5 Ways to Win at Online Learning
Online learning has grown in popularity over the past few years as more and more people are looking for ways to further their education without having to attend a traditional college or university. Plus, technology has made it easier for students to access educational materials and resources from anywhere in the world. However, succeeding at online learning can be a challenge. Isolation, distractions, technical issues and bad time management all could work against you. Luckily, these can all be managed and overcome.
In a recent edX talk, Olav Shewe, Educas CEO and instructor for Learn Like a Pro, remarked on why some students excel at online learning while others don’t:
“I used to think success in learning was dependent on some innate ability, but then I realised the techniques you use are even more important.”
Here, we take a look at five areas to focus on when preparing to study online and provide some tips to help you succeed.
Top 5 tips for self-directed study
1 Manage your time carefully
Unlike traditional setups where students attend classes at set times every day, taking a course online allows you to set your own timetable and learn asynchronously. This means you can access complete lectures, assignments, readings and other learning materials at any time that fits with your personal schedule. However, it does require some planning.
- Set a schedule: Establish a regular schedule for when you will work on your coursework. This will help you stay focused and motivated and ensure you meet deadlines.
- Prioritise your assignments: Review your weekly/monthly/yearly assignments and prioritise the most important or time-sensitive tasks. Start by making a weekly plan so you know what you need to do for the upcoming week, then divide your weekly tasks into daily ones.
- Use a planner: Use a planner or calendar to keep track of important deadlines and assignments. This will help you keep everything in one place and ensure you don’t miss any important due dates.
- Eliminate distractions: Remove distractions by turning off your phone, closing unnecessary tabs on your computer, and finding a quiet study space. Here’s a list of apps that help you focus and block distractions.
- Seek help if needed: Reach out for help if you’re struggling to manage your time. Your instructor or a Career Coach can help you develop a plan to manage your time more effectively.
2 Choose a dedicated study area
Some advocate for a quiet place in your home where you can devote yourself to your studies. Others encourage mixing it up, as studying the same material in different locations has proven to increase your ability to retain information. Here are some more tips to optimise your study space – wherever you feel the most productive.
- Minimise noise: Invest in noise-cancelling headphones or, if you’re willing to elicit some curious stares, a focus cap that’s said to block out visual noise, quieten mind chatter and allow you to enter a “super-human FLOW-state of optimal cognitive performance”.
- Block out time: Add a study block to your work calendar for colleagues to see, and put a printed calendar on your fridge at home so your family/housemates don’t disturb you during your dedicated study time.
- Get yourself into the right physical space: If there are too many distractions at home, head to a campus or public library where there are plenty of quiet nooks. Being in an environment where silence is compulsory will help you settle in and focus.
3 Ensure you have the right tools
Studying online means you’ll learn in a multitude of ways, such as engaging with videos and graphics that break down complex concepts, working through quizzes and reading in-depth materials. To navigate these different learning methods, you might need to install different apps to attend webinars, live sessions and coding workshops.
In most cases, you’ll be given free access to a Learning Management System (LMS) with all the tools needed for an immersive learning experience. These include UI elements such as calendars, messaging, quizzes, discussions, assignments, modules, and videos. These platforms also often enable social learning via a student community and provide around-the-clock tech support.
You’ll need the following to get the most out of your online coursework:
- A laptop or desktop computer
- The latest software updates for your operating system
- Internet connection (download speed at least 25 Mbps, upload speed at least 3 Mbps)
- Basics such as Microsoft Word and a PDF reader
- Microphone, speaker and webcam
- Zoom client
Note that for some of the more technical courses, such as the LSE Data AnalyticsCareer Accelerator, you will need a setup that can handle the same tools used by data analysts, such as Microsoft Excel, PostgreSQL, Tableau, Python, and R.
4 Set goals
Goal-setting is a powerful tool that can be used to build motivation, improve academic success, and bring meaning to your actions. Setting goals that are achievable is the most important to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
- Make your goals specific: Instead of setting a general goal, like “I want to do well in my online course,” set specific (yet realistic) goals that are measurable. For example, “I’ll complete all assignments by the due date,” or “I want to achieve 80% or higher for my online course.”
- Break your goals down into smaller steps: To make your goals more manageable, break them down into smaller steps. This will make it easier to track your progress.
- Use a goal-tracking tool: Use a goal-tracking tool, like the ones found in this list, to break down the steps toward a goal by separate tasks.
- Review your goals regularly: Review your goals to track your progress, and check in with an accountability partner, like a friend, Career Coach or programme support provider, if you’ve fallen behind and don’t know how to catch up.
SAGE Journal author and online education expert Dr Linda Dale Bloomberg advises students who feel pressure to meet all their personal and study commitments and worry they won’t succeed:
“Keep the momentum going. Multi-task if necessary, but don’t procrastinate or give up. Adopt an “I can do this” attitude! A constant eye on the end goal will help you stay motivated and on track.”
5 Set up one-on-one sessions with a Career Coach
Career Coaches play an important role in online learning by helping students set and achieve goals and boundaries, but also to align their dreams with their strengths and what they’re good at. Adele Leah, one of FourthRev’s Career Coaches, shares her approach to inspiring students:
“Balance the work you do with freedom, flexibility, growth and challenge – for your version of success – and not someone else’s.”
Here are ways one-on-one coaching can help online students:
- Study with intention: In career-focused education, a Career Coach helps learners prioritise their career goals from the start and work through the study programme with the focused intention of getting ahead professionally.
- Develop human skills needed for the workplace: While a lot of time is spent learning hard skills, a Career Coach helps students develop career-specific human skills – such as personal leadership or critical thinking skills – that are crucial job requirements.
- Enhance your personal brand: A coach helps you prepare your personal brand for entering the workplace upon graduation. This includes interview prep, creating an effective LinkedIn profile, and a winning CV.
- Get into the right mindset: Online study can be isolating, making it difficult to stay motivated. A Career Coach helps build your confidence, define your short- and long-term goals, and provides actionable steps to stay focused and keep up in the course.
Accelerate your career through FourthRev’s online Career Accelerators
FourthRev’s Career Accelerators have been designed to make learning relevant, in-demand digital skills engaging and manageable for professionals who are looking to make a move in their careers. Presented by top university faculty and industry experts, the course content balances theory with practical application to ensure you put everything you learn into practice. This boosts your confidence and provides you with a portfolio of real-world evidence that you can present to prospective employers.
You’ll also have access to one-on-one support from a dedicated Success Manager and Career Coach. They’ll help you to establish what your career goals are and how you can work towards them during the six-month programme and going into the future.
We’re currently running two Career Accelerators, with more coming soon! If you’d like to find out more, please book a call with our friendly Enrolment Advisors.