Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Study Tips for Online Learning

Top 4 Study Tips for Distance Learners and Students Taking Online Courses

by Carson Kelly, a freelance writer and advocate of online learning. 

Online degree programs and distance learning offer a wealth of advantages – they provide a convenient way to obtain a quality education while maintaining a full-time job, they position you for job advancement and they enable you to complete your courses anytime and anywhere. However, since you won't be meeting for scheduled classes on campus each day or week, you need to have good study habits to stay on track and avoid falling behind. By following four simple study tips, you can be on your way to the successful completion of your online classes.

1. Create an Optimal Study Environment
Some students are easily distracted and need complete silence, while others find the stimulation of a lively environment conducive to creative thinking. Identify what setting works best for you when you're viewing lectures, working on assignments and taking tests for your online classes. Regardless of where you choose to study, it's important to have a comfortable workspace and proper lighting. Since you'll be spending a lot of time in front of a computer, you may find it helpful to get up from time to time to take a break and stretch your legs.

If you're working at home, be sure to let your roommates, friends or family know that you have a regularly scheduled study time. Ask them to avoid unnecessary interruptions, and tell them you won't be taking phone calls. It's important to set boundaries if you expect to succeed with distance learning and stay on top of your coursework. If there are too many disruptions at home, consider going to your local library or coffee shop. Make sure you find a quiet, out-of-the-way spot, and resist the temptation to chat with other patrons.

2. Plan Your Time Wisely
Time management can be one of the most difficult aspects of taking online courses. Some days, you may be too tired after work to focus on your studies; other days, you may be tempted to go out with friends or feel compelled to take care of housework. If you're not careful, you can quickly fall behind in your online classes.

At the beginning of the week, review the lectures, assignments and exams you'll need to complete, and set aside a specific block of time each day to accomplish the work. Just as you take a shower and brush your teeth each day, you need to make studying for your online courses a daily habit. You likely chose web-based classes because you have a busy schedule, and it's easy to get distracted with other obligations. Learning to effectively manage your time is a major factor in the successful completion of your online education.

3. Connect With Other Students in Your Online Courses
No one works well in a vacuum, and that's especially true for learning online. Just because you're not attending classes in a group setting doesn't mean you have to work alone. The best online degree programs will offer multiple ways to communicate with your classmates, such as message boards, online chat rooms and email. These online forums offer a great way to share ideas, get answers to your questions and make new friendships with students who share similar interests.

In addition to one-on-one conversations, take advantage of virtual study groups for each of your classes online. Participating in group discussions can enhance your team-building skills and provide new perspectives on the class subject matter.

4. Establish a Dialog With Your Distance Learning Instructor
Just as it's important to create connections with your fellow classmates, you should establish ongoing communication your online instructors. Your professors are more than just lecturers; they are an important resource in helping you to get the most out of your online education. You can start the dialog by asking questions. Whether you'd like clarification on a simple issue or help understanding a complex topic, your instructors want to know how they can help you and what you think of their online coursework. Your fellow classmates are likely to have the same questions as you, so you can also help others by taking the initiative to ask questions.

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