Online learning is a godsend for those with busy lives. Being able to take an accredited 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 learning 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.
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 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.
3. Try different 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.
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.
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