As the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has become a necessity for most students. Universities have expanded their range of online courses, making the commitment to online learning even easier than before.
Online learning offers a huge range of benefits. Choice, flexibility and affordability are three of the biggest. To make the most of your online learning experience, you need to apply discipline, motivation and effective organisational and time management skills. Get this right and your self-service learning can lead to a lifetime of preparedness for continuous upskilling.
How to make the most of your online learning experience
1. Make a study plan
A study plan is an organised schedule outlining study times and learning goals. It should include all important dates, such as exams, quizzes, tests and classes, but it can also include extracurricular activities, work and social engagements. Work and study are competing factors, but both are important parts of your life and demand your attention.
A study plan helps to hold you accountable to your online learning commitment. It allows you to set aside adequate time for completing assignments, giving you a sense of self-discipline. This is important in the absence of a lecturer setting your timeline.
2. Treat study like a job
Always remember that study is your work. Just like any job, it requires a success mindset. You wouldn’t be able to ‘not turn up’ if you had a job in which you were being paid, so why skip your study? Online learning is your path to success so give it the time it deserves. Keep a schedule like your ‘job’ depends on it and remember there will be times when you need to put in ‘overtime’.
3. Focus on the big picture
Big picture thinking is the ability to grasp concepts, ideas and possibilities and see your end goal. It’s big picture thinking that will help drive you through your online study experience.
Thinking about the big picture instead of the little steps required along the way can help to give you self control. The goal you are trying to achieve is distal and self-control requires you to make decisions consistent with this distal goal. Big picture thinking supports you to say no when tempted by more immediate rewards.
4. Designate a quiet space
The space in which you study needs to foster productivity. This means it should be quiet and free from distraction. If outside distractions are difficult to maintain, consider white-noise machines or noise-cancelling headphones that allow you to control the atmosphere of your study space.
Good lighting is also important for your study space. Low lighting can strain your eyes and make you feel sleepy. Lighting that’s too bright can cause headaches or unnecessary discomfort in a room.
5. Eliminate distractions
One of the hardest things about online learning is that you have very easy access to digital distractions. You sit down to study and before you know it you’ve wandered over to Instagram or Youtube.
The Internet is an invaluable resource containing knowledge and information that will help you through your study but it’s also a major distraction that needs silencing. Turn off all non-essential notifications when you’re studying and consider blocking access to distracting websites at certain times. When you take a break, make it a screen break and stop yourself from going down an online rabbit hole.
6. Break up tasks
Your busy schedule will likely be made up of different homework tasks that vary in their level of urgency and importance. Breaking these tasks up helps you to prioritise your time and focus on the tasks that will likely have the greatest impact on your overall performance and grades.
By breaking up tasks, you can set time limits for structuring your study sessions. Productive studying typically occurs within the first 25-30 minutes, so consider setting your schedule around 30-minute blocks.
7. Connect with others
Having a study group is a great way to learn more about a topic, explore new ideas and keep yourself motivated. Research tells us that your neurons mirror other people’s behaviour and that seeing others studying boosts your own productivity.
Learning how to work within a study group is also great for mirroring the working world. It allows you to develop valuable skills that will support you to work as a team in a future workplace.
8. Ask questions
The process of asking a question allows you to articulate your current understanding of the topic, as well as make connections with new ideas. Ask the right questions and you can drastically improve your learning.
There may be no such thing as a stupid question, but there are certain trypes of questions that will accelerate learning more than others. One study found that ‘conceptual’ questions work best.
9. Smash your deadlines
If an assignment is due on the Monday, don’t wait until Sunday to get started. Procrastination will lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Smashing your deadline means you can set aside time the day an assignment or task is due for review and editing. It gives you extra time to catch errors and to turn a satisfactory grade into an excellent one.
Managing your digital wellbeing when studying online
As with any online engagement, it’s important that you balance your time spent online with time spent out in the real world. Discover your city and find out what makes them so liveable. Visit landmarks, eat out, go for a run, visit a museum. Balance your online experience with a liveable experience and you’re in for a great overall study experience.
Tech overload is one of the drawbacks of excessive student screen use. Too much screen time can be a detriment to your wellbeing, so set yourself tech-free times and zones and create some boundaries. Get outside and explore!