Learning Commons

Manage Your Learning Space


Tips for Creating Effective Learning Space

Students often share that they do their “studying” at home. Home may be a residence hall room, or off-campus apartment or house. Here’s the challenge with this choice: there are many OTHER activities done at home. The list is endless: watching TV, playing XBox, practicing guitar, spending time with family and friends, taking a nap. The more we do those activities, the more the brain associates those activities with that environment. The result? When sitting down to do our “studying” (academic time-on-task) at home, the brain says, “You know, instead of studying, I could be watching TV, playing XBox, practicing guitar, spending time with family and friends, or taking a nap!”

Here are some tips for managing your learning spaces outside the classroom to be as effective and efficient as possible:

  • Find a location away from home for your academic time-on-task that your brain will ONLY associate with learning. Consider both on- and off-campus locations, such as USM Libraries, empty classrooms, the campus center, or a coffee shop where you only go when it is time to study. This creates the cues that tell your brain, “It’s study time!”
  • If studying at home, designate one space for learning. A separate room such as a home office is ideal, but for many students is not practical. Consider having one table or desk as your “go-to” learning area. This can minimize the cues associated with other activities that are done at home. On a related note, one of the LEAST productive places to do work at home is in bed!
  • Have only the materials you need for that particular study/work session. Often students will take out every textbook, notebook, and device, which can be overwhelming and distracting. By using the strategy of scheduling specific academic tasks for each study/work session as part of overall time management, you will know exactly what is to be accomplished during that time, and can plan accordingly by only having the materials for that task.
  • If noise is helpful, create your study “soundtrack”. Some learners can get “into the zone” with the right noise. Having the TV on typically is a distraction, not an aid to attention. Instead, consider finding music that your brain will come to associate with learning. Having a study playlist in Spotify, Pandora, or other streaming platforms can quickly set the tone for your learning, much like having a workout or running mix can make all the difference!