1.Motivation

By signing up for an online course you’re already showing that you’re a self-starter.  Studies have shown that online students have a higher degree of self-motivation.  Your task therefore is to keep yourself motivated.  This might sound a bit obvious, but enrolling in a subject that really excites you will help you finish.  Given a choice between a sensible but not so inspiring subject and something that really gets you going, we always advice the later.  Why? Because you’re more likely to finish your course and succeed, and nothing succeeds like success!  With success under your belt, the next course or step you take is more likely to be successful purely because your confidence will be higher.

If you’re struggling a bit and find yourself floundering, focus on the goal of finishing.  Take it one step at a time but remember that each small step you take is one step closer to your goal of finishing.

Contrary to popular opinion, visualising success does not help you get motivated!  Ironically it actually makes you more relaxed and secure by tricking the brain into thinking success has already been achieved.  We only have a limited amount of willpower available to us each day.  By talking about something or visualising it is done, the brain believes it’s been done and your motivation will drop.  Instead don’t talk about it, don’t fantasize about it being done, just kick your proverbial and get motivated with a no excuses mentality.

2.Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise

Put your time where your mouth is.  Make study your priority.  How?

Make a timetable for yourself where you set aside time for your study.  Sounds simple right? It is until you throw in the complications of family, work and other commitments.  The more distractions and responsibilities you have the harder and strong you will need to fight to defend your time boundaries.  Its starts with you and your self-respect and belief in what you are doing are important!  It is important, you paid money to study and you believed it was worthwhile.  Now you need to back yourself up and carve out that time to study.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Be realistic about how much time you can afford each week to put aside for study.  The nature of online study does mean it’s very easy to sideline.  After all there is no class to attend, no clearly outlined time-frame of attendance.   To work around this and to keep it current in your mind make sure you login at least three times a week.  Even if you don’t do much it doesn’t matter, just logging in will keep it at the forefront of your mind and help you keep your focus on it.

3.Technical know-how

Set yourself up to succeed.  Without the right technical setup learning online is going to be very, very, difficult.

Before enrolling check what internet speed is necessary for you to access the course materials.  There is a big difference between having to download PDFs or reading online text to streaming videos.

What sort of device are you using?  Most online courses these days should be device agnostic (meaning can be viewed on any device).  However be realistic about what is going to work for you.  Are you going to be able to write assignments on your Samsung or IPhone?  If you are using a tablet, can you get a keyboard for it?  Likewise if you have a laptop you may want to consider hooking it up to a desktop screen.

How are you with using online apps?  We get a lot of older students who may not be so confident with online processes.  If that’s you do you have someone who can help you?  Do you feel confident contacting your online course provider and ask for assistance – for that matter will they provide technical assistance?

4.Research Skills / Learning to Learn

It is advisable to check before enrolling if the course requires you to do your own research, not because this is a bad thing, but to make sure you know what is expected of you.   Some courses will provide you with complete information (or assuredly so), others will provide you with guides and expect you to do your own research.  Probably the best is somewhere between. While many students prefer it because it is less work, spoon feeding is not always the best in terms of educational outcomes.   Learning to find your own information, assess the validity of the information and report on what you have found is a very valuable skill and helps the learner to construct their own understanding rather than relying on someone else’s interpretation.

Learning to learn is an important skill and a learnt skill.  Learning research skills is just one part of that.  Taking useful notes, understanding when something needs to be learned by rote, and understanding how to structure study for an exams are some other important aspects of learning.

5.Use your resources & ask questions

When learning online, your connections with other students and your tutor or facilitator are vitally important.  Online learning by its very nature can be solitary and lonely. Where possible connect with other learners, or industry stakeholders.

Your tutor wants to help you and be involved in your journey.  Many tutors do the job not for the pay but because they really enjoy helping others and sharing their own enthusiasm for the subject.  Make use of your tutors by asking them for help when you don’t understand a point or can’t find appropriate resources that you need to complete your assignments or practicals. Ask questions!  Your tutors can’t and shouldn’t do the work for you, they are certainly not there to write assignments!