For this weeks guest post, I bring to you Adela Belin. She is a freelance writer on education and is here to share her thoughts about online courses.
Technology is changing the way information is consumed and this shift has made inroads into the education sector too. Today, one does not have to sit in a classroom to earn a college degree when all the material can come to them by means of a virtual classroom.
With over 3 million students enrolled in online programs, that number is only expected to grow with every passing year. This boom in online course enrollments is not surprising considering the convenience and flexibility they offer.
However, online learning is not as smooth-sailing as it is perceived to be. It requires a huge degree of discipline and determination to attain success.
It’s easy to get distracted and lose motivation and unlike a traditional classroom setting, there is no ‘physical’ place to go to or even meet your classmates or instructor in person which makes it all the more challenging. You are in charge of your motivation and whether you choose to make the most of your course or not is completely on you.
So, if you are thinking of taking up an online course, here are 10 useful study tips to help you excel –
Spend the initial few days getting familiar with the program and how it works. From checking the course outline and touring online classes to learning how to submit assignments, connecting with instructors and knowing how to ask for help.
It goes without saying that you need to be technologically savvy to get comfortable with this medium. You have the option to study from a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone – see what works best for you and download the required software. It will feel strange at first but with time, you will get used to this innovative way of learning.
Maintain a Routine
Self-discipline is the key to succeeding in online courses. How you achieve that? By maintaining a daily routine and sticking to it.
Imagine if you were going to a college to study – you would wake up in the morning and attend your classes on time. Applying the same routine while taking an online course helps you stay on track and not give in to distractions.
So, identify when you study best and create a routine accordingly. By doing this, you have your days planned out and are able to devote enough time to studying while being more efficient in the process.
Have a Study Plan
While creating a study plan is essential for traditional learning as well, it is particularly critical if you are enrolled in an online course. In an online class, distraction comes very easy. You are entirely accountable for your study habits and the only way to stay on track is to establish a weekly study schedule for yourself.
Let it include your assignments, essay submissions, projects and exam dates. This will help you manage your time better and get organized. So, stick to the study schedule and never lose sight of the bigger picture – your objective behind taking the online course.
Set Realistic Goals
One of the biggest challenges online learners face is the inability to remain motivated through the course. The most effective way to tackle that is by setting realistic goals for yourself.
When you make the mistake of setting unattainable goals, you are bound to get overwhelmed and lose motivation along the way. Instead, set SMART goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Break down your tasks, set a SMART goal for each and track your progress regularly. By following this practice, you are likely to retain your motivation levels.
Find a Study Spot
As you don’t have a ‘physical’ place to go to like a classroom or college, it helps to have a dedicated study space in the house. This spot needs to be away from all the noise and distractions to help you truly devote all your attention to studying.
Instead of hopping from one corner of the house to the other, let this be your own little study corner where you can organize all the reading material, files and notes. It’s important to make sure you get a good internet connection in this area as most of your learning will happen online.
Another important element to consider is the ergonomics of your space. Given that you will be spending a lot of time there, you need to ensure it is comfortable such that your posture is not compromised. Do make sure the lighting is bright enough, so you don’t end up straining your eyes.
Connect with Peers
Learning on your own can get lonely but just because you don’t get to meet your instructors and classmates, does not meet you cannot build relationships.
Participate in discussion boards and forums and discuss your concerns with your peers or help them with their questions. Working collaboratively and regularly communicating with each other makes learning fun, motivates you to be committed to the course and adds to the positive experience.
It’s also a good idea to connect with a study buddies and conduct virtual group study sessions together.
Use Appropriate Language
While the medium might not seem as ‘formal’, truth is that it is as formal as any traditional classroom setting. Hence, you need to be doubly careful of the language and style you use while communicating with your instructor and peers.
As most of the communication happens in writing, you must pay attention to your writing skills and be respectful. Use professional language, proper grammar and always proofread before you submit an assignment, feedback or comment.
When your professors are in front of you, it is easier to clarify your doubts and get an instant solution. This is not the case with online courses. You need to be prepared to face obstacles along the way and know how to ask for help.
Whether it is reaching out to your fellow classmates or instructors, ask for help when you get stuck. The faster you clear your doubts, the better it is.
Track your Productivity
Your success in online learning hugely depends on how productive you are. So, how do you ensure you are not wasting away time and are maximizing the online course?
A great way to be productive is to use productivity apps which let you keep track of your daily productivity and manage time better. When you are productive, you are bound to feel more motivated and are left feeling satisfied by the end of the day.
Lastly, just the way you need to make time for studying, you need to also know when to switch off and take a break from studying. The downside of studying independently at your own convenience is that you may tend to push yourself too hard and reach a stage of burn out.
As much as it’s important to study hard and complete your assignments on time, it is also equally important to know when to stop and take a break. So, give yourself time to rejuvenate and indulge in stress relieving activities.
While online classes promise flexibility and convenience, it’s important to be disciplined in order to stay motivated and make the most of the online course. Not everyone can succeed in online learning. So, before you decide to take the plunge, you must be prepared to tackle the challenges and condition your mind accordingly.