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More students choose to use virtual study platforms.

Karmen Yip

University student Anjelica Yeung Ka-yan has been studying on Discord, an instant messaging and digital distribution platform since December 2021, as physical study rooms have been closed due to the pandemic. She now studies two to three hours every day on the study platform.

Yeung started using the virtual study platform after she failed to focus on her studies at home during the pandemic.  

“It is hard to create a learning atmosphere alone at home. I also lack self-discipline and easily get distracted by my iPhone,” the psychology major student says. 

“Virtual study rooms help create a better learning atmosphere. I can see everyone focusing on their studies. Some highlight textbooks and some take notes on their iPads. I feel like being monitored by others. Others in the virtual study room can see if I am focusing on my study. This forces me to stay focused,” the 19-year-old student explains. 

“Others in the virtual study room can see if I am focusing on my study. This forces me to stay focused.”

Yeung points out virtual study platforms have user-friendly interfaces with different functions such as subject channels where she can connect with students around the world who are studying the same subject.  

“I can ask for help by typing questions in my subject channel. Other students who are online then respond to me and explain how to get to answers by showing reasons and logic behind,” she says.

“I can always find someone productive in a virtual study room. Students from all over the world study on the virtual platform 24/7. I can also set up a private virtual study room to study with my friends despite strict quarantine measurements in real life,” the university freshman adds. 

“I can also set up a private virtual study room to study with my friends despite strict quarantine measurements in real life.”

Similar to Yeung, master student Shirley Ooi Yee-shyen is often distracted by social media apps like Instagram when doing self-study. 

“When the pandemic hit, I messed up my own routine. I used to sleep from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. But isolation wrecked my daily schedule, and I went to bed at 4 a.m…I lost motivation and life became dull. That was when I started to study with my friends on Zoom,” the student from Université Grenoble Alpes says.

Ooi now spends an average of five hours a day on the virtual study platform. 

“I turn on my webcam or share my screen sometimes so that others can check on what I am doing when I study on the platform,” she says.

“If my friends find that I have been away from my desk for too long or if they see me scrolling my phone, they will remind me to get back to my study. I will feel guilty and get back to work. The platform also has a system that tracks how many hours I study and users are ranked on the Study Leaderboard based on their study hours,” the chemistry student explains. 

Ooi thinks the leaderboard motivates her to study harder and pushes her to finish at least one school task a day on the virtual study platform with her friends. But she also warns users not to stay online for too long for the sake of being on top of the leaderboard, as that is harmful to their mental health. 

Shirley Ooi Yee-shyen uses a virtual study platform that tracks the number of study hours and provides users with their study statistics. 

To help himself focus on his study, Nadir Matti took one step further. He founded a virtual study platform, Study Together, in July 2019. 

Matti created the platform with a website and a discord server.  

“The discord server reminds you to refresh your study goal every two hours. For example, your goal for this session is to finish reading 50 pages. After two hours, you will receive a notification reminding you of your goal and ask you to input the next goal. This pushes students to make progress,” he says. 

Nadir Matti’s discord study server reminds users of their study goals every two hours. 

Compared to studying at a library, Matti says it is way more comfortable and easier to study at home.

“When you go to a library, you have to spend time packing your bag and commuting. There are also concerns like if there are comfortable and enough seats in the library, and the opening hours of the library. With the virtual study platform, students can just turn on their laptops and start doing self-study with others,” the founder explains. 

“At home, you have the perfect study environment that is all set-up. If you are a night owl and want to study at 3 a.m., you can still use online study rooms to stay focused,” Matti says.

The number of members joining Nadir Matti’s discord study server has increased during the pandemic.
(Photo Courtesy of Nadir Matti) 

Psychology scholar Dr. Alex Chan Chi-keung, associate professor at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, says more students choose virtual study platforms for interaction and interconnectedness.

“Through these platforms, students are motivated to focus on their study and can build friendships with others. By motivating and reminding each other of their study goals, it keeps them going,” he explains. 

“By motivating and reminding each other of their study goals, it keeps them going.”

Chan says studying virtually as a group triggers group flow, a phenomenon that occurs when a group of people want to reach a team goal together. 

“Group flow leads to improved performance and increases productivity,” he says. 

Apart from that, Chan says students can find the most suitable study method by discussing different study skills with other students in chat rooms. 

But he says virtual study platforms are not for everyone. 

“If a user has poor self-discipline or has no clear study goals, the user can be sidetracked from their work and get distracted easily. Too much information flow on the platform also affects their focus,” he says. 

Chan adds some students focus too much on comparing themselves with others and that causes pressure. He also warns cyber bullying on virtual platforms can lead to psychological problems like depression. 

Edited by Kajal Aidasani
Sub-edited by Angel Woo