10 Study Tips For Online Learners
1. Recognize that an online course is a ‘real’ course.
Most online courses are flexible and allow you to participate at a convenient time that fits into your schedule. Some online classes have ‘synchronous’ times for Zoom sessions and other activities. Be sure to check with your instructor to know when there are specific time commitments for the course.
It is important to recognize that an online course is the same course that would be delivered on campus. Same learning outcomes, same projects and assignments and the same tests. To get the most value out of any class, you have to “show up” and make class a priority.
Our SACSCOC accreditation recognizes online learning as an equivalent medium for teaching and learning. As a “real” course, that means you ‘attend class’ and participate in supplemental homework assignments. When you attend, you might be participating in Zoom lectures, watching instructor videos, screencasts or reading course content and participating in discussions. In addition, you are still expected to be prepared for each online session, participate in forums and complete all assignments.
2. Make sure you have access to the Internet.
Your course will be offered in a learning management system, called Moodle. Moodle is the safe place for all of the instructors’ materials and assignments and your completed papers, projects and discussions. Many times, course assignments will require you to produce a document, a spreadsheet, a paper or something external to Moodle. Once your project or paper is complete, you will upload the file to Moodle.
As a tip, always have a backup plan for your projects and papers (before it is uploaded to Moodle). Imagine you are working in the middle of the night and your computer crashes. To avoid mishaps, ensure that you save your work repeatedly and backup regularly using cloud storage, for example Dropbox or Google Documents, in order to be able to access your previous work from your smart phone or tablet, if needed. Also, ensure that you not only have a backup of your online course material and assignments, but also you have saved your instructor’s contact information in your cell phone or in your email. Reliable Internet access will also give you the opportunity to check in, stay current with your online course, and deal with sudden schedule changes.
3. Have the equipment you need to learn online.
Many online courses will require you to have a camera and microphone either built-in to your computer or have an external camera and microphone. The camera is used for proctored test-taking in tools such as Proctor U. The camera and microphone are used for you to actively participate in Zoom sessions (when they are included in course sessions). If you do not have necessary equipment, Nicholls has computer labs on campus available for use. Also, there are a few checkout laptops available.
4. Create a dedicated study space.
Whether you decide to study at the kitchen table, on the couch in the living room, or outside on the porch, ensure that your study space place is quiet, organized, distraction-free and available for use when you need it. Your study environment should be one of your main concerns when you are an online learner, so make sure that it enables your study routine. Ask your friends and family to respect your “online learning study time” and consider turning off your phone, logging off of all social networks and anything else that might distract you when studying.
5. Have a study plan.
To set up an effective study plan, begin with the end in mind. Use your course syllabus as the road map to your course. Spend time reviewing your syllabus and recognizing the end of course expectations and goals. The weekly assignments, due dates and expectations should be noted and placed on your calendar. Read carefully your online course requirements, create notes that are closely related to your objectives, and make sure that you review them thoroughly every time you start an assignment, so that you stay focused on your goals. Finally, consider starting with the most difficult tasks (while recognizing due dates), as this will improve both the effectiveness of your study and your performance.
6. Manage your study time well.
Never wait until the day before an assignment is due to start working on it. It will stress you and stress will prevent you from effectively completing the online task. Also, knowing when all of your assignments are due until the end of the course will facilitate your time management strategy. For instance, if you are going on vacation in the middle of the online course, you can study ahead. Here are some time management strategies to consider:
- Have an effective calendar system. Online learning needs structure; create a study calendar that will help you remember all important dates, like exams, or deadlines for submitting your assignments. You can save your calendar in your computer or in your mobile device, or you can even create a wall planner, which you can mark up and check every time you study. Some Moodle courses have all of the assignments and dates on the course calendar. You may use that as a reference.
- Create to-do lists. At the start of each week, make a to-do list of the tasks you need to complete by the end of the week. This is an excellent way to prioritize your study plan and stay on track with your studying.
