Are you looking to expand your knowledge, improve your skill set and engage with qualified people in the area that you are interested in studying? Yes? Great, you are in the right place! We have included some study tips below on how to reap all the benefits of online learning in the most efficient way possible!
What are the benefits to online learning?
When studying a course online, you can set your own study schedule, work at your own pace and study from anywhere, whether that’s from the comfort of your home, on the go on the train or in your favourite café, the choice is yours!
Of course, even with the endless positives with online learning, there can be some challenges, which can make studying difficult. The main challenge would be that you have to be your own motivator for studying and set your own goals, limits and boundaries for what you can achieve during your online learning experience. Not having a Tutor to report to at the end of your day is a great benefit, but it is also challenging, as you have to motivate yourself to get your work done.
We hope that these tips for online learning will help you to keep on track with your online studies, keeping you motivated throughout your learning experience and allow you to maximise your studies to ensure the best success from your online course.
1. What is involved in Online Learning and why do I want to pursue this?
The biggest downfall for students entering the online learning process is they start their experience with a laid-back attitude to the studies. If you do take this approach, you may not allow yourself to fully embrace the online learning experience.
The best way to approach your online studies is to imagine that you will be sitting in a classroom based setting with your Tutor in front of you. This approach will help keep you focused with the studies.
Now you must decide what you want to get out of your online course. What is your end goal?
- Master a particular skill?
- Increase your proficiency in a particular area of the course?
- Achieve Certification?
- Become more knowledgeable on one subject?
- To become more comfortable conversing about a particular topic?
- Or to achieve a fundamental understanding on a subject?
Every one of these goals above are all valid reasons for partaking in a course and all of them require a different level of dedication to your studies, as well as varied levels of course complexity that you must partake in.
It is important that you set your end goals for the course, so that you will be less likely to be disappointed with the outcome when it ends. You are far more likely to succeed with your studies, if you start your course, with a particular goal in mind. It is best to even write your study objectives down and refer back to these when you start to make your way through the course. This will let you know if your study objectives and the material provided on the course are in sync with one another.
As well as checking in on your study goals, it is good to evaluate your study habits throughout the process. Are you comfortable studying online? Can you easily recall material that you learnt at the start of the course? An important thing to remember is to stick to your own schedule and pace when studying online. Don’t feel as though you are in competition with anyone, so don’t put too much unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Although, you should not be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, it is a good idea that you stick to a study schedule and avoid giving yourself too much time off. We all need to take breaks when studying, but be reasonable and this will help you from falling off the study wagon!
It can be very helpful having someone to help keep you motivated. This can be a colleague, friend, or a fellow learner, who will help keep you accountable for your studies and who will regularly check in on you to see how you are getting on. Sometimes having to say out loud to someone how your studies are going can be a great way you can hold yourself accountable and ensure you keep on track!
2. Ensure you meet the technical requirements before starting!
What is the difference between studying online and in a classroom based setting? This is that you are in control of the learning environment. Therefore, you need to have the appropriate machine (that meets the requirements for your course) to study on and a suitable place where you can do so. For most courses, all you will need is an internet connection, however, for more specialised courses, your device will be required to run the required software for that course. For example, if you are studying a Microsoft Office course, you will need to be able to download and use the 365 Office software, as you will need to use this throughout your studies.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you only sign up for a course if you know that you can meet the technical requirements. If you sign up for a course and do not meet the basic requirements, this will lead to you suffering through the studies, or not being able to complete the course at all.
Before you start any course, do your research and ensure that your machine you plan to study on is suitable for that course, as this will give you the best chance of succeeding on your course!
3. Make sure you have a stable internet connection
This was touched on in the last section, but this cannot be emphasised enough; if you are doing an online course, you need to ensure that your internet connection is stable and reliable. If you are studying online and your internet is not reliable, this will lead to many interruptions in your studies, which will lead to much frustration for yourself, as well as valuable time lost that could have been dedicated to your studies.
If you cannot rely on your home connection, due to unprecedented circumstances (like bad weather or maintenance), it is helpful to have a Plan B in place, such a local café, library or other public spaces that you can use.
