Making the Most of Online Learning: Six Tips For Studying

By Ellie Walburg on May 1, 2019

"Online learning is not the next best thing, it is the now big thing." —Donna Abernathy

When was the last time you learned something by checking your phone or searching on the internet? Chances are, it was pretty recent.

Technology and the internet have dramatically changed the way we learn. Our news sources are no longer limited to primetime TV or the daily morning newspaper. Information, stories and knowledge are just a few clicks or taps away.

This heightened Digital Age has brought about a plethora of opportunities for us to work, interact and of course, learn. As a result, online learning, or eLearning, has grown in popularity for all ages—from elementary school to college.

The Growing Influence of Online Programs

Online courses and degree programs at colleges and universities have seen impressive growth over the years.

A study and article from Online Learning Survey by the Babson Survey Research Group found that this growth seems to be continuing. According to their findings, over 30% of students in higher education were taking at least one distance education course in 2016. They also found that institutions saw a 5.6% increase in the number of distance education students.

Co-Author of the Babson Survey and research director Julia Seaman describes this growth as "relentless." She states how distance enrollments "have gone up when the economy was expanding, when the economy was shrinking, when overall enrollments were growing and now when overall enrollments are shrinking." These results show the continued growth in online learning for the fourteenth straight year.

Online learning doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

But as anyone who has engaged in this impending trend knows, learning in an online classroom is different than in an on-campus classroom.

Check out this guide to help you determine which educational setting keeps you fits your learning style best.

Study Tips for Online Learning

Learning in an online setting has certain benefits and challenges when compared with on-campus learning. While a strong community can be experienced in both settings, the way you learn most effectively may look differently when your classroom is accessed through your laptop, desktop or smartphone.

To help you get the most out of your online classroom experience, here we share six study tips catered to your needs as an online student.

1. Make the Time

While time management is also an important skill for on-campus learning, it is absolutely essential in succeeding in an online program. Without that structured, in-person block of time each week to meet in class on-campus, you'll need to set up your own schedule to fit in your class and homework time.

Setting this time aside takes some discipline. You'll need to plan out time blocks in your schedule where you'll be solely focused on completing assignments and staying on course. Sticking to a weekly routine will help you get into the habit of dedicating time to furthering your education without feeling like you're scrambling to get things done or missing out on other opportunities. When you're schedule says "study time," pay attention and follow through.

Staying on track with this regular routine not only helps you plan out your week ahead but also allows your family to know when to expect when you'll be available or when you need to focus on studying.

In setting aside time for studying, be sure you allow yourself some wiggle room to accommodate for special circumstances. One of the greatest benefits of online learning is that it provides you greater flexibility with your schedule. Utilize that feature to stay on track, even when unexpected things arise during your week.

2. Create The Right Study Space

Adults studying at a table in an open cafe with windows

Since online degree programs allow you to study any time, anywhere, you have the freedom to create your own study space that’s conducive to your personality and needs as a student.

This designated study space looks different for everyone. Perhaps you can learn and focus best in a specific area of your house or apartment that's quiet, organized and allows you to focus on the task at hand. Maybe it's a coffee shop or a library where you can really zero in on your work and aren't easily distracted.

The ideal study space should be quiet, free from distractions and comfortable for you to spend time in. Keeping your space organized can also help you be most productive and thrive in your studying.

Don't have the room you're in too dark, or it might put extra strain on your eyes. Sit in a comfortable chair or try standing up at a desk for ergonomic workspaces that allow you to focus on your work and not be distracted by being sore or tired.

3. Ask For Help ... Right Away

Without that scheduled face-to-face interaction with your instructor found in an on-campus program, getting help on a project or assignment may at first appear more of a challenge. However, instructors are there to see you succeed. And especially in online degree programs where faculty are committed to equipping you for your goals, they're available to answer your questions. Whether via the online learning management system used, such as Moodle at Cornerstone University, through emails, phone calls or texts, your instructors want to help you thrive.

But particularly in an online environment, your instructor may not know you need help until you ask for it. That's why it's so important to connect with your instructor early to resolve a situation, rather than waiting until it's too late. Don't wait until the next assignment, unit or big project to address some topic, assignment or paper that's bothering you. Especially in degree programs taken one at a time for 5-8 weeks like at Cornerstone University, time is of the essence in getting the help you need.

4. Ensure Internet Access

Sign advertising free WiFi

A reliable internet connection is essential in a degree program that's online. Having spotty or inconsistent access may cause you frustration and waste your time. With resources and teachings like webinars and discussion boards found online, you'll need a connection to the internet in order to contribute to the conversation.

If you don't have access to a trustworthy internet source at your home, many coffee shops and libraries offer free and reliable WiFi access.

When it comes to technology requirements for thriving in your degree program, you'll also want to be sure you have the right tools in the first place. Such technology needs may include a laptop or other computer, earbuds for studying or listening to webinars and programs such as Microsoft Office (which you can get for free as a CU student).

5. Participate in Class

Interacting with your fellow classmates looks a little different in an online classroom than the face-to-face conversations and discussions in an on-campus classroom.

Just as participating in class is important for building community, it's also helpful in learning the most you can in an online classroom setting. When you participate in class discussions, you tend to be more able to learn more of the course material.

While it may be quicker to respond with a quick comment of "good thoughts" on your classmate's discussion post, take the time to read, reflect and respond as if you were sitting next to your classmate in an actual classroom. The results tend to be better discussions. By fully engaging in things like forum or discussion posts, you may even come across new insights that you had never thought of before.

6. Stay Focused On Your Goals

Person using a mouse pad on a laptop computer

When you don't meet face-to-face with your fellow cohort of students each week, you may need to rely on your own self-discipline more.

Why do you want to continue your education? Your answer to this question should be one to remember, especially when navigating challenges while pursuing your education. After a tiring day at work and you still have an assignment to complete, remember that promotion that's so close within your reach.

Keep that motivation in mind—whether it's a promotion, new career opportunity, family, lifelong dream—and persevere in excelling in your online degree program.

Thrive Online

The online classroom provides greater opportunities for you to learn wherever you are. With these six simple yet effective study tips, you can thrive in your online environment. Commit to achieving your goals on your educational journey and discover how you can take your learning online. Check out our online degrees from the associate to doctoral level to find what fits with your goals.

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Category: Academic Resources