Online Study is a godsend for those with busy lives. Being able to take course online instead of commuting to classes (especially after a day at work), and studying wherever and whenever you want is a triumph of technology. But online study requires a lot of discipline and is not always easy.
When e-learning first started, it was more often than not the classroom or distance version of the course delivered via a website. Now that this study mode has matured, course providers have developed more dynamic content to fit the medium. Student attitudes to online learning must also change so that e-learning is not considered a substitute for a teacher at the head of the class but a mode in its own right. Here are 3 tips for new online students to establish a headspace to maximise learning in this mode.
Columbus International University (CIU) as the online education sector comes to terms with increasing technological intrusion and changing reality of learning modes, online learning is fast catching up as a preferred medium for kids 'education. As per the statistics in 2011, 40 states in USA have either virtual schools or some form of state-led online initiative. The technological influx has made education boundary less. A student sitting in Hong Kong can take classes in California without any glitch since free worksheets, education articles and every other imaginable information regarding any subject is available online. The growing fame of online learning in kids' education is indicated in the online enrollments stats of 2011, which state that nearly 2,50,000 students enrolled full-time in online schools in 2010-2011.
Follow these study tips for online students and you will be able to make your online learning a fun and enjoyable eLearning experience.
1. Free yourself from distractions
First make sure your physical location is conducive to the type of study you’re undertaking. The commute to work might be fine for knowledge quizzes but may be less suitable for intense reading, for example. Make sure you are comfortable so you don’t fidget or get distracted by needing to turn the air conditioning up/down. Avoid noisy, busy places, and if you can’t work in total silence, make sure the background noise doesn’t cut into your study zone.
Secondly, your virtual space also needs to be free from distractions to be optimised for study. The internet is a big place and it’s easy to get lost in it, what with all the cat videos and social media vying for your attention. If you’re disciplined, simply turn off all notifications on your computer (which may include turning off or removing tablets/mobile phones as well!) open up your learning portal and start studying.
If you’re less than disciplined, you may need a bit of help via technical or social means. On a technology level there are a number of cheap or free productivity tools such as Anti-Social and SelfControl as well as study helpers that block websites that distract you when you set a study period. If that seems a bit extreme, you may choose to employ a bit of social pressure in the form of a partner, friend or family member to check in on you to see if you’re studying. Done quietly and without interruption (if you’re doing the right thing, that is), it can be a good way to keep you focused.
2. Develop a online study schedule and stick to it
Remember when you thought you could study any time just because the material was online? While that’s strictly true in terms of the flexibility of the course, you do need to figure out the best time to study so you not only understand the course material but also increase knowledge retention. This differs from person to person: some work best in the morning, some work best in the evening while others like to take a study break in the middle of the day.
The important thing is not to let study become something that’s tacked onto the end of the rest of your life, filling gaps in your schedule. Find out when you study best, then build a routine around it. Sure, there are going to be times when you’ll need to go to a work function after hours so can’t do your usual 7-9pm session, but on the whole you need to stick to your schedule to get the most from your educational investment. Don’t ‘find’ time, make time.
You have to stick to your study plan. Procrastination is the worst enemy of online learners, so make sure that you stay organized and you are not falling behind in your online class. If you are having difficulties submitting your assignments on time, contact your online course instructor and let them know, so that they can help you create a consistent study routine.
Online study provides a private space of learning and maximum advantage can be taken of this by having a routine study plan. Have a calendar planner to help you keep track of test and assignment submission dates. Ensure that you take a look at the planner once each day so that your dates and study plan do not skip from your mind. Try and have a dedicated study place with everything you need so that your concentration is at fullest when you are studying. Having a specific study place brings in the much-needed peace for learning and accords importance to what you are doing.
3. Try different online learning methods
Many training organisations have really upped their game when it comes to student engagement with course material. Now it is common to have multimedia content such as videos and podcasts, as well as games, quizzes and simulation trials. Unless your course requires you to engage with all the media, you’ll find that a lot of it is overlap, which means you can pick and choose the methods that suit your learning style best.
Be interactive and engaged - When studying online it is important to be at your interactive best. Participate in conversations and group discussions and engage others as well by sharing, exchanging your ideas, perspectives and comments. Your information and learning source is not restricted to your instructor only. Besides all the free worksheets and education articles, it is interaction with your colleagues and peers that helps you learn even more.
4. Create to-do lists.
At the start of each week, make a to-do list of the tasks you need to complete by the end of the week. This is an excellent way to prioritize your study plan and stay on track with your studying. Before taking up the course online, make yourself fully aware about online learning ways. This means read the "how to manuals" of working on online learning management software and/or tools.
To make sure that you stay motivated and engaged in your online learning experience, consider following these tips:
- Feel free to create your study routine at your own comfortable pace.
- Decorate your study space with inspirational quotes and pictures.
- Never forget the reason why you took this online course.
- Accept that you will have productive and less productive days.
- Have healthy snacks nearby to boost your energy.
- Reward yourself every time you complete a challenging task.
- Make sure that you take some time for yourself from time to time.
- Stay positive and keep your chin up.
6. Participate in online study discussions.
Online learning doesn’t necessarily mean learning in isolation. Connecting with your virtual classmates on social media or your online course’s forum will enhance tremendously your eLearning experience, especially if you are an introvert and visual barriers hinder you in expressing yourself. Participate actively in online discussions and group activities, suggest study tricks, offer your input on the eLearning course, and engage in new ideas. Just ensure that you are mindful of your online tone; be respectful when you disagree with other members of your online group, and always write in complete and clear sentences to avoid misunderstandings and tone mishaps.
