Online learning promises a multitude of benefits for individuals who are looking to further their education, whether they are pursuing their undergraduate degree, undertaking a post-graduate course, or simply taking a short course to learn a new skill. From maximum flexibility, reduced costs, and the opportunity to learn in the comfort of your own home, there is no wonder why the popularity of online learning continues to skyrocket year upon year.
However, along with its advantages, studying online isn’t always easy. It comes with its own set of challenges and stressors. With that in mind, here is a list of 10 top tips to help students survive and thrive from day one all the way through to graduation.
Prepare yourself beforehand
Studying online is endlessly convenient, but that doesn’t mean that it requires any less of your time and dedication! Furthermore, there are certain to be plenty of expectations upon you from the beginning, so it helps to familiarize yourself with what to expect. For example, you will probably have to attend lectures in a virtual classroom. Depending on the course for which you have signed up, this classroom may or may not be interactive. You will also need to ensure that you have a decent understanding of technology and how best to use it to your advantage.
Similar to studying at a traditional college or university, you will still have deadlines to meet, examinations to complete, and assignments to submit. If you are studying something hands-on, such as nursing, you will likely complete the theory portion of your coursework online, before moving onto an in-person setting to take part in clinicals.
Setting specific goals can act as a roadmap for you throughout your educational journey and provide you with the motivation necessary to push forward on those particularly difficult days. Don’t set goals that are simple or super long-term, like ‘I want to become a nurse.’ Those types of goals are rather obvious based on the course that you have chosen, after all!
Instead, take some time to visualize your success and imagine what you would love to be doing in 10 or 15 years from now. Are you managing a team of young professionals? Or is it your dream to eventually become a family nurse practitioner? Make peace with the fact that these goals and aspirations are likely to change somewhat as the years go by, but don’t let that stop you from putting them to good use today!
Check your connectivity
A sturdy and reliable internet connection is an absolute must for students who intend to study online. Therefore, if you have had trouble with your internet provider in the past, now is a great time to start considering switching to a new company. Even if you haven’t experienced any issues in recent times, it might still be worthwhile considering upgrading your speed or looking around at current deals to see if you can save.
Along with your internet connection, you will also need to set up accounts on Dropbox or Google. Doing so means that you will be able to back up your documents via the Cloud while you work. Should anything negative or unplanned happen to your PC, it will be easy to get hold of your documents using a different machine.
Set up a study space
As tempting as it can be to study in bed, it certainly isn’t conducive to productivity. In fact, you are much more likely to take a nap than finish an assignment if that is the case! As such, it is always best to set up a dedicated study space for yourself. Find a quiet room in your home that is free from clutter and distractions and invest in a comfortable chair and a desk. You can opt to keep it simple or decorate the space with motivational items and décor. Make sure that the rest of your household knows that this space is reserved for your studies and that they respect your privacy and need for silence when you are using it.
Create a schedule
To-do lists are always helpful when you have a lot on your plate. They assist in keeping you focused and ensure that you remember everything that you need to get through in a day. Try to create both a monthly and a daily schedule. The monthly schedule should include all of your deadlines and upcoming examination/test dates, while the daily schedule should comprise of a comprehensive list of your tasks for each day. Tick them off as you go.
Further to this, always try to schedule your work in such a way that you are continually working ahead. Never leave an assignment until a day before it is due. Rather, endeavor to complete it at least a few days before so that you have time to edit and add to it should anything else come to mind. You will also be able to relax into the process of working on it, rather than feeling rushed to complete the task as quickly as possible. Working ahead of schedule also makes it easier to manage stress.
Make revision a part of your routine
Weekly revision can simplify the process of preparing for examinations further down the line. It involves sitting down, either on your own or part of a study group and working through the coursework discussed in your lectures so that you ensure that you understand it all and can write down any questions that you may have. Doing this will allow you to get in touch with your lecturer to clarify certain aspects of the work and fill any foundational knowledge gaps that could pose a problem in the future. The more that you revise now, the less you will have to revise later.
Keep yourself motivated
When you aren’t constantly surrounded by other students, it can be a lot more difficult to stay motivated and focused on your goals. Students studying online need to work extra hard to keep morale up. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a mammoth task. In fact, it is often the little things that can make the world of difference. For instance, you could decorate your study space with inspirational pictures and quotes, prioritize self-care and me-time just as much as your studies, allow yourself plenty of breaks in between study sessions, and work on mastering the art of positive thinking.
Know how you learn best
Nobody learns in the same way or at the same pace. Therefore, it is a good idea to tune into your personal habits regarding how you approach your studies in order to maximize your time and general productivity. For example, you may find that you are a lot more productive in the evenings rather than the early mornings (or vice versa), or that you are an auditory learner who manages to retain information better when recording your notes and playing them back throughout the day.
Don’t do it alone
Countless students who choose to study online do so because they have other commitments and responsibilities outside of their coursework. They might be parents with children to care for, or they might be trying to juggle school with a full-time or part-time job. Furthering your education is difficult enough without these additional challenges thrown in, so it is easy to imagine why it becomes all the more stressful when they are!
It is vital to ensure that you have built up a solid support network that you can tap into as necessary. Reach out to friends and family and, of course, do not hesitate to get in touch with lecturers and mentors should you require guidance along the way. Always ask for help when you need it – do not allow your responsibilities to pile up and overwhelm you before you do. This can lead to burnout and significantly increases the chances of you dropping out of college.
It isn’t possible to sit down and study for 12 hours straight. It isn’t possible to pull three all-nighters in a row. It isn’t possible to do it all. Make peace with the fact that you are only human and be kind to yourself as you navigate your way through this learning journey. It is also important that you accept that you will have your fair share of good and bad days. The key is to feel the emotions, breathe, and then get up and keep pushing forward. Find the support that you need and take comfort knowing that you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of online students going through similar obstacles.
Studying online has its pros and cons, and it isn’t the right choice for everyone. However, if it is a path that you choose, you can rest assured that the hard work, trials, and tribulations will be worth it in the end! Soon enough you will have your degree or diploma in your hands and will be ready to kick-start your career in the right direction.