Getting the most from online study

Posted in: University Life

Almost all students are likely to experience online learning to some degree this year. The reasons for this are well known. The less well-known element will be for how long this situation will last. Whatever the answer to that question is, it makes sense to develop your own approach to learning remotely, so you get the most from it and maximise the opportunities that it offers.

Many students will have had some experience of learning in this way, either while at University or in other learning environments. The challenge now will be adapting to it in a larger scale and for a longer period.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is one of acceptance and attitude…how do you feel about it? If you are feeling negative then it will be harder to embrace it and get the most from it. This is not a switch that can be flicked on and off, but mindset will be very important as you will need to keep yourself going on occasions. Easy to say though isn’t it? What is the best way for you to manage your situation and enjoy your learning?

We have some general tips that might help. Firstly, do some research:

  • Talk to others about their experiences – they will give you invaluable tips and help
  • Look for guidance online – unsurprisingly this is a hot topic online (this blog piece is a good example of that!)
  • See how it works for others and make a judgement – remember not everything will work for you, finding your own way of working will be important

Once learning is underway (as it no doubt is now) there are some things you can do to maximise your learning experience:

  • Routine – being able to work to a plan helps you to not only manage time wisely (so you don’t miss deadlines) but also helps you balance study against other activities in your life. The temptation to leave things to the last minute is in all of us and with recorded lectures, the appeal is even greater. Without having to work to a set timetable the potential to mismanage time increases, which increases pressure. Treat the online timetable just as you would any other and stick to it.
  • Technology – getting yourself set up with the right technology will help a lot. That means a laptop, headphones, the right software, apps and so on, the smoother you can make the learning process by solving technical difficulties, the better.
  • Workspace – find a place that works for you for both taking part in online lecturers and for completing work and assignments. These may not be the same space; the key is to find places that work for you.
  • Take breaks – as you would with face to face learning when you move around between lectures or seminars, so you should make sure you have breaks and take exercise when learning remotely.
  • Set goals – this is something that works well whatever the learning situation. The setting of short and longer term goals related to the completion of work will help to keep you on track and create a sense of achievement as goals are ticked off.
  • Use the materials that have been provided. Your lecturers will provide plenty of material and reading to supplement their lectures and seminars. Sometimes this can seem a bit overwhelming, but it is provided to widen your learning and reference.
  • It follows that a dialogue with your lecturer is an important aspect of remote, or blended, learning. It is an essential way for you to lessen the feeling of remoteness and connect with your subject, the material and the tasks that you have been set.

Learning is an individual process, what works for you won’t necessarily work for others.  Online teaching accentuates the singular nature of learning and probably means that finding your own way to work is even more important.

If you do find it difficult getting on with remote learning don’t forget to talk to your University and Student Union as they will be able to provide help and guidance, when you need it.

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

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