Top Tips for Online Learners
Posted April 11, 2018, by Jenny Sakr
One of the great things about learning online is that you’re able to make your study schedule fit around your lifestyle, not the other way around! But how? While studying online is incredibly convenient, it also comes with its own set of challenges.
Online learning has a different set of requirements and can demand more motivation, 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. “Students often assume online programs require less work and are easier than on-campus courses. In reality, online classes are designed to be equally as rigorous and demanding as traditional courses. You need to genuinely apply yourself to get through.”
Over 20 universities in Australia now offer online classes, with increasing numbers of full online degrees being offered in everything from business to health... Online education in Australia is perfect for students looking to enhance their current career. From a bachelor degree to doctorate level work, students can find a program that fits with their personal goals.
Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your online course.
1. Put Together a Study Schedule
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.
• Start by putting all the important academic dates into your calendar or diary (for example, assignment due dates, semester breaks, study week and exam periods).
• Allocate study time for each subject. Try and work out how long each assignment is likely to take and make sure you allow yourself plenty of time, particularly when you are returning to study after a break.
• Schedule in time for your other commitments and activities aside from study (work, sport, social, family) – both weekly activities and one-off events. It's important to strike a balance!
• Place the timetable in a visible position (on the wall – save it on your phone – somewhere that you will see it/have regular access!).
• Let friends and family know about your schedule so they understand your commitments and time restrictions.
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.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When putting together your schedule consider 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?
2. Set Up a Study Space
If much of your study time is done at home then it’ll be good to set up a dedicated area, kind of like a mini-office, that’s free of distractions and it organised. Create a space that’s ergonomic and helps you get in the ‘zone’.
There are simple things you can do to set up a study space that maximises productivity. Try:
• Positioning your desk to face a window
• Setting up your space so you get maximum natural light
• Popping a plant on your desk to increase creativity
• Have healthy snacks on-hand to keep you alert and energised
If studying at home really isn’t an option then consider other places, such as the local library or a quiet café
3. Don't Procrastinate
We’re all guilty of a bit (a lot) of procrastinating but sometimes you just have to take a leaf out of Nike’s book and 'Just Do It'!
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 all social media, don’t open your email – FOCUS on the task at hand.
Think of your future self - 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.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
When in doubt, reach out! If you don’t understand something it’s okay to ask for help.
• Contact your tutor or lecturer if you have any difficulties with understanding an assignment or subject content (make sure you have relevant staff contact details close at hand).
• There are great online communities you can turn to for support and assistance. Connect to forums/discussion boards for specific subjects and courses. These are a great way of connecting with other students and helpful for discussing and clarifying questions about your course or assignments.
• Know how to get in touch with learning skills/academic advisors. They are a wonderful resource and can help you to overcome academic issues you may be experiencing with essay writing, referencing or how to structure your work.
• Make the most of the student services (career advisors, disability and equity advisors, academic/learning skills advisors, counsellors) available to you.
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!
5. Set Achievable Goals and Remember to Treat Yourself
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 and can be something as simple as heading out for a walk and cup of coffee for an hour, or really indulging with a relaxing massage.
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 – be sure to remember your learning goals and what you what to achieve at the end of it all.
Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.