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Tips for Online Learning

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“I think it’s an amazing school. When I sat down for boards, I felt more than adequately prepared. If you put the work in, your success is almost guaranteed.”


Kontessa Brown
Dental Assisting Graduate

“Without the support of certain instructors … I would not have pushed myself to grasp the concepts and pass my boards on the first attempt. Once I passed my boards, it was less than one month after that I landed my first Respiratory Therapist job where I am currently working with so much joy every day.”


Marcus Streator
Respiratory Therapy graduate

In the past, individuals had to attend classes on a physical campus to earn a college degree or diploma. Thus, they were often required to become full-time students. As a result of this arrangement, many working professionals weren't able to develop new knowledge and skills to advance their careers. However, thanks to technological advancements, you can more conveniently find a flexible online degree or diploma program that allows you to pursue your education from a remote location.

While it offers many benefits, online schooling comes with its challenges. Nevertheless, this educational option can be a great way to acquire the education you seek if you can develop the necessary skills for effective online learning. Follow the tips below to make the most of your online classes so that you benefit from the best online schooling opportunity possible.

Treat an Online Course as a 'Real' Course

When you're attending classes online, you must have the self-discipline to dedicate undistracted time to your lessons and assignments. Although you're allowed to be flexible, you have to make sure you complete your work as early as possible instead of postponing it until the last minute.

One effective way to stay motivated and disciplined is to continually remind yourself that you're paying for your online degree or diploma program, just as you would if you attend a traditional on-campus course. You have to participate if you want to get the best value from your online classes. If you treat your online course as you would an in-person course or a job, you'll start your distant learning journey in the right direction.

Hold Yourself Accountable

In a traditional college or diploma program, students often receive reminders of their assignments' due dates. However, you may not have a professor actively reminding you in an online class. You need to ensure you've set aside enough time to complete your assignments on time. If you're a busy person, it's essential to establish clear goals and create a study schedule at the start of every semester.

If you're having difficulty holding yourself accountable, you may want to consider pairing up with a classmate or getting your spouse or friend to become an accountability partner. Being self-aware, organized, and proactive can help you meet your responsibilities as an online student, even when your professional or personal life becomes hectic.

Practice Time Management

One of the most appealing aspects of online schooling is that it enables you to set a schedule. Nevertheless, this freedom can work against people who don't have well-developed time management skills (1). Without such skills, you can easily find yourself rushing to meet deadlines, submitting poor-quality assignments, or doing last-minute cramming before tests or exams.

The way you manage your time depends on your schedule and learning style. However, some universally useful tips can help you improve your time-management skills, including the following:

  • Create a study plan at the beginning of the semester: When you receive the syllabus at the start of the semester, take note of major assignments and tests. Mark them on your calendar so that you'll know the amount of workload that's coming in the weeks ahead. You also need to factor in the personal or professional commitments that may interfere with your study schedule, such as business demands, vacations, and weddings. In this way, you can reserve sufficient time to complete assignments and study for tests.
  • Set a weekly schedule: Allocate a specific number of hours every week to viewing lectures, doing assignments, participating in forums and discussion boards, and studying. Try to integrate your online coursework into your weekly schedule and set reminders for completing course-related tasks.
  • Use time blocking: To ensure you'll be able to hand in high-quality assignments on time, you should learn how to use time blocking effectively. Give yourself a specific amount of time to finish a task before starting the next one. Set a timer to keep yourself accountable.
  • Monitor your progress: Throughout the semester, you should evaluate your time management skills to determine whether you've improved in this area. Ask yourself whether you're spending so much time getting work done that you often find yourself rushing through assignments or doing last-minute studying before exams. If you aren't satisfied with your time management progress, make the necessary adjustments to get back on track.

Create a Dedicated and Organized Study Space

When you're attending classes online, you want to set up a dedicated space for studying. If you do your coursework at this place repeatedly, you'll soon establish a routine. Your regular study space (2) can be your room, a library, or a corner in a coffee shop, but make sure the environment works well for you. Experiment with different settings to determine which one can help you reach the highest productivity level. Keep in mind that the place you choose must have a strong internet connection, which is vital in effective distant learning situations.

Having a regular workspace also allows you to stay organized more efficiently. If you know the exact locations of your study schedule, files, syllabi, assignments, books, and stationery items, you can get to work right away instead of wasting time looking for them. Ensure everything you need is within easy reach, including a reliable set of headphones for listening to lectures and discussions.

Remove Distractions

From text messages and social media to unwashed dishes and a barking dog, you may face an array of distractions that can cause you to lose focus during your online classes. The best online learners know how to reduce these distractions and keep their focus on their studies.

Exactly how challenging it is to overcome distractions around you depends on your situation and personality. While some people find that listening to music can help them tune out a noisy environment, others may choose to study in a library or coffee shop to avoid the urge to multitask at home. You'll have to find a solution that works best for you.

No matter where you locate your study space, you may want to consider turning off your mobile phone to prevent distractions each time a notification or text message pops up. If you have a hard time resisting the temptation to surf the web or check your email, try using a website blocker. You can download an app designed to reduce distractions (3) by blocking Facebook, Twitter, and other apps that compete for your attention.