- Set time limits. Before you start studying, estimate how much time each task will take to complete, whether it is a specific assignment or simply reading a chapter. Try to stick to your time limits, as this will help you develop your self-discipline. Additionally, when you realize that despite your best efforts you cannot concentrate, consider stopping for an hour or for the night; it is better to wait until you are able to start fresh than to waste your time trying to focus.
- Stay on schedule. Finally, stick to your study plan. Procrastination is the worst enemy of online learners, so make sure that you stay organized and you are not falling behind in your online class. If you are having difficulties submitting your assignments on time, contact your online course instructors and let them know, so they can help you to get back on track.
- Take study breaks. Your performance will decrease if you are feeling tired or frustrated while studying. Integrate some personal time into your study routine and you will be able to work more effectively on your online course goals. When taking a break, make sure that you get away from your study space; you need to have a change of scenery. A mild physical activity, such as a walk around the block, will help you maintain balance, renew energy, and go back to studying with a clear mind.
7. Actively participate in your online course.
Online courses are meant to be engaging. Participate in anything you can! Most online courses have a discussion forum that is used for better understanding the course as well as serving as a springboard to course topics and activities. The course discussion forum provides you with a chance to clarify questions you might have and also to connect with other students in the course. This might involve commenting on another student’s paper on a discussion board or posting a question about a project you’re working on. Read what other students and your instructor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification. Just ensure that you are mindful of your online tone; be respectful when you disagree with others, and always write in complete and clear sentences to avoid misunderstandings and tone mishaps.
Some online courses will have Zoom sessions. Be sure to actively participate! Add questions to the chat, raise your hand, take notes and engage when the instructor breaks the class into virtual small groups and teams to discuss specific topics or work in groups.
Make sure you are checking in as often as you can, too. The flexibility of online learning means that if you have 30 minutes before dinner plans, you could squeeze in a discussion response around your schedule. Set a goal to check in on the class discussion forum every day.
Faculty have open office hours available to work with you on issues and problems you may be having. Your instructor’s office hours will be posted in the syllabus. In a virtual environment, office hours will likely be held on Zoom or even through a phone call. Take the time to participate in office hours, especially if you are falling behind. Be proactive in asking for help!
8. Use strategies to help you learn and remember.
Most people have a strategy that works best for studying, learning and remembering. Your strategy may be notetaking, highlighting key points in a lecture, reviewing PowerPoint slides, re-writing notes, making flashcards and self-quizzing, studying with a friend or something else completely. Find the strategy that works best for you, then monitor yourself to make sure you are learning. You will find strategies may vary based on the type of test you are studying for. If you are memorizing facts and dates, you may study differently than when you are trying to connect the dots on several concepts as part of a bigger system of study.
Regular revisions of the things you have already studied will not only improve your memory, but they will also help you better understand what you are learning. Furthermore, consider having one or more study partners; working in groups will offer you alternative views of difficult concepts, motivation to achieve better results, and help in completing your online assignments more quickly by reviewing what you have learned. Share your study notes and habits with your virtual classmates and support each other throughout the online learning process.
Whether you are online or face-to-face, the course learning outcomes, content and assessments are still the same (see Study Tip 1: it is still a real course.)
9. Build a network of students
Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.
Build relationships with other students by introducing yourself and engaging in online discussion boards. Your peers can be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. Don’t be afraid to turn to them to create a virtual study group. Chances are good that they will appreciate it just as much as you will.
10. Stay Motivated!
Finally, don’t underestimate the effort needed to fully commit to your online course. To make sure that you stay motivated and engaged in your online learning experience, consider following these tips:
- Feel free to create your study routine at your own comfortable pace.
- Decorate your study space with inspirational quotes and pictures.
- Never forget the reason why you took this online course.
- Accept that you will have productive and less productive days.
- Have healthy snacks nearby to boost your energy.
- Reward yourself every time you complete a challenging task.
- Make sure that you take some time for yourself from time to time.
- Stay positive and keep your chin up.