15 tips for studying online during distance learning

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Online learning has become increasingly popular, with many students opting to study virtually instead of in person. Online classes present a different set of challenges, such as distractions from social media, which make it difficult to succeed. If you're taking an online course or are considering one, knowing how to navigate these challenges helps you succeed. In this article, we discuss 15 tips for studying online that ensure you get the most out of your virtual learning experience.

15 tips for studying online

Tips for studying online are valuable pieces of information and advice that help students thrive when taking online courses. These tips give you insight into ideal practices and unique habits that support online learning, ensuring your success. Here are 15 tips that can help you study online effectively:

1. Keep an open mind

Although online learning has the same basic elements as face-to-face learning, it can feel different for first-timers. Being open-minded helps inspire a more optimistic and positive attitude towards it, increasing your chances of success. Learners who approach online learning with a fresh and open mind are more likely to enjoy the experience and learn new things than those who don't.

2. Create space to learn

One of the biggest challenges of distance learning is distractions from your environment and surroundings. This can be anything from digital devices to people interruptions. It's vital to create a safe and productive space to learn to eliminate these distractions. Ensure your designated study space is private, quiet, organised and comfortable. Keep the room well ventilated and lit to help your mind focus. Have enough space to house all your online learning materials to avoid constantly getting up to get equipment.

Related: 13 essential work from home tips

3. Get all your learning equipment

Like in-person learning, online classes make use of certain materials, resources and equipment to facilitate the learning process. This includes stable Wi-Fi, computer/laptop, microphone, headphones, comfortable chair, bookshelves and a proper study desk. Assess what equipment and resources you require to take your online course effectively and purchase them in advance. Ensure the seat you choose offers good lumbar and neck support for extended hours of seating. Be sure also to pick an ideal size for your study desk to accommodate all your learning materials, from books to pens.

4. Don't be afraid to learn in different locations

While it's vital to have a designated study space, don't shy away from learning in a different location. Some areas, such as a library, can aid learning and memory, helping you become more productive. Simply find an environment that's quiet and distraction-free and take your online course. Remember, everyone has different learning habits and what works for you may not work for another. So, go for whatever approach or location makes your mind more productive.

5. Set boundaries

Make sure you set clear boundaries with family, friends and roommates regarding distance learning. This way, you stay focused on the task at hand and minimise interruptions. Inform your family members and friends when you take your online classes and what you expect from them. Some of the ground rules to set include:

  • keeping noise to a minimum

  • being considerate about TV and music during study hours

  • nnot taking anything from the study room without permission

6. Manage time effectively

Staying on track with your online classes can be difficult due to the numerous distractions in everyday life. Take time to plan your online lessons and map out key due dates to stay on top of tasks and assignments. Analyse your online courses and block out study time for each syllabus on a physical or digital planner. This way, you know what you're required to study and when.

7. Create a routine

If you're having a hard time focusing on your online studies, you may want to create a routine. A consistent routine helps you stay focused and on track. It also creates structure and keeps you organised, ensuring you know what to do every day, reducing stress and anxiety. Schedule times for online classes, breaks, self-care, meals, social phone calls, sleep and even exercise. Keep your routine as realistic as possible to make it easier for you to follow a specific pattern of activities every day.

Related: How to create a positive morning routine: tips and examples

8. Actively engage with course materials

Just as with in-person learning, take time to revise course materials and reflect on whether you have understood concepts. Test your understanding by trying to remember what's taught during online sessions and recap the information. You could also take quizzes or tests online to aid retrieval and memory. During classes, participate in discussions and ask questions to actively engage with course materials. If possible, try reaching out to other students in your class and set up study groups to discuss syllabuses.

Related: Can you go to uni without A-Levels? (including FAQs)

9. Get to know your professors

Successful online students take time to interact and connect with their professors. While you may not see or speak with them face to face, try getting to know them online to build positive and long-lasting relationships. Send an introductory email to your lecturer or professor at the beginning of the semester to establish a rapport. Keep the interaction consistent by asking questions that come up throughout the course. You could also ask for guidance and advice with your career and professional future.

10. Improve online communication skills

Online etiquette is appropriate communication, respect and behaviour in a virtual environment. It ensures you're able to communicate efficiently with others and get ideas across easily. It also ensures you're respectful and positive in class discussions, group projects, course messaging forums and group projects. You can improve your online communication skills by:

  • avoiding grammatical errors and typos

  • being clear and concise

  • avoiding sarcasm

  • not using slang

  • respecting other people's opinions and points of view

  • fact-check your responses and being credible

Related: Why is communication important (and how to improve it)

11. Familiarise yourself with technology

Online learning relies heavily on technology, making it crucial for students to familiarise themselves with it. Learn how to navigate your online classroom and become proficient in using basic software. Locate each item on the learning portal at the beginning of the semester, including course information, overview, dashboard, discussion forums and grades. You don't want a lack of technological understanding to lead to a missed assignment or a frustrating online experience. Being familiar with your online class software makes for a seamless virtual learning experience.

Related: 14 different technology skills and why they're important

12. Have a backup plan for technology mishaps

Technology is highly durable but not indestructible, meaning it can fail unexpectedly and leave you stranded. An easy way to minimise this challenge is to have a backup plan. Since troubleshooting may take additional time, plan ahead and start your assignments early in case you run into unexpected difficulties. Back up all your course materials, content and projects to ensure you still have access to them when your computer/laptop breaks down. It also helps to have someone in your life who's familiar with tech equipment to help with technical troubleshooting.

13. Be disciplined

Achieving self-discipline with online learning can be difficult. There's no one to physically instruct you, guide you and hold you accountable, so it's easy to miss or skip classes without facing any instant repercussions. Try to enforce a set of rules and guidelines that instil obedience. Start by creating new habits and rituals you follow. For instance, you can try to make discussion posts every Monday afternoon, online quizzes on Fridays and group meetings every Wednesday. Setting clear goals and having viable execution plans can also help you become more disciplined with your online studies.

Related: How to be self-motivated (with steps, tips and an example)

14. Determine your distinct learning style

Everyone learns differently, and identifying your unique learning style can help make you a successful online student. Determine what learning category you fall into, whether that's learning using pictures and images, learning through speech or learning independently. Discover what time of day you study better, how long you concentrate on a task and what motivates you to finish a task. Then, curate an online study plan that conforms to your learning style. For example, if you're a morning person, block out study time from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

15. Take regular breaks

Simply because you're not in the traditional learning environment doesn't mean you don't need breaks. Breaks give your brain and body time to unwind and recharge, ensuring you're able to keep going. Regular breaks also improve your focus, guaranteeing long-term academic performance and achievement. Consider taking frequent rest periods and even rest days in between studies to relax, store information and make sense of new information.

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