Eight tips for surviving online learning

May 27, 2019

For most adults, returning to study is a daunting prospect and can be made even more so if you are trying online learning for the first time. The thoughts of tackling a subject without the teacher in the room seems like it might be too much – your own level of motivation won’t hack it, you won’t find or make the time in an already busy schedule or the lure of Netflix is too great. 

We’re here to help! We have put together the top tools to get you through all the stages from starting off until graduation day. You can do it and your specialist qualifications team are here to support you all along the way.

1. Find your self-discipline and self-motivation...avoid distractions

Yes, online learning is flexible but you still have a schedule you must keep to. You will need to dedicate time and attention to do this.

Keeping self-motivated is a key skill. You will need to push yourself. You will not be working at the same time as your tutors and peers so see this as freedom and flexibility rather than being lost and forgotten about.

A key factor is to take the whole thing seriously – creating a dedicated study space helps a lot. Trying to study at a kitchen table or desk in a bedroom leads to way too many distractions. If you don’t have a suitable room at home, you might need to go to, for example, a desk or meeting room in your workplace after hours or a local library.

If you’re on your tablet or laptop a lot, you should consider one of the website blockers that will prevent you from opening certain sites at certain times like shopping, social media and so on (including Netflix!).

2. Become an expert at time management 

You will find this can become the key soft skill you will take from any part time study. Because you don’t have the policing factor of showing up, it can easily happen that you leave your coursework to the last minute. 

Without traditional tuition, you may find you need to read materials more slowly to absorb the information. Questions you ask of administrators and tutors may not be read in real time and take time for them to respond. 

Technology may become your enemy – always try to have an assignment ready in good time so that if your internet is slow, your computer crashes or printer breaks, you can organise a plan B. Have the plan B list to hand: can you send it from work, can you ask a friend to help, can you use a local hotel’s business centre or library computer. Don’t let a 5:00pm deadline make you think 4:59pm will be OK.

If your programme’s schedule coincides with for example, a major work project or tax deadline or even personal event like a wedding, you may need to consider this and time your study time around it. 

Ways around all of these are to develop a schedule and stick to it. Factor in delays and problems so that you have a lot of contingency time that you will hopefully not need to use. Have all the required software, equipment, hardware so that you are familiar with it at the critical time. Make sure to save all your work regularly.

3. Become a great communicator

Your written communication skills will become crucial. Asking questions of administrative and teaching staff will likely be by email so you will need to be succinct, polite and clear about what you are asking or telling them. It’s a good idea to write a draft and go back to it later to double check it before you send. This is especially true if you are sending something that is criticising. 

“Netiquette” is a new area we are all becoming more familiar with. The rule of thumb is that if you would not say it to someone face-to-face, you really should not write it. The anonymity of the written word does not negate the need for manners in communication. 

4. Become a project manager

You will need to really evaluate the task in hand and allot time to complete it in. This may mean breaking it down into smaller subtasks and assigning time to do these separately. You will need to know what you need to do, how long it will take you to do it, establish what resources you need to do each and then get working.

5. Ask for help...and know how to say "no"

As you proceed through your task, you may discover you need some back up. This could mean asking your tutor or course coordinator, reaching out to classmates via forums or emails or searching online for information. It could also be useful to ask around your organisation for someone who may have done this course or work in this field. They may be willing to guide or advise.

Don't forget to ask for help with your non-work and non-study commitments too. This could mean cooking, shopping, household chores, childminding and other caring commitments you have. 

It's important to know what's important. Prioritise and you might find that ignoring the growing pile of laundry in the corner is a good way to buy some important family time or study time. 

6. Become a techie

You won’t need to be an expert but you should familiarise yourself with the workings of all your software and hardware. Knowing how to find particular websites and navigate through these pages will be vital to you, as well as knowing how to upload and download resources and attachments. Basic commands like copying/cutting and pasting text, saving documents, forwarding and sending emails and attaching files to them will become regular tasks so you must be comfortable with these skills as a bare minimum.  

7. Engage

The adage that “you get out of it what you put in” is especially true of distance learning and perhaps more so than classroom learning. Think of your engagement with your course materials as the equivalent of attending classes in a traditional academic setting. If you don’t show up for lectures, tutorials, seminars or other activity, the likelihood is you may not achieve as highly as you might have hoped. The same will be true of your engagement with your course content. 

8. Read it and then read it again

As most of your communication will be by email, it is really important to read all your emails and instructions for assessments and programme requirements. So often we can all miss an important detail by skimming over emails. Read everything and then read it again. Then put it aside for a few hours, and when you take it out next time, read it carefully again.

And finally...

You might be surprised at how enjoyable the experience might be and what you're capable of. If you want to know more about any of the specialist qualifications we have available as online offerings, contact our team today. We'll help you take the distance out of distance learning.

The full range of specialist qualifications are available to view here.