The days when the only way of obtaining a degree was enrolling at the local college and attending face-to-face meetings with a tutor are long gone. Distance learning online, or eLearning, has become an increasingly popular way of gaining skills and acquiring a diploma all from the comfort of your home, café, or indeed desert island (so long as it has sufficient internet connection).
Data taken in recent years suggests that nearly a third of college students in the United States were enrolled in some form of distance learning.
It carries a number of benefits, not least being the greater flexibility that it allows, providing students with the chance to earn a degree, while at the same time balancing work and family commitments.
That being said, eLearning presents its own set of challenges, in particular, the idea that being left to your own devices without a rigid schedule can lead to falling short when it comes to getting the grade you want. Not being surrounded by fellow students or attending instructor-led classes in person can mean that the normal level of motivation, time management and self-discipline needed to successfully complete a course may be lacking.
To prevent that from happening and ultimately achieve the best possible results, here are some top tips on how to get the most from your eLearning course.
Choose the right course
Spending time selecting the course from which you will be able to derive the most benefit is significant not only for your future prospects but also with regards to how well you will do in it. Choosing a subject that you are not particularly interested in simply because you believe it will earn you more money when you get a job can lead to a lack of motivation and poor final grades.
Instead, opt for a program that excites you; after all, you will be dedicating a substantial amount of time reading, writing, and talking about it so it’s important that it already is of a certain interest to you.
Furthermore, choosing a course in which you will obtain transferable skills should be factored into the decision-making process as these are abilities that can be used across a broad range of different professions should your area of interest shift at all. Taking an online masters in early childhood education, for example, offers its students the opportunity to learn skills in leadership and research within pedagogical practises, which can both be applied to a variety of jobs.
Adopt the right attitude
Going into an eLearning course carrying the conviction that it will be in any way easier than a traditional degree program is to considerably underestimate the whole concept of online learning. Online courses may be more convenient, however they require the same level of commitment, application, engagement, self-discipline, and ability to submit work on time as any regular course.
Online courses still require a financial investment on your part, meaning they should be given the same value as a normal course of study if you are to yield the best results. Yet without a lecturer constantly reminding you of your responsibilities to get work done, online learning requires an independent and accountable attitude, as well as a belief in your ability to see tasks through to the end.
Find the right study space
Locating a quiet area where you can log in, get your head down and do some work, whether it’s at home, the local library, a cafe or a dedicated hotdesk, should be one of your main concerns when enrolling on an eLearning course.
With no designated lectures or tutorials, similar to being a freelancer it may seem to others as though you will always be available at the drop of a hat. Asking friends to respect working hours, which may include logging out of social media or even turning off your cell phone, are necessary measures for creating a productive study environment. If you are working on an Apple Mac computer, downloading the application Self Control is a great way of reducing the risk of over-procrastination as it allows you to blacklist certain websites that could cause a distraction, such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Finally, although it might seem like an obvious point, ensure that wherever you set up has access to a fast and reliable internet connection. There is nothing worse than trying to watch a lecture or speak over video call with a tutor, only for it to lag or cut out.
Organize a study plan
Creating a schedule for studying that fits around your day-to-day life is very important for a successful eLearning experience. You should work out how many hours a day you will be able to dedicate to studying, how often you will be away from your computer, and whether there is room for any unexpected delays.
Getting into a routine will allow you to stay more focused and get your work completed within the deadlines, keeping on top of all your other responsibilities and remaining organized. One of the key problems that face distance learners is the potential to get overwhelmed with work, and this mainly comes about as a result of a lack of an effective study plan.
Traditional courses involve a normal working-day time schedule that factors in breaks for lunch, the weekend and seasonal holidays. When you are studying independently, however, you may oversee the need to take regular breaks, leading to study burn out. This is where you work so hard for a sustained period of time that you reach a point in which even small tasks, like sending an email, can feel like an uphill struggle.
Scheduling in regular breaks, whether it involves a walk around the park, meeting up with a friend for coffee, heading to the gym or simply watching an episode of your favorite sitcom, is the best way to avoid study-induced burn out that can lead to disastrous consequences for your overall learning performance.