Online study has many exciting benefits, such as flexible study hours and improved self-discipline. However, as education providers around Australia move their classrooms online, many students are noticing that these benefits don’t come without obstacles. Check out these common challenges of studying online, and some useful tips on how to overcome them.
Transitioning to digital learning can be overwhelming, and you may be left wondering what your tutors expect from you. Stay on top of your study experience by reaching out to your teachers and lecturers for clarity on how to get the most out of your online course. Ask whether there are any changes in course structure or material from face-to-face classes, and politely request any tips and advice for achieving excellent results online.
While most students in 2020 could use a laptop in their sleep, a lack of digital literacy across online learning platforms and programs is surprisingly common. If you are struggling to keep up with the technical requirements of your course, reach out to your education provider for their support and advice on improving your digital literacy. Pay attention to the online etiquette of your course, including how to engage with tutors and contribute to class forums.
Developing strong time management skills is crucial to success in online study. Set yourself up for a fantastic learning experience by creating a flexible study schedule that you can adapt as you get used to working online. Tailor your schedule around your daily and weekly goals, focusing on achieving small tasks every day to avoid procrastination. Make sure to share your schedule with your family or housemates so they can provide support and help you eliminate distractions.
One of the most common and frustrating setbacks for students studying at home is technical issues. Problems with internet connection, equipment and learning platforms are time-consuming and distracting, so it’s important to equip yourself with the knowledge and support to handle these concerns as they arise.
Fast and reliable internet connection is vital to a great online study experience. Make sure you have access to high-quality wi-fi with enough data to meet your study needs, and don’t forget to factor in your personal internet usage as well!
Adjusting to your university’s online learning platforms will take time, practice, and plenty of patience! Stay ahead of any technical issues by familiarising yourself with the platforms you’ll be using before you start your studies. Pay attention to class forums, assignment submission pages and resources available for download.
Most importantly, know who to reach out to for technical support in case of any urgent issues. Avoid missing important lessons and assignment deadlines by communicating your concerns early on, and remember that there is no such thing as a silly question!
Without the support and socialisation of face-to-face classes, it’s easy to lose motivation while studying online. Many students struggle to see their home as a workplace, finding that their enthusiasm for digital study starts to wane over time.
To maintain interest in your course and work consistently toward your goals, set realistic expectations and stay involved. Be aware that your motivation may decrease over the semester, so make sure that your goals and schedule are reasonable, and give yourself plenty of room for rest and recovery. Staying involved in all aspects of your learning will also keep you motivated; write in student forums, show up to webinars, and maintain contact with your tutors and peers.
The isolation of independent study can take a huge toll on your mental health, so it’s crucial that you are prepared to handle any negative emotions that arise.
Prioritise your wellbeing by working safe socialisation, either in person or online, into your schedule. Connecting with friends and family will keep you feeling positive, motivated and grounded throughout your studies. If you can’t see your friends in person, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a simple voice or video call.
If you are experiencing ongoing feelings of loneliness and anxiety, make sure to reach out for professional support from a counsellor. If you’re in Australia, you can reach Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. Both helplines are available 24 hours, seven days a week.
Lack of face-to-face interaction
Lack of in-person contact can be a huge hurdle for students adjusting to online learning. If you’re used to the conversational learning style of a classroom environment, working from home can feel stilted and uncomfortable.
The easiest way to overcome this challenge is by making use of the technical resources offered by your educational institution. Participate in online discussions and forums, join class Facebook groups, and make the most of video conference tools such as Zoom. Education providers such as Canning College, for example, are working to maintain an interactive online learning experience, requiring students to be “in the classroom” via webcam at scheduled times to participate in “normal” lessons.
Canning’s Head of Science Tony Herbert said strategies that promoted inclusiveness were critical in the success of online study.
“Webcams can be positioned with groups of students having discussions or doing practical work so that online students feel part of that,” he said. “The data collected can be shared, analysed and processed in an environment that is as collaborative as possible.”
Anxiety about the future
As COVID-19 continues to create fear and uncertainty worldwide, it is completely normal to question the direction of your studies and career. You may be wondering how much longer you will be studying online, whether you will graduate on time, or how you will gain employment beyond your studies.
Turn to your education provider for any questions regarding the future of your course; an advisor will provide you with the information available to them, and help you get the support you need. Maintaining your mental health through socialising, meditation and yoga, and professional counselling will help you to control any anxiety and stay focused on your short-term study goals.
Lack of practical elements
Practice makes perfect, and hands-on learning is essential for many subjects, such as the sciences and arts. Ensure that your online course offers a balance of theoretical and practical activities and assessments, and get involved in any interactive experiences offered by your education provider.
Canning’s Tony Herbert said although students could not always participate in practical tasks due to potential dangers or a lack of apparatus, there were some activities that could be conducted in class and online.
“Students have been asked to gather household items prior to a lesson so they can participate in a practical way and have a sensory experience that will help them understand some of what they are observing from students engaged in a laboratory task.”
If your digital course doesn’t require any practical elements, consider planning some hands-on learning activities to do from home.
Persistence is the biggest indicator of success in online study and is a fantastic skill to develop for your personal and professional life. No matter how tired, lonely or bored you get studying from home, remember that the only person who can get you through to graduation is YOU. Make sure to surround yourself with reminders of your goals, stick to your schedule, and keep showing up throughout the highs and lows of your digital learning journey.