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5 ways to stay motivated when studying online

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay | 18 November 2019

With the benefits of accessibility, flexibility, and the ability to study at your own pace and schedule – online learning has become a popular choice in today’s education market.

Still, with its many advantages comes its share of student challenges. Due to its highly independent and often isolating nature, learners may encounter struggles with their academic drive and motivation.

However, with the right discipline and practices in place, such issues can be easily mitigated.

SkillsTalk dive into five effective methods of staying motivated as an online student, helping you reap the extensive benefits these programs have to offer.

How do I stay motivated when studying online?

  1. Have a solid support system.
  2. Build your network.
  3. Establish goals and set a plan.
  4. Have a routine and stick to it.
  5. Don’t forget to take breaks.

1. Have a solid support system.

As flexible as it is, succeeding as an online student can have its challenges – especially when juggled with other work and personal commitments. 

It’s important to continue leaning on those who support you in your goals; whether friends, family, or educational faculty. Their understanding and belief in your future can help in moments when sacrificing leisure or quality time is necessary. As stated by Georgina Blakely, the director of teaching at the UK’s Open University: “Students need the moral support. Otherwise it’s very hard to find the time doing the chores to free you up.” 

Of course, it’s also crucial to use the online support tools at your disposal. Online learning providers commonly have a dedicated student support team to assist in one’s academic progression. Upskilled, for example, has such resources to guide students throughout their course and respond to any further enquiries.

Students also have the option of organising mentoring sessions with their trainer, providing the opportunity of having in-depth discussions on assessments, study material, and any feedback or advice they require.  

2. Build your network.

online networking concept

Online learning can easily be an isolating experience without the physical presence of your teachers and classmates about you. However, if you wish to succeed – within your course and beyond its completion – you must be willing to put yourself out there

As with a regular campus culture, socialising with other online students is imperative to your academic and career success. Take part in your online student community by collaborating with others through discussion boards, e-mails, or even video conferencing

But don’t limit yourself to the resources provided by your course – opt to connect with peers beyond your program through social media platforms like LinkedIn. These resources can help them learn more about you and your professional background, helping you build your industry network and establish your online presence

As such, you’ll keep in touch with like-minded individuals in your field; those who can aid or inspire you in your career progression, or at the very least, turn into friendly connections. 

3. Establish goals and set a plan.

When that fiery drive starts to wane, it’s important to remember why you’re studying your course in the first place. Don’t lose sight of your goals and what you hope to ultimately achieve – and keep this vision in mind when motivation starts fading. 

You can choose to write these down as a reminder, or make a mental note of them when necessary. As you advance in your studies, it helps to review these goals and the progress you’ve made towards them since you’ve started.

You can even map out your road to success, breaking these goals down into smaller targets to make them more manageable. This is where having a plan comes in handy; having a realistic strategy that prioritises all your essential academic tasks, eventually leading to your ultimate objectives. Of course, be sure to reward yourself for each achievement along the way – and make room on your calendar for socialisation and leisure.

Above all, it helps to maintain a positive outlook on your situation. Developing an “empowered” mindset can be done in various ways – a popular method is to practice positive self-talk, uplifting yourself with affirmation and confidence. Stanford-based studies show that students who believed in their own abilities generally performed better than those who did not. 

4. Have a routine and stick to it.

man drinking coffee and writing notes

We’re all familiar with the practice of study cramming – that is, panicking over assessments left just a few days (or hours!) before the assigned deadline. 

These often produce weak academic results, thus turning into prime motivation killers. Avoiding this takes a simple though commonly unmastered practice: setting yourself a disciplined study routine, and sticking to it. 

Experts suggest making time for study each day, even if in small, incremental amounts. This maintains your drive and momentum, ensures continuous progress, and assures that you’re actively on top of your material

It helps to also find the best study methods that work for you. Pick The Brain’s Ali Luke recommends mixing things up on occasion – rotating between audio material, note-taking, reading sessions, or writing blog posts to discover which learning strategies have the best academic impact. 

Of course, ensure you have a proper place for your study sessions. Reading your texts in a bustling food court or on your living room couch with Netflix on can easily distract you from your tasks. It’s best to find an environment of minimal interruptions, a neat space for all your study materials, and few distractions that may tempt you into wasting time (such as TV, a gaming console, or even non-academic books). 

5. Don’t forget to take breaks.

A little stress is a good thing; it’s that spark of energy that pushes you to do what needs to be done. However, when it starts leading to exhaustion and fatigue – it can have a more damaging, rather than productive, impact on your studies. 

Of the hundreds of thousands of Australian students who pursue a tertiary education, one in five are likely to quit by the end of their first year. Academic burnout is rising concern among this demographic – so it’s important to inject some well-deserved self-care between the textbooks and course notes. 

As mentioned, don’t forget to reward yourself with the little achievements in your journey; this positive, self-reinforcement helps revive that drive to keep up the quality work. Making time for “fun” in your schedule – whether it’s a movie night with friends or your personal hobbies – can give you something to look forward to in your daily routine, and keeps your courses from consuming your everyday life. 

Ensuring you still get enough exercise, nutrition, and social interaction to maintain a healthy study-life balance has further proven to enhance memory retention, creativity levels, and restore focus on your overall goals.  

As urgent as your studies may seem, placing your well-being first plays a vital role in achieving your desired academic results and performance. 

Thinking of pursuing online study?

If you’re thinking of pursuing an online course, Upskilled offers over 80 qualifications across Australia’s thriving industries – from community services to information technology. Each course is delivered flexibly online, giving you the freedom to build your own study schedule according to your needs and commitments. Kickstart a career in your chosen field, and enquire on a course today.
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