If you’re an online student struggling to keep up with your studies and incorporate a college-level workload into the busy schedule of day-to-day life, you’re not alone.
Time, however, may not be the issue troubling you as much as your study habits.
In a study conducted by Public Agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers asked a sample group comprised of students who left college and others who graduated whether it would help to “make sure students learn good study habits in high school so they’re prepared for college work.”
Of those who didn’t graduate, 73% said it would help a lot, while 79% of the graduates agreed.
Many college administrators and faculty members agree that students taking courses online need to be more disciplined than their peers in traditional classroom settings in order to be successful.
With that in mind, here are some techniques and strategies to help you study more effectively and keep your online journey to a degree on track.
Schedule Your Study Time
To ensure you’re absorbing the information you need to learn, it’s important to carve out time in your schedule that is regularly dedicated to your coursework, much the way you would do if enrolled in a class on campus.
As an online student, you might be tempted to cram all of your studying into just a few sessions. But you may be much more productive and learn more efficiently by spacing the material out over several shorter periods of study. This requires planning times when you’re going to study and sticking to them. Successful students do not study on a whim; they adhere to a well-organized schedule.
Find a Good Place to Study and Bring Your Stuff
Everything has its place. Trying to study in a place that is too loud or distracting is like trying to do yoga in a crowded train car. Though coffee shops and cafes seem like nice places to sit down with a favorite beverage and your laptop, the amount of human traffic and an unreliable Internet connection can be distracting if you’re attempting to absorb information.
Find a location that is quiet, free of TV screens, family members or friends and bring just what you need to study. You don’t want to be running back and forth between your home and study location to grab a paper or book you forgot, and you don’t want to bring things that distract you. Honestly assess your need to use a computer while you study. If you don’t need your computer, use a pen and pad instead. They are much less likely to distract you from your overall goal.
Figure Out Your Own Study System
Converting words on a page into knowledge requires patience and technique as you figure out what study system works best for you.
Some students prefer to tackle the most difficult subject first. Once the hard work is out of the way, the rest won’t seem so taxing and you may see improved effectiveness from your study sessions. If you’re studying for long stretches, include a number of breaks for yourself to step away. John M. Grohol, PsyD, wrote in PsychCentral.com that sitting in constant study for hours on end is often less effective than allowing yourself a chance to rest for a moment.
When you take notes, make sure they’re in your own words and organized in a way that you prefer. Cognitive psychologists refer to the uniqueness in how each person puts thoughts and words together as “chunking,” according to Grohol. Chunking things together in your own way can help students remember important parts of lectures and reading. Some students also use flash cards, past exams or quizzes to prepare for tests. This can be done in groups or individually.
A research report in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest found that asking “Why?” questions to make sense of topics, known as “elaborative interrogation,” was an effective way to study. Also effective was self-explanation, in which you explain to yourself what the subject matter means.
Getting into a Studying Mindset
Your attitude and enthusiasm will be major factors in the success of your study sessions. As much as any strategy or technique you can employ, your frame of mind can help you study in a smarter and more efficient way. If you’re having problems at home or work, your ability to study effectively will likely be diminished.
According to Grohol, when it comes to your studying mindset there are a few important things to remember:
- Do not compare yourself to other students and the pace at which they complete assignments.
- Think positively about your skills when you study.
- Refrain from catastrophic thinking, such as, “I’ll never have the time to study for this.”
With a positive approach to studying, the right setting, the proper materials and a few helpful techniques to help you get the best from yourself, you may find that your path to a college degree is a lot easier to navigate.