Although the main focus of education needs to remain firmly fixed upon learning, there is a social aspect of the process that needs to also be considered. For example, students must be engaged in learning, and there is ample research to support the value of humor and community in helping students succeed.

The burden of making learning fun is not that of teachers alone. One of the best ways students can help themselves is to seek reasonable ways to make learning fun. Even in virtual education, in which participants may be scattered around the world, each at his or her own computer, there are ways to make learning enjoyable.

If you are an online student, here are some suggestions.

Location, Location, Location
If you are like me, you may have a tendency to access your courses from a home computer, perhaps within a home office. Overall, this is good practice; however, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional break in your routine to make e-learning fun. Consider all of the wireless and mobile options available to you as an online student. Take your laptop, tablet, or smartphone off to a new location, and please skip the coffee shop cliché.

Last summer, for instance, I noticed how nice the small park is outside the local zoo. It’s now one of my favorite locations for remote work. The green grass, the ancient oak trees, and the sounds of kids laughing and playing make the location much more fun than my home office. Besides, having an attention-seeking peacock grab some camera time during a webinar provided a laugh and bonding event like no other for me and my classmates.

Be Personable
Too often technology strips us of our humanity. Don’t let this happen to you or let your classmates lapse into becoming cyborgs. From the start, be personable. To be clear: I am not suggesting you over share about your personal life; rather, apply the social skills you would use in a face-to-face context.

Most online classes have an “introduction” area, so go beyond the basic requirements. Always begin messages with a warm greeting and end with a hospitable closing. When you share any example in a class discussion, make it relevant but also amusing. In a discussion that asks students to share a customer complaint, for example, could you share a humorous situation that you may have experienced or witnessed on your job?

If your class has virtual, real-time meetings, it’s helpful to show up a bit early so that you can greet your classmates and professor with a goal of building community. Feel free to joke around a bit with everyone until the session starts.

Use Invention
The concept of ‘invention’ dates back at least two thousand years in education, and there is good reason it’s still around. Basically, this means to explore all options and possibilities when learning. Rather than choose the obvious response to an assignment prompt, take the time to think critically about it, considering different ways of responding that will engage your classmates and make the activity interesting for you.

TED Talks offers a full array of examples of this concept, but perhaps Charles Leadbeater explains invention best in this video (2007).