The appeal of online learning has grown in recent years, especially since the global pandemic of 2020. More and more people completed online courses for varying reasons – often due to having more free time away from work due to a change in conditions. Online learning has always been there and has appealed to people for years. The appeal of online courses and education is strongest in busy, working people who cannot afford the time or finances to attend a ‘regular’ school or college. Whilst very appealing, online courses do have their drawbacks. They are not directly separate from everyday life as they are often completed at home. People have reported moving house or applying for jobs whilst completing online courses. Not being able to split home life and learning can be problematic, lead to distractions, and to a lack of motivation to continue. Keeping motivated when there isn’t someone like a tutor or lecturer there in person can be extremely challenging. So, how can you stay motivated and complete your online learning program?
Set a schedule and stick to it
Obviously, completing an online course gives you the ability to be flexible in terms of when you study and for how long. A trap that people fall into is mistaking flexibility for not doing the work. Set a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. Yes, things happen in a busy home or at work, but you must make a schedule. This allows you to allocate time to work rather than grabbing a few minutes here and there. Displaying your schedule somewhere also helps in sticking to it. This can be a week-by-week schedule, but it is also worth planning ahead too. When is each piece of coursework due? Is there an exam to take by a certain time? Planning these into a schedule makes managing your time so much easier. It's also handy to set reminders with emails and alarms on your phone – just in case you forget!
Set up your base
You should have a designated space to complete your online learning where resources such as paper, pens, and books are readily available plus a space near a socket for your device. Having all these things in one place means less time-wasting and more time to focus. Also, think carefully about where this is going to be. In the same room as a TV isn’t ideal as this is a distraction.
‘People completing online courses often forget about the quality of lighting. Position yourself in good natural light in the daytime and have a good quality lamp for evenings and night-time,’ advises Rachel Wilson, a distance learning tutor at Academized.
There have got to be little wins during your study, not just the overall goal of passing the course. This could be years away and can seem a long way off for a long time. This could be completing a module and having a night out with some friends. Hand in two assignments and have a Netflix night. The reward and when you have them are up to you and give you something to work towards. Motivation is high when you have something that is achievable.
Have a break
This is so important. Often, people completing online courses stay chained to the laptop or computer for hours on end. Concentration starts to wander after 20-30 minutes which impacts your motivation to continue. Set regular breaks throughout your working time and you will be much more productive. If possible, leave the house and go for a short walk or sit in the garden. Fresh air refreshes your mind and makes you more productive once you start working again.
Link up with other students
Although you are working alone in your home, you are not alone on the course itself. Some courses offer a chatroom facility or have a closed access group on social media. It is important for your motivation to connect with other people on your course. Then you have someone else to chat to about the course and share ideas with. If possible, arrange face-to-face meetings at a café or other local venue. Creating a class environment whilst completing an online course isn’t easy, but it does keep you motivated. This could even tie in with a reward – after the first assignment arranges a day trip together.
Talk to your boss
A cause of stress during online courses is balancing work, home, and school. Traditionally, you would go to a physical school and not have a full-time job as well. After 26 weeks of employment, you are entitled to request flexible working hours.
‘Having a discussion with your boss around this could free up long periods of time to work on your course and complete it more quickly,’ says Liz Burt, an up-and-coming tutor at academized.com.
You would then be free to be fully focused on your job. Sacrificing time spent on something can be detrimental to motivation and lead to dropping out.
Set a goal
Obviously, you want to complete the course and pass with flying colors. But where is this goal recorded? Keeping it visual is a great motivator when things get tough. A reminder of why you are doing the course and what you will gain from it are powerful motivators. What the goal is, is down to you, but use it as a motivator to keep going and complete the course to the best of your ability.
Online courses offer a great deal of flexibility to people who have work commitments and family ties. It is important to stay focused and not become distracted by everyday happenings at home or at work. Being self-motivated can be very tough, especially over a course lasting longer than a year, but you must stay committed and use the hints in this article to make sure you complete the course to the best of your ability.