5.) How to Avoid Burnout

School can be overwhelming, especially when you are the only student. Students get burned out even while surrounded by students and teachers in the classroom, so you can imagine how easy it is to lose the desire to learn when there is no one around to encourage you to do so. Along with keeping the aforementioned tips in mind, here are five ways to avoid burnout and succeed in online school.


You should get at a minimum of seven hours per night. Sleep deprivation leads to mistakes.

Eat Healthy:

A healthy diet is essential for productivity. When we consume unhealthy foods, live primarily on snacks, or even worse, not eat at all, we will not only suffer physically but mentally as well. The brain needs a balanced diet in order to thrive.

Have Fun:

Get outside! Go for a hike, take your dog on a run, or just stay inside in play a board game with your family. Whatever your favorite way is to unwind, make time for it! It’s okay to have fun in between lessons, or even plan a lesson-based activity.

Take Breaks:

Having short 10-15-minute breaks while studying is very beneficial. It may not seem like much, but this gives your brain the opportunity to breathe so that you come back refreshed. Plus, your eyes will get a break from staring at a screen or piece of paper for prolonged periods of time.

Be Fair to Yourself:

You don’t have to be Superman or Wonder woman. Set reasonable expectations for yourself, ones you know that you can achieve with your hard work. Customize your goals and workload to your specific needs and learning style. What works for someone else doesn’t have to work for you. Avoid comparing yourself to other students.

Closing Thoughts:

Online high school can be daunting, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Ensuring that you remain organized, stay on top of your work, study efficiently, and treat yourself fairly are all ways to be successful in online school. Work hard and smart. Keep the five tips you’ve learned from this article in mind and remember: “Action is the fundamental key to success.” – Pablo Picasso