8 study tips for online students
Enrolling in an online course can be exciting and empowering. Whether you’ve already taken that first step towards online study and have already enrolled, or if you’re still weighing up your options, online study can open many new doors for you.
But in order to get the most out of your online course, there are a few basic tips you can follow to ensure that you graduate with flying colours.
Firstly, you need to understand how you as a student prefer to work. Being mindful of your own learning habits is perhaps the most important key to succeeding in your online course.
Read on to discover OC’s 8 online study strategies for students. These tips have been curated from research literature on education, cognitive psychology, and motivation. Feel free to share your own personal techniques in the comments section so you can help out your fellow online course participants around the world.
1. Apply mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness is one practice that can help us become better at tasks that require a great deal of focus. You don’t have to meditate to reap the benefits of mindfulness. You just need a willingness to step back and examine your own thoughts.
In his book Waking Up, Sam Harris writes, “Being mindful is not a matter of thinking more clearly about experience; it is the act of experiencing more clearly, including the arising of thoughts themselves. Mindfulness is a vivid awareness of whatever is appearing in one’s mind or body- thoughts, sensations, moods-without grasping at the pleasant or recoiling from the unpleasant.”
On focus, he adds: “The principal enemy of mindfulness is our deeply conditioned habit of being distracted by thoughts. The problem is not thoughts themselves but the state of thinking without knowing we are thinking.”
Basically, Harris is telling us that by practicing mindfulness we can focus on the here and now without being distracted by errant, unproductive thoughts that could otherwise distract us.
To study smarter, start paying closer attention to the way your thoughts drift, and gently bring your mind back to the experience at hand when that happens.
2. Goal setting and fear setting
During his TED Talk, American influencer Tim Ferris spoke about the importance of defining your fears as well as your goals. Calling it the most valuable exercise he does every month, “fear setting” involves making a list of worst-case scenarios and how you can prevent them or repair damage when necessary. Simply writing down your fears in order to define them is extremely therapeutic, as it helps you realise where to focus your efforts. This may even help you see that your fear has no foundation at all.
By doing some fear setting and goal setting around your online course, you can visualise the things you’re worried about which makes it easier to take action.
First, you need to define your fears, then think about how you can prevent them and, if necessary, how you can repair the damage.
For example, you may define your fear as “falling behind in my coursework”. One way of preventing this may be to create a study schedule for yourself so you can track your progress. And if you do notice that you’re falling behind, how do you repair the damage? A few options may be to clear your schedule, knuckle down and try to catch up on your work; to get in touch with Student Support and ask for guidance about staying on track; or to team up with a Study Buddy who can help keep you motivated and hold you accountable.
3. Manage your time wisely
You’ll want to figure out ahead of time how and when you can devote your undivided attention to your studies and stick to that plan throughout the course. Whether it’s a few hours a week or an hour every night, work out exactly where you have time in your schedule to dedicate to your studies.
We’ve written about the topic of time management, so check out this post for more tips.
4. Pay attention to your learning preferences
Do you focus better in the morning or at night? After exercising or before? On the commute to work or during your lunch break? Do you like to listen to music while you study, or do you need peace and quiet?
We all have different learning preferences, and it’s important to do what works best for you.
The more time you spend figuring out your preferred method beforehand, the better prepared you’ll be for the course and the higher your chances for success.
5. Devote a space to learning
The brain loves to make associations, so pick a place where you can study without distractions.
Finding a dedicated study space means that your brain will swing into study mode when you’re in that space and you’ll find that you’re able to focus better.
On the other hand, if you study in the same room where you sleep or watch TV, you could find your mind wandering off task.
6. Connect with other students
Teaming up with another student, interacting with others in online forums or starting group chats with other students can help you feel more connected to your course material. You might find you feel more motivated to learn when you have other people around you who are also studying, and you’ll also feel supported by your network. This can go a long way towards boosting morale.
There’s a common misconception that online study means that you’re studying alone. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, because you’re in an online environment instead of a static campus, it means that you can connect with other students all across Australia. OC even has a voluntary Study Buddy program you can choose to sign up to where you can find other like-minded students to connect.
7. Make accountability a habit
This flows on from our above point. Another great part about connecting with other students is that you form an accountability system, which will motivate you to stay focused on your course. Accountability will help you stay focused and committed.
You can also let your friends, family or colleagues know you’re taking an online course. Telling others about your course means that you’re taking ownership of your study, which in turn motivates you to complete what you set out to do.
Share what you’re learning, too: every time you retrieve the material from memory, you reinforce what you’ve learned.
8. Keep the future in mind
Make a point of frequently reminding yourself why you’re taking the course.
Are you studying because you want to switch careers? Because you’re working towards a better-paying promotion? Or simply because you want to increase knowledge on a particular topic you’re passionate about?
Whatever your reasons, make sure you keep the dream alive by reminding yourself of your goals and why you want to achieve them. Keep yourself motivated by connecting your studies now with what you see in the future.
Have these study tips helped you?
OC puts the student at the heart of everything we do. From our multi-faceted support teams to our world-class online learning platform, we’re dedicated to helping people reach their potential through education.
If you’re considering studying an online course, check out our range of courses across our various portfolios, including health, business, childhood education and more.