Are you about to start online learning? Online learning is continuing to gain importance with masses of students with its flexibility. Only last year, the Sloane Consortium Survey of Online Education reported 33% of students enrolled in higher education undertook their courses online – and that’s in the U.S. alone. In Australia, the growth figures are very similar.
Not only does online learning grant students greater control over how they tackle coursework, it allows them to tailor their education around choc-a-block lifestyles that may include a job and demanding family commitments.
But it’s not to be taken lightly. In many regards, online learning is a different type of study when compared alongside its in-class counterpart. With that in mind, here are our top strategies to help you survive – and enjoy – online learning.
#1: Be Prepared Before Signing Up
While procrastination and inaction can make your life a footnote on the family tree, there’s wisdom in making sure all your ducks are in a row prior to committing to a course. That means brushing up on your communication skills – particularly your ability to write. No one expects you to be the next Bryce Courtenay to pass Retail Management but as most communication between you and your teachers will be written, make sure you’re not going to be overwhelmed when it comes to crafting a one-paragraph homework answer. You’ll have to churn out thousands of words before you score that diploma.
It’s also recommended you buff up your typing technique. You don’t need a machine-gun rate of fire, but make sure you’re not relying on the ‘two-finger tap’. Jump online, find a free touch-typing club, and make sure you can produce a paragraph without a muffin and coffee break.
#2: Master Your Schedule
There’s no easy way around it. If you want to succeed with online study you’re going to have to be fiercely self disciplined. Sorry. While online learning provides increased control over your studies, it also means being strict with your time. Remember, you can always ask for help from your trainer.
Start by working out the weekly requirements of each subject and ruthlessly setting aside time to get it done. Block it off in your calendar. You’re busy. It’s also recommended you tackle the tougher elements of your schedule early to get them off your plate. This approach results in a huge reduction of stress.
Finally, don’t overload yourself. If you don’t have time to do three subjects properly, do two. Or one. After you’ve completed your course few employers are going to grill you on the structure of your studies.
#3: The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil
Generally your instructor or teacher can’t see you during an online session. This is a big deal. In a standard teaching situation an instructor looks at non-verbal cues from their class to gauge how well information is being received. So if you don’t understand something being taught, say so. If the class is pre-recorded, send an email to the instructor. If it’s live streamed and you can ask questions, be ’that person’. Your instructor will be happy to restate what they’ve said.
If you’re struggling with the technology – like the screen isn’t loading up properly, or you’re not hearing audio – the onus is on you to speak up and get it resolved. Don’t feel self-conscious and try to get by. You’ll only be accepting a handicap no one wants to foist on you. Besides, being online you’re anonymous; who cares if you’re finicky?
#4: Home is Where the Distractions Are
The difference between working at home and in a formal workspace can be monolithic. In the latter, you’re around colleagues chewing through tough tasks under pressure. Annoying interruptions are often dealt with by way of staple-gun firing squad. At home you have Facebook. And Twitter. And that midday talk show you’re only going to watch five – no ten –– minutes of. It’s a warzone of shrapnel and artillery fire trying to win over your attention. The only way to survive the onslaught is to become a focus commando.
And that requires being practical. If you’re watching too much TV, pull the antenna plug out and stash it at the other end of the house. Phone keeps buzzing? Turn it to silent, set it off vibrate, and pop it in a drawer. You’ll call them back.
Family commitments tend to be the toughest obstacles to manage. One trick is to adjust your sleeping cycle so you go to bed earlier (night time is usually wasted on TV dross) and get up before the rest of the family for a dawn session.
If that doesn’t work, let your family know you’re going to be studying between a certain time, set a task to get through, and don’t get up from your desk until it’s done. And please, no studying at the kitchen table. That’s like playing Jenga on a trampoline.
#5: Check-In Often
While it’s tempting to cram all your eLearning responsibilities into one hermetically sealed day of the week, it’s more beneficial if you consistently check your course website to receive instructor feedback or course correspondence in a timely fashion.
Make sure all messages are emailed straight to your smart phone so you can view them on the day they were sent or sooner. Some emails are urgent and you don’t want a mad scramble on the morning of one of your ‘study days’.
#6: Work with what works for you
Learn about what suits you best. Work with your own rhythms and commitments and be kind to yourself. Don;t push yourself beyond your limits and avoid study binges, extra late nights and being too hard on yourself. All those things will just cause you to burn out. Be gentle with yourself, especially in the beginning and make sure you ask for help and assistance when you need it. Your trainers and assessors are there to support you.
Heed These Online Leraning Survival Tips to Keep Your Study Aspirations Alive
There’s no magic bullet for conquering the difficulties associated with online learning. The trick is to be prepared and have fair expectations.
Make sure you’re aware of the time commitments involved in undertaking your course and plan accordingly. Stick to a militant schedule and be honest about your circumstances. Remember, it’s often not an all or nothing game – don’t buy into that lie. Just because you’re struggling to stay on top of several subjects doesn’t mean you have to give up. It might just mean you need to reconfigure your workload, study environment, or existing commitments. Have a look at Upskilled's range of 100 online courses here.