10 Tips for Preparing to Start Study Online

This article is sponsored by CQUniversity

COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down for more than a year. One of the side effects is that the majority of our work and study has moved online. While this is a different experience from working or studying in an office or classroom, there are many simple steps you can take to boost your performance, stay connected, and maintain your mental and physical wellbeing.

Studying online offers many benefits, including flexibility. However, some students worry their grades will suffer as a result of less time spent with teachers and fellow students. It can also be an adjustment to set your own study schedule while maintaining a healthy study/life balance. If you are feeling slightly overwhelmed, you are not alone. There are many effective ways to simplify and optimise your online study.

Prepare to succeed

  1. Prepare your workspace. If possible, set up a desk in a quiet space in your home – ideally not in your bedroom. Research how to set up your laptop, monitors, keyboard and mouse to protect your neck, spine and lower back. Also consider what can be seen behind you in preparation for video chats with your teachers and fellow students. Invest in a supportive chair and, if required, consider blue-light glasses to reduce mental fatigue and improve your sleep quality.
  2. Get your tech in order. A strong, reliable internet connection is crucial for online study success. Consider if your hardware – such as laptop, monitors, keyboards and speakers – need maintenance, or any upgrades so that they will be compatible with new software and platforms. Finally, check that you have enough power access – power sockets/power boards close to your desk to plug in laptops, desktops, smartphones, speakers and any other devices you require while studying.
  3. Familiarise yourself with your new platforms. Before coursework starts, take some time to familiarise yourself with your education institution’s online portal, any course-specific platforms you will be required to use (including video-meeting software such as Zoom), and how to digitally submit coursework and assignments.
  4. Stock the cupboard and fridge. Ensure you have plenty of healthy snacks and water, coffee and tea to keep your energy levels high throughout your day of study.  

Stay connected

5. Ask for help. Your education provider is there to help you. Be sure to research support resources such as online tutorial and webinars, and any student chat rooms/social media groups where you can share information and make friends. Email your tutors and lecturers if you need a little more course-specific support, or student services if you are struggling with studying online in general.

6. You can still make friends! Outside online student groups and chat rooms, make an effort to talk to your fellow students and group members when you are working with them. Follow each other on social media and perhaps swap phone numbers so that you can chat throughout the day, just as you would if you were sitting next to each other in class. Remember that you are part of a huge community of international students, both in Australia and overseas, so there’s always someone to talk to about shared experiences.

7. Keep your online profile up to date. Networking will be mostly virtual for the foreseeable future, so make sure you are creating a good impression on social media sites such as LinkedIn. This will ensure that people you meet digitally will have the most up-to-date information about you. 

Look after yourself

8. Create a schedule. Many students who are exclusively studying from home report feelings of burn-out and trouble with time management. To avoid this, create a study timetable that reflects your lecture/class hours, required study hours, time spent on assessments and, most importantly, study breaks. Taking time for yourself is an essential part of working effectively! There are many different approaches to time management that you can research online. A common option is to block out time for each class/activity, and to stop focusing on that subject at the end of the allotted time. Or, give the Pomodoro Technique a go.

9. Focus on self-care. It’s very easy for study and home life to blend into one when you are studying online. If possible, set up your study station in a room other than your bedroom, and be creative with ways to distinguish study time from work and leisure times. For instance, you could play specific music while you are studying, or burn incense when you are not studying. Try to stick to an exercise/social/work schedule, just as you would if you were studying on campus, and maintain a sense of routine by showering and dressing for your day. Sorry, no pyjamas or unbrushed hair allowed!

10. Take notes by hand. It can be tempting to check your phone, make lunch or do household chores while listening to a lecture, especially if your video is not turned on or it is pre-recorded. However, this will only lead to missing coursework, which you will have to make up for later. Instead, sit and pay attention to your classes as if you were in the classroom with your teachers, and take notes by hand. This will engage your brain and embed the knowledge more deeply than if you were typing. It will also help to reduce eye strain from looking at screens, and keep your hands from checking Instagram notifications!

For even more tips about successfully studying online, check out the advice shared by senior lecturer Dr Kim Barbour and Xinyi, an international student currently studying remotely.

CQ University offers flexible study options for international students who have been impacted by travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19. Click here to find out how to start studying online now, and kickstart your online studying career.