The last few years have seen a boom in online learning as traditional, in-person classes move online, and a whole host of new courses are being created. There are many benefits to online learning, such as allowing you to study the best courses, from the best teachers, whatever your location. Online learning also allows you to save money, as you can often work while you study. While the boom in online learning is enabling a larger group of people access to education and courses that they might not have otherwise been able to benefit from, it is not without its challenges.
While some of the challenges that are common for online learners to experience are common to both virtual and in-person students, others are particular to the online learning environment. This guide is here to assist you in learning the top tips for online students, so you are able to make the most out of your experience.
- Set Yourself Clear Expectations
Whether you are studying for a master’s in healthcare administration online school or you are doing a more creative short course, it is important that you take the time to set yourself clear expectations. There are a number of considerations you will need to make when setting your expectations for online learning.
Firstly, you will need to consider how much time you can dedicate to learning. The majority of courses will have an overview available to help you understand the amount of taught and independent study they expect you to dedicate. It is essential that you think carefully about your lifestyle and your needs to ensure you can dedicate enough time to make this course worthwhile.
Once you have established that you can put in the hours needed for online learning, it is then a good idea to think more long-term. You should try to set some expectations over want you wish to gain from this course. Having some aims of what you wish to get from this course can help you to stay motivated while learning.
If you are taking a course that is going to be long-term, it is useful to set smaller goals for each course or module you are taking. Creating a series of mini-goals for a longer course can be invaluable for maintaining motivation for a long-term online course.
- Create a Timetable
If you are not organized, it can be all too easy to fall behind when you are studying an online course. Falling behind is easy, especially when you are working from home, as daily life can all too easily get in the way of your studies. To avoid this happening, it is useful to set yourself a timetable. When you are creating your timetable, it is a good idea to consult your course to see when your classes are. Then you will be better able to identify how much time you will need to set aside for independent work. Setting this timetable early on will make it easier for you to stick to a routine and stay productive during your online course.
When you are creating a studying timetable, it is important that you are as realistic as possible. There is no point creating an overly ambitious schedule early on, as you will be likely unable to stick with it, which can create negative feelings or lead to burnout.
It is important to remember that regular breaks are often just as important to productivity. In fact, research has found that taking a number of short breaks throughout the day can have a huge impact on one’s productivity critical and creating thinking abilities.
- Check Your Technology
For the majority of online courses, you will not be required to have top-of-the-line technology. That being said, you should still take some time to check your technology and equipment to ensure you are well set up for your studies. Consult the course to see if they have any requirements for particular hard or software. Once you have done this, there are a few other checks you should make.
Firstly, you should check your webcam and microphone to ensure you are able to easily participate in online classes. It is a good idea to check the speed and stability of your internet to ensure you are able to host video classes without too much lag or the risk of losing connection halfway through a workshop. You will likely also benefit from investing in a hard drive. You could either use a simple cloud backup solution or purchase a physical hard drive.
- Create a Set Study Area
When you are working remotely, it can be difficult to create a boundary between home and work. This can have a negative impact on your mental health and your productivity rates long term. Creating a set study area can help you to more effectively separate your work and home lives and keep productive while studying.
There are a number of different factors to consider when it comes to setting up a dedicated study area. Firstly, you should consider privacy, as you won’t want to be in a location that means you will be easily interrupted. Creating a space where you are able to shut the door will not only minimize the number of potential distractions you face while you are studying it can also help promote a more productive environment. When you are finding the right location for your study area, you should also consider lighting, as working long
hours, at a computer, in a room with low natural light can lead to eye strain and headaches.
Once have found the right location, you should then spend some time setting up your working space. You should make sure to choose a chair and desk that are the right height, so you don’t have to strain yourself by bending your head, neck, and back too much while you are studying.
- Participate As Much As Possible
Participation in classes, especially at a university level, can seem intimidating. This is often exaggerated by the online learning style, as people can seem even more remote. However, to get the most out of your online learning experience, it is important that you try to participate as much as possible. You should try to engage with your peers and your tutors by participating in discussions, debates, and workshops.
While it may seem intimidating at first, all the other students are in the same boat. You should try to make sure you are as clear as possible and have a positive tone when you are participating to ensure you are helping to create a positive and useful environment for yourself and all of the other students. When you feel comfortable, you might also want to swap contacts information with the other students or even make a student group chat so you can all discuss the class and help each other with your work.
- Reward Your Hard Work
While studying an online course does come with a number of practical benefits, it is by no means an easy alternative to in-person classes. In fact, online work often requires students to have a higher level of motivation and dedication than in-person learning. It is critical that you are able to recognize your efforts and reward yourself for even small learning achievements.
There are ways that you might choose to reward yourself. You might do something small like buying yourself your favorite snack after a long day studying. No matter how big or small your reward might be, taking this time to appreciate the efforts that you have made is hugely important. Rewarding yourself and being proud of the work you have done will help you to stay motivated and focused on the long term to ensure you are able to get the most out of your online learning experience.
It is essential to remember that learning is a two-way process. You cannot expect to gain the most value out of your course by simply listening to someone else speak. You should keep your brain active, ask a question, respond to a fellow student and seek help when you need it.
- Remember To Socialize
It is crucial to appreciate the fact that online learning can be a very isolating experience. Even if you are regularly participating in classes and chatting to your fellow students, it is still very possible that you might feel isolated at some point in time while you are studying.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be detrimental to your studies, your motivation, and your mental health. You should try to avoid feelings of isolation by setting aside regular times where you are able to socialize. Getting out of the house, away from your desk, and enjoying time with friends and family members is vital to ensure you are able to continue working productively and able to enjoy the process of studying.
- Pretend You Are In Person
Another way to ensure you are able to stay on track with your online studies is to, quite simply, pretend you are studying in person. While this doesn’t mean that you should drive and do your online classes in your local library, it does involve setting expectations that would be standard if you were studying in person. This can involve ensuring you are able to get to your classes a few minutes early. Treating your online learning course as if you were studying in person can also involve simply getting up, dressed, and ready for the day instead of rolling out of bed and attending your first class of the day in your pajamas. In fact, researchers have found that quite simply getting up, showered, and dressed for the day can benefit both mental health and productivity rates.
- Follow Up With Questions
To ensure you are able to make the most out of your online learning experience, you should not simply stop when a class or a lecture is over. Once you have finished a class, it is a good idea to write up some notes or ideas that you had during the session. Making sure to save these notes in a dedicated folder, whether that is digital or physical, can be a massive help in the long term when it comes to revision.
Once you have spent some time after a session making notes and thinking about what you have learned, it is likely that you might have developed some questions or further interest in a topic. To ensure you get the most from your online learning experience, you should make sure to follow up with your professor or teaching with any questions you might have.
It is common for students to feel a little nervous about coming to a tutor with a question, especially if this question might seem “small” or “obvious”. However, it is vital to remember that your tutor is leading the course because they care about the subject and what their students do well and, therefore, will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
- Be Kind To Yourself
No matter how dedicated you might be or how motivated, studying can be difficult, and online studying comes with its own set of distinct challenges. When you are spending all day alone, sitting at your computer, you can start to feel overwhelmed or disheartened by the process. This is completely natural but can be a difficult situation to get into, so it is best avoided.
You should make sure to be kind to yourself when you are studying. Being kind to yourself can take on different forms depending upon your preferences. For example, it might involve some self-care like taking a bath, doing some yoga, or going for a long walk. You might want to practice some mindfulness techniques if you struggle with stress or anxiety. Regardless of your goals, it is important that you take regular breaks to be kind to yourself and perform some form of self-care to ensure you are able to continue working effectively and enjoying your studies.