5 ways to make distance learning work for you

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Distance learning has become an increasingly popular option for busy individuals. Learning in the comfort of your own home and not having to travel to attend classes are just some of the reasons why people opt to study from home (we talk more about its benefits in the article 5 best reasons to learn English online). Whether you’ve signed up for courses to improve your English or to take an elective in university, here are some helpful tips to make distance learning work for you!

1. Create a timetable and stick to it.

Time management is crucial in a distance learning course. Most courses offer flexibility and allow you to set schedules for yourself for studying and preparing for the course.

It would be helpful to create a timetable upon receiving your course outline. You will have to allocate time for attending online lectures (if there are any), reading course materials, participating in discussions on message boards and forums, reviewing before a test or exam and finally, for working on assignments. You will probably have to work on your course in chunks. At this point, having SMART goals can guide you in prioritizing on activities and allocating the proper amount of time.

Always be aware of upcoming tests and assignments. Remembering those important dates can be tricky since you are not in a classroom environment. An app might help you keep track of those important dates. Try out myhomeworkapp and inClass app which are both free and work on most devices.

2. Know what tools and materials are needed before the course begins.

Some distance learning courses may require you to download and install certain apps or tools on your computer to help you read or view learning materials. Read the course outline carefully for instructions. Should any issues arise, contact your instructor. You may also need to purchase reading materials. However, some may be optional. In this case, you might consider borrowing them from the library.

Read the course website thoroughly for the course description, learning goals, and other details. It is a good idea to set aside time before the course begins to prepare and make sure you have everything you need before starting your course.

3. Get to know your instructor and course mates.

Distance learning courses can seem isolating at times. You do not get to meet the people who are part of your course like you would in a conventional classroom. It takes a little more work to connect with others but it will be worth your time! Always remember that your instructor will be the go-to person for clarifying things or for questions you may have. Make note of the different ways your instructor can be contacted (read How to ask your online teacher for help for more tips).

If a discussion forum is available, participate and share your opinions or experiences relating to the course. You may post queries and also help others when they have questions about the course content. Being an active participant will keep you motivated and make the course less monotonous.

4. Keep track of your progress.

Make note of your progress as you receive grades for any tests or assignments. If you find yourself struggling with certain parts of the course, contact your instructor immediately. It would be useful to re-assess your SMART goals at the half-way point. Ask yourself if you are comfortable with the schedule you set up at the beginning of the course. See if you need to commit more time for studying. Review your goals and time commitments for the course and adjust as necessary.

5. Keep distractions to a minimum.

Part of the appeal of distance learning courses is the option to study from the comfort of one’s home. However, such comforts may be a huge distraction and can affect your ability to successfully complete the course. For some, television can pull them away from studying. For others, it could be surfing the internet (going on Facebook, YouTube, or reading unrelated materials online) or even their warm, comfy bed.

It is important to have a quiet and uncluttered spot for studying. It would be good if it is in a room with a door that you can close if in case you need privacy. Make sure that distractions are not easily accessible. The Pomodoro Technique might be helpful if you are having a problem managing your time and focusing on tasks at hand.

It might take a while to get used to distance learning but once you’ve successfully completed one course, you’ll be well-equipped for more!

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