Student live streams study sessions

Cramming with a viral study buddy

Students worldwide swear by her. Heleen, a student who streams herself doing homework from her bedroom in Belgium, is their shared study secret. Is cramming to Heleen better than cramming in the UB? ‘I’d rather just play some music.’

By Tjesse Riemersma / Photo by René Lapoutre/ Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Try it yourself

Study Vibes

Heleen and her cat.

TheStrive Studies

Jamie, a medical student from the US. She hasn’t live streamed in over a year, but her study sessions are still available online.

EJ Study with me

A Korean student’s channel, also featuring cats. You will have to adjust your schedule to Korea, and you can’t live chat with her.

Entering my room with a fresh cup of tea, I can see that Heleen has already started. I sit down and quickly find my place in my book while Heleen chirps cheerfully from my computer screen: ‘even if you feel like giving up right now, you will be so happy tomorrow that you worked hard today.’

It’s the start of a long day for Heleen, studying live on her inexplicably popular YouTube channel. Altogether, the videos on her channel have been viewed more than three million times.

As she welcome viewers to today’s live session, messages stream in. People compliment her clothes, ask if she’s feeling better after a recent illness, and tell her about what they’re studying today.

Test panel

To better judge the effectiveness of studying alongside a viral study buddy, I’ve asked medical students Tessel van Dellen, Hanna Komdeur, en Lisa Havinga to try Heleen’s YouTube channel along with me.

They don’t take to it. To Hanna, the stream felt more like an aquarium than a study buddy. ‘I just got distracted’, she says. ‘Instead of studying I just sat there watching what she was doing.’

For Tessel, it only worked for a little while: ‘I never study at home. I just end up doing other things. The stream helped me to get started, but after thirty minutes I got bored’, she says.

The study-along is not really working for me, either, but at least I didn’t have to bike to the UB through the pouring rain. But when the chat opens up again for lunch, it starts to become clear why Heleen’s channel is so popular.


Viewers check in to update each other on their progress, ask how exams went, and talk about what they’re having for lunch. ‘I’m really getting to know people in the chat’, says Heleen, ‘and everyone coming together really helps with people’s motivation. I’ve even made a new friend.’

The channel works wonders for Heleen, she says. ‘I came up with the idea in my final year of high school. My maths grades were really bad and I couldn’t motivate myself to study. But then I noticed that it went much easier at the library than at home.’

I even made a new friend

She decided to start a channel to live stream her study sessions. ‘I was really nervous in the beginning. I had only thirty subscribers, didn’t know most of them, and being on camera felt really weird.’ But it did help. When she passed her exam she left streaming behind.

But she received a lot of messages from people who had used her streams for their own study sessions. So when maths became a problem again during her first year of applied engineering, she turned the webcam back on. During the last exam period, she studied nearly fifty hours a week.


Karen Huizing, psychologist and trainer at the Student Service Centre (SSC), thinks it’s a funny trend. At the SSC, she helps students overcome their motivation and concentration issues in various ways. One is to have students study together for accountability.

‘Changing a behaviour is really hard, and it can help to create an environment where there’s no alternative’, says Karen. ‘Students I coach at the SSC sometimes make an appointment and meet each other in the library.’

The viewers of Heleen’s channel probably don’t experience the same level of social accountability, but the stream does make you feel less alone.


But even when you’re working with other people, it’s impossible to study for eight consecutive hours, says Huizing. ‘First, you have to consider whether you have the right study conditions. Some students have to ask themselves whether they’re even in the right programme. Others are so afraid to fail they won’t even get started. You also have to make sure you’re well-rested, and you need to take plenty of breaks.’

Maybe it’s like an egg timer with a face

Huizing advises short bursts of focused studying. ‘You can concentrate for approximately forty-five minutes at a time, thirty if you have ADD or ADHD. Take a fifteen-minute break every forty-five minutes.’

Heleen and her followers have a similar rhythm: they take a ten-minute break every fifty minutes. Maybe that’s why it works so well, I think to myself: the stream functions like an egg timer with a face.


Lisa discovered another virtue of the stream: the volume button. ‘I hate all the noise of the library: People clicking their pens, coughing, sniffing.’ But the stream still didn’t really work for her. ‘I’d rather just play some music.’

So a study-along isn’t a panacea for people’s concentration issues, but it appears to work for the people in the chat room. And if you do it often enough, you can even make friends. With any luck, they will remind you when it’s time to buckle down.

In the end, the person who benefits most is the one on camera. Heleen is finishing up her last year in university. ‘I’m scared to think about the future’, she says. ‘I’ll be done soon and I don’t think I can live stream from a job. Maybe I’ll stay at the university for another year, but if I don’t I need a replacement’, she says, laughing.

For anyone brave enough, streaming could be the best opportunity for you to study. It might even make you a little famous – all from the comfort of your own room.


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