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Online learning: An international students’ guide

With the rise of our global culture and interconnected world, international borders are becoming less and less defined - at least online. That's good news for students, and especially those whose chosen college or university is far away. 

Learning abroad can be an eye-opening experience that can provide you with an excellent education and broaden your horizons. But the time, expense, and difficulty involved in leaving family and friends behind to do so can make it prohibitive. 

Online courses can help remove these factors and allow students to gain many of the benefits of international study without even leaving the comfort of home.

For those who are interested in studying online as an international student, in this article we will consider the benefits and challenges of online study, as well as providing tips on how to get the most out of it.

What are the benefits of studying online?

Studying online has enormous benefits, as shown by the number of students now choosing to study this way. Here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Flexibility 

For the most part, online courses allow students to access material when it is convenient for them. Some courses may require students to be online at certain hours, but this is quite rare, and often is prearranged and agreed to ensure convenience for students in multiple time zones. 

While there will be deadlines for assignments and essays, the flexibility allows you to fit your study around the other aspects of life. The flexibility of online study also allows students to benefit from an international learning environment with tutors and students from different parts of the world, as long as you have internet access.

  1. Access and availability

The number of online courses is growing by the day, with everything from basic language courses to postgraduate degrees. This means that you can find the course that best fits you. Also, with the nature of the online content, you have access to it whenever you need it rather than relying on lecture notes.

  1. Cost

A key benefit of studying online is the reduction in costs. We all know that education can be very expensive, and the tuition costs for online courses tend to be lower than traditional programmes. You also save money on living or commuting costs.

  1. Networking Opportunities

Online study can also provide students with an excellent chance to network with people from all around the world. This brings a breadth of views and experiences, as well as providing the opportunity for collaboration with other individuals on future projects.

  1. Increased tutor to student time

Class sizes and limited contact time means that students in traditional learning environments often lose out on individual attention from tutors. This is less likely to be the case with online study, because online guided discussions and personal contact time with tutors and lecturers is a hallmark and a key benefit of many online learning providers.

  1. Access to expertise

The accessibility of studying at bricks-and-mortar institutions can be challenging for some students, especially those living in more remote parts of the world. Therefore, studying online has the potential to give students access to specialised courses or degrees that may not be as easily accessible. Online study allows the sharing of expertise that helps more people have access to education that is not necessarily available in all locations.

What are the challenges of studying online?

As with any education, studying online has its challenges as well as its benefits. Here are some things to consider when choosing to study online:

  1. Technology requirements

Your learning experience may be limited by your access to technology. Not everyone owns a computer, or has the latest software. Most online courses will clearly state their technical requirements so you can guarantee you will experience the full experience the course can offer. It will also be important to have a reliable internet connection, as this impacts your ability to access classes and course content, and to submit your assignments.

  1. Social interaction

Studying online also doesn’t necessarily allow for the same levels of social interaction as physical study. While peer to peer study is common when studying online, and course providers will do their best to facilitate social engagement as a part of your programme, it doesn’t allow for some of the typical extracurricular socialising that is synonymous with university, for example. 

  1. Time management

You will need to practice time management. Although online study allows great flexibility, it can lead to procrastination, not giving the ‘push’ students might need to get work done.

  1. Self motivation

This is an online study essential. Students need to maintain the motivation to follow their new programme of study and properly prepare themselves mentally for the rigours of studying online.

  1. Financial aid

While cheaper than a bricks-and-mortar institution, online study still represents a cost - and in some cases can be very expensive. Certain course providers will offer scholarships for students with an excellent academic background, but not all online courses provide forms of financial aid. If you need help with the cost of tuition then be sure to research courses carefully and contact course providers for scholarship details.

How to get the most out of studying online

If you have weighed up the benefits and challenges of online study, and come to the conclusion that it is for you, you might be wondering how to get the most out of it. Here are our top tips on how to get the most out of studying online:

  1. Understand online study expectations

To successfully learn online you need to dedicate a significant amount of time to it, consistently attending the course or accessing the content, and being focused while studying, fully committed to the process.

  1. Have a dedicated study space

Wherever you decide to study, ensure that this place is quiet, organised, free from distractions and available for use at any time. This should be one of your main priorities when you are an online learner, to make sure it supports your study routine.

  1. Identify your learning objectives and goals

To stay on track with your online learning, always keep in mind what you hope to accomplish by the end of it. The objectives and goals can be an excellent map during the process, so make sure you read your course requirements carefully and make sure you are referring to them every time you start an assignment, so that you stay focused on your goals.

  1. Build a study plan

Building a study plan is critical to your online study, there are a few building blocks to do this.

  • Plan ahead

  • Have an effective calendar system

  • Create to-do lists

  • Set time limits for tasks

  • Stay on schedule

  1. Ask for help when you need it

If you don’t ask for help when you need it, you may end up falling behind with your course. Build relationships with your online tutors and contact them regularly, and inform them of where you could use extra help.

  1. Take regular study breaks

Try to avoid getting tired or frustrated while studying. Plan personal time into your study routine and you will be able to work more effectively towards your course goals.

Studying online: a complement rather than a substitute for traditional education

Whilst the positive aspects of studying online don’t necessarily outweigh the benefits of traditional education methods, in many cases they can be complementary and can support students whose ambition is to study at bricks-and-mortar institutions further down the line. The benefits do, however, certainly outweigh the challenges that come with studying online, and we hope that you found these tips helpful in overcoming these hurdles.

Studying online is also a question of the individual’s lifestyle, the responsibilities they have, and the aspects of life that they are trying to work around. This is where studying online can really come into its own, and give people the ability to learn when they might not have previously been able to.

As with all education, the decision to study online is very much an individual one, and therefore  it is worth doing the research yourself, finding the right institution and course for you.

For more information on the range of online courses we provide, please contact us today.

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