About to take an online course? Great choice! You’ll soon discover that e-learning is convenient, practical, and safe especially during the ongoing pandemic. If you’re looking for tips to maximize your experience, here are some that have been tested to work for any kind of distance learning:
Have the tools and materials needed before you begin
Know required devices and technical specifications for your computer. This will determine the speed and efficiency that you’ll be able to access and participate in your class. You may be also required to have:
- apps or software for instruction or projects
- email or social media accounts
- tools (for example browsers) that are compatible with the learning platform
For example, studying with English Online would require you to have an internet-connected computer, tablet or mobile device. You also need an email address to receive information after registration. Having a Skype account is important because classes are held on Skype and announcements are posted on the chat group. We also recommend using Google Chrome as your browser because it works well with most websites and apps we use. Lastly, having a headset with microphone will help you during online classes but this is optional.
Contact your instructor immediately if you have questions or if you need technical help. Make sure you have everything you need before starting your course.
Create a timetable and stick to it
Time management is crucial when enrolled in an online course. At the start, it will feel like you have so much time that it can lead to procrastination. Following a schedule will make it easy for you to stay on track and develop good study habits. Allocate regular times for lectures (or synchronous sessions), reading course materials, and working on assignments or projects. Follow your schedule each week and sooner or later, studying will be a breeze.
Set learning goals and track them
Learning goals are important for focus and motivation. It will also help you prioritize on the kind of activities you need to take on or materials you need to read. Follow the SMART method when you write your goals. SMART means specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
How to set SMART goals, Goal-setting for students, 2 minute classroom
Evaluate your SMART goals at the half-way point. Check your progress and review your goals and time commitments for the course. Adjust as necessary. Seeing that you are nearing your learning goals will motivate you to persevere. If you see that you’re not progressing, you may need to commit more time for studying or maybe tweak your goals. A good option would be to consult your instructor for advice. They can help you figure out how to meet your goals better.
Stay organized and keep distractions to a minimum
While studying in the comfort of one’s home has many advantages, there are also disadvantages. Some may have kids or pets that need attention, others may be distracted by household chores that need to get done or the easy access to the TV and their warm, comfy bed.
This is why it’s important to have a designated study area that is quiet and uncluttered (preferably with a door that can be closed). It can also help to use some tools to boost your productivity and organize your study materials. Here are some of them:
- Pomodoro – This a simple technique to help you with time management. You mainly break up your work or study time into chunks with breaks in between. It instills a sense of urgency and keeps you away from distractions. You can even download a timer on your phone to help you stay on track. Try Focus Keeper (iPhone) or Pomodoro Timer Lite (Android).
- Evernote – This is an app that will help you organize all your notes, projects and tasks all in one place. It also makes it easy to sync everything in all your devices so you can access them wherever you are. Evernote is free but you have to sign-up and create an account. Paid plans have more features for sharing and collaboration.
- MyStudyLife – This is similar to a digital planner. This will help you keep track of schedules, assignments, exams, and projects. The app is free.
Just like in an in-person class, you only get what you give. Participating in discussions, reading suggested materials, accomplishing assignments and projects, and asking questions will keep you engaged and learning fully.
Also, don’t isolate yourself. Connecting with others will enrich your learning experience. Collaborate on projects, discuss lessons, and if you’re learning a language, get a conversation buddy. You’ll realize that there are many ways to reach out to your classmates and instructor. Use Zoom, Skype or similar platforms to meet virtually. You can also use forums, email, and social media. Of course, you can always ask to meet in person if they are willing and able but there are many apps nowadays that allow you not only to connect with others but collaborate safely.
Sources: Take it from someone who hates productivity hacks – The Pomodoro technique actually works, Kat Boogaard, The Muse; and Tips for Taking Online Classes: 8 Strategies for Success, Northeastern University Graduate Program. Accessed October 8, 2021.
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