For some of us, online learning is relatively new. For others, it’s the norm. Whatever the case, online learning courses can be a challenge, just like on-site learning. Adjustments include keeping up with the work, using a different medium to learn, and being more responsible for your education without a teacher physically present to manage you. E-learning offers more freedom, but also more opportunity for procrastination and idleness.
I’ve found in my time with online classes that there are three essential aspects to this type of learning: consistency, environment, and focus. With these points in mind, you can better navigate elearning and incorporate it into your life. So, how do you go about that?
1. Try to follow a routine
Determine what time you will start on your schoolwork. Try to stick with this time every day. If your class begins at 10 AM, try to be ready to work by 10 AM every day. If your classes end at 3, schedule your work time after that. Know what you need to do and prepare to get it done.
Designate time for each of your courses. Think, “I have this [class] at [time]. When can I complete the homework?” Try to get the work done as soon as you can – don’t procrastinate. If you wait to complete your work, it will pile up and become a hindrance. You can designate an hour a day for each course’s work or even a day a week to each class.
Make time for meals. A healthy eating schedule will keep your body’s energy up to work. Find 30-60 minutes between class and study time for lunch. Take your lunch break around the same time every day, if possible.
Set alarms! Watching the clock is discouraging and stressful. Not to mention, it’s easy to forget about the time when you’re deep in focus—set alarms for breaks, lunch, subject changes, and so on.
Here are some free scheduling and time management resources to get a jump start on being consistent:
- Microsoft To-Do – A smart daily planner for your personalized lists
- Todoist – A helpful task manager to sort your work and projects
- Google Calendar – An easy scheduling tool for appointment and event planning, reminders, and goal setting.
2. Establish a workspace
Choose a dedicated space. Having this space to work in will ease the transition from relaxation to work and will train your brain to understand that workspace = working.
Keep work and relaxation separate. Establishing a study space is key to cementing your mind space for tasks. If you work in the same place you relax, getting into the mindset to work can be difficult. Moreover, you might feel the stress that comes with working while trying to relax.
Study where you like. There is no “best place” to study. You can study in your room, the living room, the dining table, etc. Once we’re allowed outside again, libraries, cafes, and parks work just as well (given the proper safety precautions are followed). It’s not about where you work, but what you do to create the optimal learning environment.
Set the Scene
1. Remove distractions
Minimize interruptions. Whether it’s your phone or your pets, do what you can to reduce their distraction level. Silence your texts, leave your pets in another room, let the people you live with know not to disturb you. Make your work your primary focus. If you have trouble staying off your phone, set screen time on your phone to limit the use of distracting apps.
TIP: Consider setting up screen time monitoring on your mobile device.
Complete other tasks beforehand. Before starting your work on your online classes, finish chores, fun errands, and avoid making disruptive plans. You can even set aside to complete these other tasks later. Stopping halfway through working because you forgot to wash the dishes or walk the dog is a slippery slope to leaving your work incomplete. It’s easy to find reasons to get off task, but try not to throw off your study groove!
Remember: you know yourself better than others. During your study time, try to do what’s best for you. What do you think will distract you? What do you think will help you? Distractions and aids are different for everyone, so don’t feel the need to conform to one idea of studying. Be honest with yourself about what will increase your productivity and what will not.
2. Have easy access to everything you need before you start
Determine what you need for your task. Think about your methods of studying. Use a consistent and reliable means of studying, whether it’s your computer or handwritten notes, physical textbooks, or ebooks. Have organization tools to keep you organized, and aids to improve your focus and memory.
Lay out all of your materials. How can you effectively organize your workspace? Be conscious of which hand is your dominant hand. Have any flashcards or notes at hand. If you’re anything like me (easily distracted) untangle your earbuds and bookmark websites for when you need them. Keep your space neat and orderly.
