Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools, colleges, and universities have been thrust into online learning, having to scrap any face-to-face teaching to keep students and staff safe. Whether you’re preparing to start your adult educational studies, or are already in the middle of them, it can feel disconcerting to do your learning online rather than in person. But it’s not all bad – in fact, online learning can often be better than in-person learning. It may take some getting used to, but we’re certain after gaining some insight into the best ways to make the most out of online learning, you’ll find yourself not just improving academically, but enjoying learning too. And as homeschoolers, we already know a great deal about learning from home.
Before getting into the ins and outs of online learning, it’s worth mentioning that if you haven’t started your course, it may be better looking into an online degree. Often, organisations that offer online degrees have been doing so for a long time and have had the opportunity to structure their degree in a way that suits online environments best, as well as hone their degree to suit students best. You may have noticed that organisations that offer in-person learning, however, may have struggled with the switch to online, or may not have had the time to perfect their course in the best way for online delivery. Although this varies hugely between universities, it can often be better to opt for an online degree like this MSc management degree from Aston University, with the safety of knowing you’ll be getting something decent and worthwhile.
Some online degrees also offer flexibility in their structure, meaning you can work around your own life. If you’re doing an online degree, you may as well choose one that fits around you best – this way, you can continue with other commitments such as family, or pick up a side hobby or skill to improve your resume.
Get Familiar with the Virtual Learning Environment
When studying online, you’ll mostly find that the course requires you to access a virtual learning environment. This is where the staff running the course will post information on the course, modules, and classes, as well as assessments. You’ll also get updates on your course, and may even do part of your studying here, whether that means using it to attend lectures, or participating in groups to discuss or roleplay. It’s safe to say that whatever virtual learning environment you use will be the heart of your studying, and so getting familiar with it is essential.
The easiest way to do this is to explore. Don’t be afraid to click buttons, make notes on how to get into certain folders or groups, interact with different areas and find out where you need to be if you’re looking for something specific, such as assignment guidelines. If you still feel uncertain, it’s worth searching online for an easy guide to your specific virtual learning environment – for example, it’s easy to find information for sites such as Blackboard, which often have many detailed tutorials on how to navigate them successfully.
Create a Focus Space for Studying
Online learning has many advantages – no early mornings, ease of access, everything at your fingertips – but it has its disadvantages. Although being at home is what makes it so appealing, this can also hinder your learning. Home is full of distractions and it can feel much easier to slip away from your laptop screen whilst lying in bed than it would in a lecture theatre. So, you need to make sure you encourage full focus at all times, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to create a focus space.
A focus space is essentially an area of the house where you only study – you do not eat, sleep, play, chat, or do anything other than work here. This readies your mind for learning and gets you in the zone for efficient studying without the possibility of being distracted. Ideally, you want to use another room, but if you don’t have the facilities to do that, then simply turn a desk to face a wall, set up your workspace in a clean, tidy way, and finally, grab a lamp. When you’re learning, turn the lamp on, and when you’re stopping, turn it off. It sounds simple, but it’s an incredibly effective way to tell your mind that now is the time for focus.
Make a Plan
Plans are the easiest way to maximise your time and help you structure things – both with online learning and in general. It’s possible your course already has set times for lectures and interactive groups – and that’s great! But it’s also possible that your course has videos or activities you need to do during the week, but not at a specific time. Especially if the deadline is far away (for example, a lecture per week for a final exam in 12 weeks), it can be easy to tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow, or next week, or closer to the time. But the closer you get to the deadline, the more work can pile up, and the more difficulties you can face getting your work organised.
So, make a plan! Try to plan your days out, including times for studying, times for when you’ll do work in your own time, and importantly, time for rest breaks. It’s been said many times but staring at a screen all day can actually damage your health, whether it’s weakening your eyes, or hurting your back. Make time to stretch and interact with the world outside of the screen – go for a walk, get some fresh air, and enjoy your free time. This will not only keep you healthy but will put you in a better mood to study when you need to. If you’re unsure how to start, here’s a simple guide on how to create a weekly plan.
With a little preparation, you’ll find that online learning can be one of the best ways to maximise your learning and help you achieve your goals, both short-term and long-term.