If your home connection is not always reliable, there are many things you can do to help get a better connection. Some of these options are having a WIFI booster, plugging an Ethernet cable directly into your PC/Laptop or even studying outside of normal peak hours, where there might be a boost in usage in your area, causing a slow connection.
A good internet connection is the minimum needed for each online course you will do, so do ensure that you are good to go with this before undertaking any online courses.
4. Have a designated study space
It is very important that you have a comfortable place where you can study. When choosing a suitable space for studying, there are many factors to consider:
- Lighting: Ensure there is adequate lighting in your study space. A dark space will lead to eyestrain and fatigue. If natural light is not an option, adding a desk lamp to your work space will be of great help.
- Good Ergonomics: It is very important that you set up a comfortable and ergonomic work space. Therefore, it is best to set up at a desk on a comfortable chair, as it will be easier to focus on the material when comfortable.
- Set the right atmosphere: Whilst some people can study in a crowded room or a busy café, this is not for everyone. Therefore, do try out a few different study environments, eg listening to music or having complete silence, and figure out what suits you best.
- Eliminate distractions: If you live with other people, it is wise to let them know when you sit down to study, to avoid unnecessary distraction. Another good idea is to put away your phone, or turn off notifications at least for the remainder of your studies. It can be easy to get distracted and even harder to motivate yourself again to study when you do.
- Prepare yourself well before studying: This preparation can be as simple as getting a pen or paper to take notes, or have your laptop charger easily accessible. It is also a good idea to have plenty of water and snacks prepared in advance, if you plan to study for a long period, to avoid having to leave your study space too often
As well as all the above, it is important that you decide on the right time of day to study. This will completely depend on yourself, as best to do what suits your own schedule, in terms of home life/work or other factors. You will soon find out what works best for you.
5. Identify your study goals and objectives
Previously, you will have decided what it is you wish to get out of your online course. You also need to know your Tutor’s goals and objectives. It is important to identify your Tutor’s goals, as this will inform you of the intention of the course.
A good way to learn exactly what the Tutors goals are for the course you wish to do, is to read up on the course, as much as possible, before you start it. Reviewing the objectives set for the course, will allow you to make a decision on whether or not the course is best suited for you.
It helps to put your objectives and goals for the course in writing. Have a look at these every day as you are about to undergo a study session and ensure to keep these in mind as you make your way through the course. It can be easy to lose sight as to why you are doing a particular course, therefore, keep your objectives and goals in mind and this will help you remain focused on what you want to achieve.
It can be very easy to lose focus on what you wish to achieve from your course, therefore, do contact your Tutor in such instances and they will help you get back on track.
Most importantly is to set yourself realistic and achievable goals and objectives for the course, as this gives you the best chance at succeeding. Your Tutor can help you set your objectives, or keep you on track with them throughout your studies, but it is up to yourself to stick to them, as only you know what you can or cannot achieve, so do be realistic with them and don’t be too hard on yourself!
6. Set a Learning Plan
At the start of your studies, sit down and plan your study schedule. Your Tutor can again help with this, but it will be up to yourself to set your own schedule and a study timetable that you can stick to. You are more likely to stick to your studies, if you have set out a learning plan at the start of your course. Only you will know what works best around your schedule, so be realistic with your plans and do not be afraid to push yourself when allocating study time. It is more beneficial to study regularly, this is important to keep in mind when organising your study schedule.
Here are some useful tips for setting your learning plan:
- Make sure to leave some room for error: It is expected that something will interrupt your study schedule, whether this be at work or at home, and you have to be able to work these unforeseen situations around your study plans. Of courses, these kinds of situations are unexpected, so how does one plan for this? The best thing to do is to overestimate how much time it will take to complete a topic or section on the course, this means, that if you think it will take you 10 hours to complete a section of the course, allocate 15 hours in your schedule and this will leave a bit of wiggle room for completing your studies, should life interrupt things.
- Allocate study time on your calendar: Whether you use an online calendar, or a physical one, it helps to pencil in your study sessions, to allow you to make your study a part of your schedule and ensure it is given priority. This will also help avoid your study time being taken over by another task, or vice versa.
- Keep to – do lists for your study purposes: This is an easy way of keeping you on track with what you need to do with your studies. Also, you will get a sense of accomplishment in completing these tasks as you work your way through the course.