Find Out How You Learn Best

After you've decided where you'll set up your study space, consider when and how you can learn most effectively. For example, if you're a morning person, you should start working soon after waking up. On the other hand, if you find that you can concentrate better at night, spend a few hours in front of your computer after dinner. Need to care for your children in the morning and evening? Carve out a study session in the afternoon. Brew a cup of coffee, play your favorite playlist, and try to get into the zone.

Each person has a different learning style. As such, you need to identify the learning methods (4) that can help you better grasp new concepts and devise your learning strategy. If you're more of a visual learner, printing transcripts of lectures may help you learn more effectively. Do you prefer to learn by listening? Set aside time to play and replay all the video- and audio-based course content.

Take Regular Breaks

While it's good to be diligent and hardworking, you should know that studying too many hours (5) can have negative consequences, such as loss of concentration, low knowledge retention, eye fatigue, and insomnia. These consequences can significantly reduce your productivity. If you want to make the most of your study time, it's essential to give yourself regular breaks.

When you're taking a break, get away from your study space. Go outside for a stroll or sit on your porch and enjoy a cup of coffee or cold beverage. Rest for 15 to 30 minutes before going back to work. Leave the screens behind so that you won't continue to strain your eyes. Avoid sending text messages or playing games on your cell phone. Focus on other activities that involve using other parts of your brain.

Actively Participate

Online courses have a forum where students can communicate with one another. Participate in course forums and discussion boards. This participation enables you to understand your course materials, assignments, projects, and tests. Additionally, you'll have the opportunity to engage with your classmates.

Being active in forums and discussion boards may involve commenting on your classmates' papers or posting questions about course assignments or projects. You'll want to read comments from your professor and classmates so that you don't misunderstand any instructions or requirements. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask them.

Try to check the discussions at least once a day. With the flexibility of online learning, you can add a comment or question while you're waiting for dinner to be ready or resting after a workout, for example.

Leverage Your Network

You may think that online schooling means studying on your own. In many cases, online courses involve much collaboration. You'll find that your professors and instructors often encourage you to work together with other students to discuss lessons and complete assignments or projects.

Encourage yourself to build relationships with your classmates because they can help you in many ways, from sharing lecture notes to giving feedback on your assignments. You can establish a good rapport with your classmates by introducing yourself and regularly taking part in online discussions. Don't be afraid to ask them if they want to start a virtual study group (6). They'll probably appreciate this idea as much as you do.

Stay Motivated

Staying motivated is one of the main challenges of distance learning. When you're taking online classes, your classmates and professors aren't physically present to provide you with the support and encouragement you need to stay focused on your studies. As such, it's harder to resist the temptation to slack off. If you fail to stay motivated and fully engaged at any point during your course, you may fall behind in your coursework.

When you feel stressed or confused, you should take a break instead of forcing yourself to study. Share your problem with a family member or friend to get your frustration off your chest. Maybe you'll clear your head and calm down after venting for a few minutes or receiving motivation from a loved one or a friend whom you trust.

To stay motivated throughout your online course, write down your goals and objectives on a piece of paper and place the list near your workspace. By doing so, you can keep reminding yourself why you decided to pursue an online degree program in the first place. Referring to this list can serve as a source of motivation when you feel like giving up.

Reward Yourself

When you've followed your study plan for a while or achieved a high score on a test, you should reward yourself for a job well done. You can make the reward be anything from an additional hour of television in the evening to a pleasant dinner with your family or friends. Creating a reward system is an effective way to send positive messages to your brain. It gives you the idea that learning produces a reward, motivating you to develop a desire to pursue more knowledge.

To become an effective online learner, you also need to choose an online degree or diploma program that suits your learning style. Look for an online course with all the necessary tools to facilitate effective learning, such as real-time interaction with instructors, collaboration tools, engagement with classmates, dedicated student services, and reliable information technology support.

Footnotes:

  1. "Poor Time Management in Online Learning," Seattle Pi, https://education.seattlepi.com/poor-time-management-online-learning-1435.html.
  2. "Create a Good Environment for Studying at Home," Edutopia, https://www.edutopia.org/blog/good-environment-home-study-art-markman.
  3. "Staying Focused While Learning Remotely: How to Avoid Distractions Online," Sallie Mae, https://www.salliemae.com/blog/avoiding-distractions-online-classes.
  4. "Discover Your Learning Style - Comprehensive Guide on Different Learning Styles," Education Corner, https://www.educationcorner.com/learning-styles.html.
  5. "The Science of Taking a Break," OnlineSchools.org, https://www.onlineschools.org/science-of-study-breaks.
  6. "4 Tips for Setting Up a Virtual Study Group," Vault.com, https://www.vault.com/blogs/admit-one-vaults-mba-law-school-and-college-blog/4-tips-for-setting-up-a-virtual-study-group.
  7. "Image", shixart1985, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nenadstojkovic/49436383246/sizes/m/.
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