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Tips for studying online: Overcoming the challenges of studying from home

If you’ve decided to study online then the likelihood is you’ve already weighed up the positives and negatives compared with those of traditional studying. 

An online course allows you to set your own schedule, work at your own pace, and study from wherever you are in the world. But online study comes with its own set of challenges and if you want to be successful in your chosen course then you will have to set yourself boundaries, limits and goals.

Overcoming these challenges is key to the outcome of your studies, and in this article we will explore the challenges that are specific to online education, providing  our tips for studying to help you overcome them.

What are the challenges of online learning?

While all forms of education have their challenges, they tend to vary across subjects, formats, and geographies.. Being aware of these challenges before starting your course will help you apply the different tips for studying that you will need in order to succeed.

The challenges of online learning include: 

  1. Adapting from traditional learning methods

Switching from the traditional classroom to computer-based studying completely changes the learning experience . While passive listening and note-taking are expected in a traditional classroom, in the online learning environment webinars and discussions must be used more actively as a part of the learning process. Students with a traditional mindset will find it challenging to adapt. However, they need to embrace the new learning circumstances with an open mind. Understanding the benefits of online learning and even discussing them with their peers may help to change this mindset and better prepare them for online study.

  1. Technical issues

Many students find that they don’t necessarily have the strength of internet connection that many online courses require, and thus struggle to keep up with their virtual classmates. Some students may not have a personal computer, or might rely on one that is in need of an update. This isn’t necessarily an obstacle to studying online, but it can present challenges along the way. 

  1. Computer literacy

Although students are generally understood to be tech savvy, and thus able to work well with computers, a lack of computer literacy is a major challenge among students choosing to study online today. Many cannot operate basic programs such as Microsoft Office and therefore are not able to manage the filing of their work effectively. Furthermore, many students find fixing basic computer problems troublesome, as they have no subject-matter expertise in this area. However, a basic level of technical proficiency is a must-have for following online courses, as it enables students to manage their assignments and essays, lectures and workshops, in an organised manner.

  1. Time management

Time management can be a difficult task for online learners, as online courses require a reasonable amount of time and often an intensive workload. Furthermore, a broader range of students choose web-based learning for its flexibility, meaning that many will need to balance studying with other commitments such as work or family. 

  1. Self-motivation

Self-motivation in online study is an essential requirement; however, many online learners struggle with this, much to their surprise. After enrolling in distance learning courses, many learners fall behind. Students need to dig deep to find the motivation to keep up with new educational trends and ensure that they equip themselves for future challenges in their education and careers. 

  1. Community

The Internet can sometimes seem like a sociable place, and it’s true that when we’re online we’re communicating constantly with friends and family. Still, it can’t be denied that it can be  lonely to sit alone at a computer all day. Isolation can be one of the biggest challenges in online learning, with students feeling the absence of a community of peers that traditional education offers in spades.This can affect motivation and lead to  feelings of loneliness and a sense of missing out. 

Overcoming the challenges: Our tips for studying online

Before we look at our tips for studying online, it’s important to identify a couple of key essentials for studying online. 

Firstly, you need to have a genuine interest in your chosen subject, otherwise you won’t begin with the necessary motivation to complete the course. 

Secondly, you need to familiarise, or re-familiarise, yourself with the process of learning, and taking online aptitude tests can help you to determine what type of learner you are. Do you learn visually? Through experience? It is important to understand this before you embark on your chosen course.

With this in mind, let's take a look at our tips for overcoming the challenges of studying online.

  • Understand online learning practices and expectations

Treat an online course as if you were studying with your lecturer in the room, maintaining the same attitude to your studies all the way through. Identifying your end goal is key, this way you can maintain focus and manage your expectations throughout your course. Be sure to write down your goals and check in with them throughout the course, making sure that you stay on track and make progress.

  • Identify the course technical requirements

 In most cases, having a relatively basic computer with a reasonable internet connection will be enough. However, some courses may require additional hardware or software, such as virtual learning environments, so it is important to understand the technical requirements of your course before you start. If you start the course without the correct equipment, you could quickly find yourself falling behind. Take into consideration what technical support is available from each institution when exploring which courses to enrol in.

  • Reliable internet access

As previously mentioned, if your internet connection isn’t reliable, you might suffer delays during your studies, potentially wasting your time and resources. Online courses often make use of live webinars, if your internet goes down during something like this, you will miss out from the live interaction with lecturers and other students. Try identifying an alternative internet connection to your home WiFi, such as tethering to a mobile hotspot, in case you have problems. Internet cafes, coffee shops and libraries often have free WiFi, too.

  •  Establish a study space

Having a comfortable and dedicated space to study is important. Some things to consider when creating this area are: light, ambiance, what distractions are around, comfort, and access to additional needs such as refreshments. Additionally, you should consider what time of day you devote to your studies, as this will also impact where to choose to have your learning environment.

  • Create a study plan

If you write a study plan at the beginning of the course, then you are more likely to focus. When writing your plan, be sure to leave some contingency should any interruptions arise, use a calendar, and try and get into a particular study routine. It is also important to schedule regular screen breaks, as this can cause headaches and fatigue. Write detailed to-do lists for each day, topic or assignment, while also setting yourself time limits for your study. This will increase your productivity and efficiency. Be sure to set what works for you and not others.

Here are some other tips: 

  • Be sure to ask for help when you need it.

  • Participate in your course with your peers 

  • Revisit your goals in order to stay motivated and focused

  • Reward yourself for sticking to your daily plans - an incentive to complete a task is never a bad thing.

Online learning has grown exponentially in the last decade and will likely continue to follow a similar trajectory. Millions of people have enrolled in online courses and, whilst drop-out rates of online courses are far lower than traditional education, many have still failed to complete their studies by neglecting to anticipate what studying online would require. The online course you choose will likely throw up all the challenges we’ve talked about in this article, and more. Make sure you get ahead in preparing for your chosen course by following our tips for studying to help you anticipate and overcome these challenges.

Visit our website to learn more about our range of pre-university and pre-masters courses today.

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