- Set yourself time limits for studying: When sitting down to do a study session, ensure you have set yourself a goal for how long you wish to study for. This method is far more productive than sitting down with no time limit in mind, as this can lead to you becoming restless or distracted. Set specific timeframes for when you wish to complete a particular task and this will help keep you focused. It is best to study for short periods at a time, so in 15 minute bursts for example, as long sessions of study can lead to eyestrain or muscle stiffness. It really helps to stretch your legs at regular intervals. A lot of fitness watches have a feature to remind you to move every hour. If you don’t have one of these, set a timer on your phone to prompt you to take a short break and then return to your studies. This will help keep your mind clearer and hopefully make it easier to take in the information.
- Stick to your learning plan as much as possible: You have to be strict on yourself to study at your allocated time. Of course, something may come up that you need to do in place of studying, but don’t allow yourself to be too laid back when it comes to your schedule. Skipping a study session to watch the newest movie on Netflix instead, can lead to bad habits and will make it harder for you to stick to your study schedule again.
7. Ensure to take regular breaks from studying!
This was touched on above, but do ensure that you are taking regular breaks from studying.
Long periods of studying, without breaks, can seriously affect you and your studies; here are some of the side effects:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of concentration and inability to retain information
- Straining your eyes and fatigue
- Poor performances on tests
To avoid all of these potential side effects, make sure you take regular breaks. If possible, get out and get some fresh air during those breaks, or at least make sure to step away from your PC/Laptop and avoid any screen time during the break, to give your eyes a break.
8. Look for help when you need it!
When doing an online course, you can easily get stuck with the content and may not look for help as easily as you might in a classroom based setting. However, it is important that you look for help from your Tutor/course peers when you need it.
Due to the nature of an online course and that students will be at different stages of the course at any one time, do ensure to provide as much information in your queries to your Tutor/other students as you can. Therefore, provide details such a topic name/number, name of the video in question etc. This information will help your query to be answered correctly.
9. Ensure to engage on the online forums!
The course forums are a great way to keep up with the latest news or updates relating to your course, as your Tutor/Admin will post here regularly, but it is also a great way to engage with other learners on the course. If you are stuck on a particular section, why not browse the forums for the course and see has the topic already been dealt with. If it hasn’t, you could post a query to the forum and start a discussion with your peers. This will be a great way to get different perspectives from different learners and the discussion could be of great help to someone, who perhaps was also struggling and maybe was not as willing to look for help.
- Make sure you communicate effectively.
When engaging on course forums, it is important to stick to proper etiquette and be respectful in everything that you post here. Although, the forums are a great way to correspond with your peers, do ensure to keep the conversation about the course content and try not make it too personal or informal.
- Do respond to the forum posts from other students, as well as contributing yourself
If you know the answer to a question posted on the form, do respond and help out that student. The more you contribute to others’ posts, the more likely you will get responses to your own posts you put up. This is a great way to create trust and a sense of community amongst you and the other learners on the course, which can really help when studying online.
10. Make sure to stay motivated and reward yourself for doing so!
- Keep yourself motivated!
It is very common and very easy to lose momentum mid way through your studies. You might have started off with fierce determination and this can wain if you don’t continue to remind yourself why you are doing the course. It is important to refer back to your objectives and goals for doing the course, as this will help keep you on track until the finish line.
If you need a pep talk or someone to help boost your motivation, check in with your Tutor or even speak to a loved one and this can help get the fire back in your belly and continue on until you achieve what you set out to do.
- You are doing great, so do remember to remind yourself of this and reward yourself!
When you hit certain milestones on your course, or complete a particularly hard topic or section, reward yourself. This reward could be a simple as treating yourself to your favourite dinner or grabbing a pastry with your next coffee, or even taking a couple of hours off study. Whatever it may be, however big or small a reward, it is important that you reward your learning in some way. This positive reinforcement will encourage you to hit more milestones and help keep the study momentum going!
Hopefully you will take some of these tips on board and they will help with your own online learning experience. You might even refer back to the list many times as you go through the course and might find different tips helpful at different times. Do what works for you and this will ensure you have the best success with your online course.