We live in a time where the opportunity to learn is abundant. Never, in human history, have we had access to the sheer amount of information than we do today. Whilst traditional education still holds the reins, online learning has been gaining momentum over the last few years, increasing in both popularity and reputation. It is without a doubt that for the new generation of learners, online learning will become an integrated, if not necessary, part of their educational advancements. With that being said, online education does hold its own set of problems. In comparison to traditional education, where learning is confined by the 4 walls of a classroom or lecture hall, online learning holds no physical boundaries. Whilst there are many benefits to that, if not careful, online learning can fall flat on its face. In other words, whilst online learning caters towards the conveniences that new age learners are seeking, it also brings about a lot of disadvantages when not taken seriously. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the steps one must take to be able to truly be successful in online learning.

Obstacles with Online Learning

Here are some of the common tendencies:

  • Low course completion rate
  • Learning too much in one go (and forgetting it straight after)
  • No institutional consequences when distracted or losing focus
  • No teacher or guide is able to reprimand them from being distracted
  • No cost to students equals no pressure
  • Usually, tasks are without deadlines
  • Freedom with time management (no set structure)
  • Hard to maintain focus

Two Kinds of Learners

There are two kinds of learners. One is the motivated learner, the other is the obliged learner.

The Motivated Learner

The motivated learner is learning not because they have to, but because they want to. They are actively choosing to learn as they are able to recognize the benefits they gain from it. In other words, the motivated learner can clearly see the end goal and they align their actions accordingly. The feel eager to learn, knowing that each study session brings them that much closer to achieving their goal.

The Obliged Learner

On the other hand, there is the obliged learner. As the name suggests, the obliged learner learns simply because they are obligated to. They fail to recognize the benefits and new opportunities they will receive through their learning, and so learning becomes a tiresome chore. Because they aren’t committed or motivated to learn, they make less of an effort with their education. They may only learn on the odd occasion, thus forgetting what they’ve previously learnt or they simply won’t take in what they are learning. Not only is the obliged learner missing out on the valuable opportunity to improve themselves and perhaps their career, it is also self-destructive behavior. They are wasting their time. In fact, they are better off not learning at all (and doing more productive things with their time) then kidding themselves by being the obliged learner, who receives 1/10 of the value that course offers.

If you want to get the most productivity with your online studies, be the motivated learner. There can only be one of two end results: it’s either you’ve progressed in your learning or you’ve ended up wasting a lot of your time and not learning at all.

Tips for Taking Online Study Seriously 

#1 Remember Your Goal

Before anything else, it’s always best to get back to the basics. Align yourself with your motive, your compelling reason for wanting to achieve this goal. Visualize yourself having attained your goal and reflect on what it is that’s you’re going to get from it, or what opportunities open up to you by completing this goal. This will set your perspective and enable you to make the right decision before you start your day.

#2 Make a Decision

Everything we do is out of the decisions we make. Whilst we have no control over our circumstances at birth, what we decide to do, who we decide to become and what we decide to achieve is entirely up to us from thereafter. Now that’s pretty daunting but it’s also pretty exciting. You need to make the decision to take your online study seriously. Write down your compelling reasons if you will. Make the decision and stick with it.

#3 Treat it as Full Time Work

If you want to maximize the benefits of online study, don’t be half-arsed about it. Your results reflect the amount of effort you put in. If you put in 50%, you’re gonna only get 50% of the results you want. You’re wasting your time. Remember that the things in life that truly matter are never easy or simple, if they were, then everyone would be achieving them. Be that 1% of people who truly do what they say they’re going to do. If it really matters, you’ll find the time, you’ll find the means to achieve that goal. Treat it as if it’s a full-time work that you can’t say no to or make a secondary priority.

#4 Manage Your Time Well

Time management is everything. The better you do at this the more you will accomplish. Even the most self-motivated, determined individual won’t get very far without good time management. It’s about making time each day for your study. Set yourself small bite-size and manageable goals in alignment with your main goal. Give yourself a deadline for achieving each mini-goal. Consistency is also key. Provide yourself with a structure, just like with school timetables, considering how long for and at what time. Whilst it may be hard to follow at first, soon it becomes a habit and making time to study daily becomes second nature.

#5 Do Not Multi-task

No matter what you’ve heard, the fact is, humans are not good at multi-tasking. We can’t effectively focus on more than one thing at a time. And that especially goes for learning. Again, there’s no point half-arsed trying to study, you either focus all your attention and effort on it or don’t bother at all. Listening to an online video or lecture whilst multitasking leads it going through one ear and out the other.

#6 Focus Focus Focus

This one’s plain and simple but oh so hard to do. Remove all distractions. Make that call you need to make, check your email, send that text and turn your phone off or onto silent mode. If you’re hungry, eat something and make sure you’re hydrated before starting. If you think you’ll be peckish, keep some snacks and a water bottle next to your desk. These are all seemingly obvious things, but you’d be surprised how many people fall prey to distractions so easily.

#7 Take Breaks

Whilst removing distractions is absolutely crucial to maximizing work-flow, taking breaks is equally as important. Your brain can only stay focused on one thing for so long and it’s useful to test what learning style suits you best. For some, taking a 5-minute break every half an hour helps them retain focus. For others, they like to work for a little longer and take breaks every hour or so. Either way, don’t get sucked into the zombie-state of not leaving your chair. Stand up and walk around a bit. Focus your eyes on something other than your screen, do some stretches, get a glass a water, jam out to a song or stroke your pet. Get something that will refresh you. Feel like exercising, go ahead and do it. Just make sure you don’t overdo it to avoid feeling too drained to get back to work.

#8 Take Notes

Heard of the 80/20 rule? It applies to many things in life, and learning is no exception. No matter how intelligent you think you may be, you only on average retain 20% of newly acquired information. Before you get disheartened, it’s also proven that by simply reading over your notes and refreshing your memory on the content the following day, helps to retain around 60-70% of that information. Hence, it’s incredibly important to make notes when studying. Keep them in a notebook or on an app device like Evernote, where you can access your notes anytime and anywhere.

#9 Watch Videos

Whilst people learn best in different ways, video-based learning is still considered by many to be the most effective. Why? Because it combines both visual and auditory learning. What’s more, with technology and the internet being such an integral part of our day to day lives, most learners are actually used to this format of information. Instead of having to lug around heavy textbooks, many online learning courses are accessible on your phone and so learning on the go has never been easier.

#10 Choose Your Environment

Where you study plays a huge role in your learning. If you did your online study in the middle of a noisy area or in a place where everything around you is distracting, you can’t expect your learning to be that effective. Likewise, if you choose your bed or bedroom as your place to study, where you usually go to hang out or sleep, then your brain may become confused between the two and you’ll start to feel sluggish as soon as you begin studying in such environments. Hence, some people find that having a separate and distinguished workplace extremely helpful for getting in the right zone for studying. Others find isolating themselves somewhere quiet most effective for concentration, whilst some people can’t stand to work in silence or working at home (too many distractions) and prefer the ambiance of a quiet coffee shop. Learn what works best for you and stick to it.

Christine Katherman

Christine Katherman


Christine has been working in the field of freelance for just over 7 years, specializing in copy-writing, social media and voice-overs.

Describing herself as a "social media bee 24/7", Christine has an undying passion for photography and music.

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