3. Set Goals
Determine what you want to achieve. Do you want to take thorough notes for your classes? Finish that essay you’ve been working on? Set goals for what you need to or would like to accomplish, but be realistic. SMART Goals are an excellent example of goal setting. SMART Goals are “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound” goals.
- Goal: Complete my project.
- SMART Goal: Within two weeks, I will work to finish a Slides presentation on The Iliad by Homer for my Lit class.
TIP: Ready to create your own SMART goals? Check out this resource.
Recognize your achievements. Don’t dwell on what you couldn’t do. Instead, focus on what you’ve accomplished and make a plan to try again with things that didn’t work out. Big or small, your achievements are worth recognition.
Reward yourself. Rewards can push you toward your goals as a means of motivation. When you set goals, make sure the rewards match.
- Ex 1: Your assigned reading can be worth a fifteen-minute break.
- Ex 2: Finishing the work for one class can be worth one episode of your favorite show.
Get To It – Skills Needed for Online Learning
1. Taking an Active Role
Take notes. Notes reinforce what you’ve learned and help make sense of information. Note-taking can provide breakthroughs and better memory recall in connection to your topic.
Ask questions. Whether it’s asking your professor or the internet, asking questions is vital to your understanding. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you become lost or just curious.
Connect with other students. Your fellow students can offer insight into your lessons and exchange points with you. A different perspective can change how you view a topic and enlighten you on points you may have missed.
Re-read your lesson materials. Powerpoints and textbooks might seem boring, but going over them for a second or even third time can only increase your understanding of the subject. Re-writing and re-organizing notes can make them clearer and help with memorization. It also gives you time to write notes on points you remember from class as well as questions and ideas.
3. Study Aids
Take time to make or find aids and tools that will assist with your learning. Flashcards, online quizzes, post-it notes, and audiobooks are all examples of study aids. Having the online learning tools at your disposal to absorb content effectively can only make studying easier. Choose study aids that will benefit you. Not all aids work for everyone, so experiment with them and use the best fits.
TIP: There are lots of FREE study tools out there. Try out some of these user-friendly study resources:
- Quizlet – Flashcards, quizzes, and memory games, Quizlet is a favorite online learning game among students.
- Padlet – Mind maps, timelines, and collages for easy organization of ideas of resources.
- Grammarly – A writing tool that corrects grammar and critiques work.
Find time for a break. Between classes, have a quick snack, take a moment to think and review, you can even nap. Give yourself time to absorb what you’ve learned and recharge before your next class or task.
When studying, try to take a short break every 20-40 minutes. Most small to medium tasks can be accomplished in this 20-40 minute window, and the break gives you a chance to step back and review what you’ve done or just take a breather.
Short breaks are best at 5-15 minutes. Extended breaks can be 25+ minutes, but are less frequent given their length. Some students use their break time productively by finishing other tasks, while others use breaks as downtime to rest and recharge. How you use your breaks is up to you!
Online education doesn’t have to feel like an impossible task. The right routine, space, and tools can be a simple and accessible way to learn. With incorporating some of these successful qualities of an online student, you might even find elearning preferable to on-site learning. Just know that it is possible. Remember, we’re all in this together!
Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!
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- Nieves-Whitmore, Kaeli. “7 Tips For Surviving Your Online Classes,” College Raptor. College Raptor, 2012-2020. Web. 30 Jan. 2020.
- Hansen, Brianna. “The 15 Best Time Management Apps You Should Start Using Yesterday,” Wrike. Wrike, Inc. 2006-2020. Web. 08 Nov. 2018.
- “SMART Goals for Students,” New England College. New England College, 2020. Web.
- Eby, Kate. “The Essential Guide to Writing SMART Goals,” smartsheet. Smartsheet Inc., 2019. Web. 09 Jan. 2019.
- Lundin, Elizabeth. “How to Take Better Notes: The 6 Best Note-Taking Systems,” College Info Geek. College Info Geek, 2020. Web. 08 Jan. 2020.