Tips and tools to help students with effective self-learning

Flipped classroom acer students cheering with teacher and laptop

Flipped learning is an increasingly popular classroom model offering student centered, interactive learning, aided by technology. Following the flipped learning model, students prepare for a class by studying pre-class homework, then spend class time actively engaged in a wide variety of learning activities.

Effective self learning outside of the traditional classroom environment is an integral part of the flipped classroom model of blended learning. In this article, we will share a range of tips to help students make the most of self directed learning. These tips will cover how to use Microsoft and Acer tools, as well as offering some general pointers for creating a self supervised learning environment that is conducive to effective study.

How does the flipped classroom work?

Regardless of the level, from elementary to university, a flipped class does as it says, and literally flips the traditional class structure of the teacher giving a lecture and example problems in class, followed by students completing problem sets for homework. Active pre-class reading and research materials such as online videos, lectures, and discussions maximize learner engagement during class.

Independent learning before the class creates a learner centered model by introducing topics to the students at home. In the flipped classroom, increased contact time spent in class can be used to explore topics in greater depth, through project based learning, and concept practice.

The key benefit of the flipped classroom is that the student is essentially having the lesson/lecture at home before the class, allowing more in-class time for teacher-student contact. Flipped classrooms have proven beneficial to learners, with active learning helping students to understand complex concepts, while developing valuable intrapersonal skills.

Making the most of pre-class homework time

Evidently, learners need to put in the prep hours before class so that they know what is going on when they step into the classroom. Thankfully there are ways to ensure that independent study space and habits are helping, not hindering students’ education.

Firstly, try to stick to the study schedule suggested by your teachers. If they expect 60 minutes of prep before a class, make sure that you have reserved that time to study. Ensure that you have a quiet space with a suitable table and chair where you can study without interruption from family, friends, or pets.

In an ideal world there would be a designated desk where you are able to amply prepare before class. If you need music to study, concentration music for work is a good idea and one that we will return to later, but lay off any tunes that may distract you. Speaking of distractions, during your allotted study time, put your phone on silent and make sure that it is out of arm’s reach, not sitting on your desk, distracting you.

What is the Pomodoro Technique, and how will it help you to focus?

This time management method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and uses a simple kitchen timer to help you overcome procrastination (putting things off). In fact, the Pomodoro Technique is a highly effective way to manage your time: focus on a task for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute break. The good news is, you (probably) won’t have to cook any tomatoes while studying and you don’t need a kitchen timer.

Focus sessions

Windows 11 has a handy focus feature, essentially a built-in Pomodoro timer called a focus session to help you block out distractions while you study. When you start a focus session, a few things will happen:

  • A focus timer will appear on your screen
  • Do not disturb will turn on
  • Apps in the taskbar won’t flash to alert you
  • Badge notifications on apps in the taskbar will turn off

So, how can the focus feature help students in the flipped classroom?

1) Before class

Students can use the focus session feature to watch the video lectures assigned by their teachers. They can set a timer for the duration of the video, connect their Spotify account to listen, and select the task from their Microsoft To Do list.

To minimize distractions and stay on track with your learning goals, there are three ways to start focus on Windows 11:

  • From notification center: select notification center in the taskbar. Choose the length of your focus session. Select Focus to start your session.
  • From Settings: Select Start > Settings > System > Focus > Start focus session.
  • From the Clock app: Select Start > All apps > Clock. In the clock app, select Start focus session.

Focus works with the Clock app, allowing you to play music and see tasks from Microsoft To Do. When starting a session, a focus timer will appear on your screen. To access additional focus tools in the Clock app, expand the focus timer. Let’s not forget the tunes, link your Spotify account to the Clock app and your music will play when you begin a focus session:

  • Select Start > All apps > Clock.
  • In the Clock app, select Link your Spotify. Sign in with your Spotify account. Select the playlist you want to listen to.

2) During class

Students can use the focus session feature to work on homework or projects in class. They can set a timer for a suitable amount of time, and work on a specific task from their Microsoft To Do list. After the focus session ends, they can take a short break and then start another focus session. This way, they can apply the Pomodoro Technique to divide their work into manageable chunks, improving their productivity and efficiency.

3) After class

Students can use the focus session feature to review what they have learned or prepare for exams. They can set a timer for a suitable amount of time, and work on a revision task from their Microsoft To Do list. They can also connect their Spotify account to listen to some music that enhances their memory or relaxation. After the timer is up, they can take a longer break and then start another focus session. This way, they can use spaced repetition to reinforce their learning and retention.

Before we move on to cover how Microsoft To Do can help your independent studies in more detail, it should be noted that your task list can be integrated into the Clock app. This will enable you to choose the tasks you want to to work on in each focus session.

To do, or not to do, is not an option with Microsoft To Do

If you have to do lists plastered over your wall, that’s cool, but try Microsoft To Do. This cloud-based task management application can be easily integrated with the focus session widget in the Clock app. For a more streamlined approach to organizing your day, and staying on top of everything, integrate the two:

  • Start a focus session from the notification center, the Settings app, or the Clock app
  •  In the focus session widget, click on the Tasks icon on the right side of the screen
  • Sign in with your Microsoft account and grant permission to access your Microsoft To Do tasks
  • Select the task you would like to work on during your focus session and Check it off once it is done
  •  You can also add new tasks, edit existing tasks, or switch between different lists from the focus session widget

Take a break

Following the Pomodoro Technique, it is important to take regular breaks in order to stay focussed. It is equally important to encourage students to practice healthy computer habits from an early age and avoid getting into bad habits, including sitting for too long, straining, and getting too close to your computer. Often, students are so engrossed in their work that they sit too close to their screen for too long. This can impact eye health. Thankfully, Acer User Sensing software has some helpful features to help students avoid bad habits: a break reminder, and a screen distance reminder. These added features can help students to establish healthy computer habits from an early age. Acer TravelMate B3 11, B3 Spin 11, and B5 14 all come with Acer User Sensing software to remind users to take regular breaks in order to stay healthy!

Microsoft, Acer, and the flipped classroom


We hope that this article has been informative and that you managed to stay focused until now. Self learning requires self discipline, strategy, and the correct tools to stay on track with your study goals. The Clock app in Windows 11, along with Microsoft To Do, Acer break reminder, and Acer Screen Distance Reminder combine to help learners effectively organize their time and have productive independent study sessions. Through correct use of these tools, and energized by regular breaks, students can benefit from self learning time, effectively preparing relevant materials before class.

This article was written by Edmund McGowan, an English copywriter based in New Taipei City, Taiwan. He is a widely published writer and translator with two decades of experience in the field of bridging linguistic and cultural gaps between Chinese and English.

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