Online learning is a break from the traditional and conventional way of studying. Contrary to the dominant physical presence of teachers and classmates, online learning entails just you and your machine. This can leave you feeling a bit isolated which can harm your studying, learning capacity. So to avoid feeling cut-off, participating in online conferences related to your course is a great way to learn and meet other students. It helps you in connecting with different experts of course subjects as well as with students from the same course.
7. Take online study breaks.
Your performance will decrease if your are feeling tired or frustrated while studying. Integrate some personal time into your study routine and you will be able to work more effectively on your online course goals. When taking a break, make sure that you get away from your study space; you need to have a change of scenery. A mild physical activity, such as a walk around the block, will help you maintain balance, renew energy, and go back to studying with a clear mind.
8. Review, revise, repeat.
Regular revisions of the things you have already studied will not only improve your memory, but they will also help you better understand what you are learning. Create your own flash cards for your key notes and quiz yourself on the key concepts of the online course. Furthermore, consider having one or more study partners; working in groups will offer you alternative views of difficult concepts, motivation to achieve better results, and help in completing your online assignments more quickly by reviewing what you have learned. Share your study notes and habits with your virtual classmates and support each other throughout the online learning process.
9. Ask for help when you need it.
While it may be constructive to look for answers to your online course-related questions independently, hesitating to contact your online instructor when you are stuck may be problematic. If you don’t ask for help when necessary, you may end up falling behind, which may lower your self-esteem, as you may not be able to keep up with the online course. Build a relationship with your online instructor and avoid misunderstandings by contacting them regularly and informing them who you are, and how you could use their help. By asking your online instructors to clarify problems, you will also help them not only to evaluate learners' level of understanding of the online material, but also to get an idea of the overall effectiveness of the online course. Finally, due to the open nature of online courses, by asking a question, you also help at the same time your virtual classmates, in case they are having similar difficulties. Keep in mind that if you don’t ask for help when you need it, your online instructor may never know that something is wrong.
If you have a problem, you have to talk about it - One great thing about the online format of learning is how it puts people socially at ease and opens them up. Being online, you can and should put forth your problem without any hesitation. If there is something that you are unable to grasp, then be vocal about it. Post your problem on the discussion forum, email it to your instructor and the responses will start pouring in instantly.
10. Set time limits.
Before you start studying, estimate how much time each task will take to complete, whether it is a specific assignment or simply reading a chapter. Try to stick to your time limits, as this will help you develop your self-discipline. Furthermore, when you realize that despite your best efforts you cannot concentrate, consider stopping for an hour or for the night; it is better to wait until you are able to start afresh than to waste your time trying to focus.
11. Have an effective calendar system.
Online learning needs structure; create a study calendar that will help you remember all important dates, like exams, or deadlines for submitting your assignments. You can save your calendar in your computer or in your mobile device, or you can even create a wall planner, which you can mark up and check every time you study.
12. Plan ahead, identify your learning objectives and goals.
Never wait until the day before an assignment due date to start working on it. It will stress you and stress will prevent you from effectively completing the online task. Furthermore, knowing when all of your assignments are due until the end of the eLearning course will facilitate your time management; for instance, if you are going on vacation in the middle of the eLearning course, you can study ahead.
You must understand online learning practices and expectations. You need to realize is that online courses are not an easier way to learn, but rather a more convenient one. To successfully learn online, you need to dedicate a significant amount of your time, consistently attend the program, be concentrated while studying, and fully commit to your learning process, just as you would do for a regular course.
To stay on track with your online course, make sure that you always keep in mind what you hope to accomplish by the end of it. The learning objectives and goals of the eLearning course can be an excellent road map during online learning; read carefully your online course requirements, create notes that are closely related to your objectives, and make sure that you review them thoroughly every time you start an assignment, so that you stay focused on your goals. Finally, consider starting with the most difficult tasks, as this will improve both the effectiveness of your study and your performance.
13. Make sure that you have reliable internet access.
Technology glitches happen all the time. Imagine you are working in the middle of the night and your computer crashes. To avoid mishaps, ensure that you save your work repeatedly and backup regularly using cloud storage, for example Dropbox or Google Documents, in order to be able to access your previous work from your smart phone or tablet, if needed. Furthermore, ensure that you not only have a backup of your online course material and assignments, but also you have saved your instructor’s or trainer's contact information in your cell phone or in your email. A reliable internet access will also give you the opportunity to check in, stay current with your eLearning course, and deal with sudden schedule changes.
14. Have a dedicated study space.
Whether you decide to study in your office or in your living room, ensure that this place is quiet, organized, distraction-free, and available for use at any time. Your study environment should be one of your main concerns when you are an online learner, so make sure that it enables your study routine. Furthermore, ask your friends, relatives, and colleagues to respect your “work mode” and consider turning off your phone and logging off of all social networks when studying; you will want to be neither interrupted nor distracted.
If you have a chance to trial a course before your enrol, I recommend that you make the most of it. Trying different learning methods will help you decide what sets your brain into gear so you can get the most from the course. You may find you can optimise different learning methods by doing different things with regard to points 1 and 2 also. Turn that half hour of idle driving into a lesson by podcast, or that stroll in the park into a quiz session.
You may be new to online learning but don’t let that be an open invitation to freefall into bad habits. Start as you mean to go on and have the foundation in place to maximise your e-learning.