If you’re new to online study, you’ll find that while studying online is incredibly convenient, it also comes with its own set of challenges.
It requires a slightly different set of skills and demands more motiviation, self-discipline and a greater level of commitment than heading to class on-campus. On the other hand, if you're juggling a full-time job and other commitments, online study means greater flexibility and opportunity to study around life!
So how do you get the most out of an online course? Here are some tried and tested tips that will help you succeed.
Time management is one of the biggest issues faced by both on-campus and off-campus students. A study timetable is essential if you’re going to manage your time effectively.
Don’t ditch your timetable just because you’re having trouble sticking to it. Consider how you can modify it to make it work more effectively for you, and how you can build it into your weekly routine or daily habits.
Be realistic – some weeks things might not go according to plan, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Just get back on the horse and get back on track.
If you are studying at home then try and have a space dedicated to your studies, a bit like a mini-office as this will help you to have an organised approach to your studies. Creating a study nook will help you get in the ‘zone’.
There are simple things you can do to set up a study space that maximises productivity. Try:
If studying at home really isn’t an option then consider other places, such as the local library or a quiet café.
Think about when you are most effective. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Make the most of the time when your brain is really firing.
Consider how much time you can allocate in one sitting. Do you work best in short, sharp bursts, or do you prefer a slower pace and like to spread it over a couple of hours?
When you start to lose focus it might be time for a break. Make sure you allocate regular breaks – 20 minutes of intensive study is a whole lot better than three hours of feeling restless and unfocused.
We're all guilty of this one, especially if a task is too difficult or you have no idea where to start. But when it comes to procrastination, there are ways to beat the procrastination monster! The important thing is to recognise when you are procrastinating, identify why and figure out strategies to overcome it.
Start by getting rid of distractions. Some things are easier to get rid of than others; put your mobile on silent, close Facebook, don’t open your email – FOCUS on the task at hand.
Remember that the more you put something off, the more stressful it will become down the track. Once you make a start on a task you’ll immediately reduce your anxiety about it. Begin by breaking the job into bite-sized chunks, rather than tackling too much at once.
Don’t put off a task because it’s too hard – you’ll only make it harder for yourself later. If you don’t understand something it’s OK to ask for help.
Use your initiative – avoid being a passive student who only communicates with your lecturer when submitting assignments. Take control and be active in asking questions and engaging in online discussion boards. Let your lecturer know you are out there and that you really do care about your studies!
Become familiar with the resources available to you and make use of them. These services will vary depending on the institution you are studying at but generally include:
Online studying is hard! It takes motivation and discipline, so be sure to reward yourself along the way.
Recognise important milestones and celebrate every achievement, from the little ones right through to the big successes. It might be completing an assignment by the due date, receiving top marks, or wrapping your head around something completely new.
Promising yourself a reward can also be motivating and when you finish your task it provides you with an opportunity to reflect on your achievements. For me it’s a massage, for my husband it would be a round of golf – what is it for you?
You are the captain of your ship. Sometimes you might need to take a step back and just breathe. Independent learning is challenging but it is worth it – and if you believe in yourself, you can do it!