Tips for successful online learning
Online learning provides a fantastic and very flexible way to learn but it is different from the classroom environment you may be used to. To help you get started with your online learning journey, we have provided some tips and strategies to help you succeed.
Get ready to study well as an online student
Online study involves a level of commitment and a style of learning that can be quite independent. At times you need to be your own coach, friend and judge. In all courses you will learn to become more resourceful in finding solutions and good sources of information by yourself. Making the transition to a new study style can also be challenging. We talked to our lecturers and created the below list to help those thinking of starting online study.
Be clear about your goals and cheer yourself on
Any course is a commitment and an undertaking that has lifelong rewards. It doesn’t happen easily however, so staying true to your goal for taking up study in the first place will keep your energy high as you progress.
- Consider making a visual cue you can see regularly to remind you why you are studying. Reaching your first job? A new career? Getting a promotion? Exploring your creativity or aptitude? Put a note on your fridge door or pinboard or the cover of your diary/notebook to remind you of your goal.
- If you find yourself slipping from your goal, talk to your lecturer. Lecturers are not just adept at their industry vocation, they’re also qualified trainers and can work with you to help you reach your goal with advice and practical support.
Corral your support team
- Explain to your network how much you need to commit to study and the benefits for them. Your family, your boss or employees can all become your strongest supporters in ensuring your time and energy is preserved to allow you to reach your study goals.
- This may mean quiet time for when you need to study, or making alternative arrangements for meetings, picking up groceries, or being a part of a case study, or even being a friendly pair of ears in when you need to debrief about your study.
- Get out of your pyjamas. Get dressed each day like you are going to campus. It helps you get into ‘study mode’.
Create a dedicated study space
- You will need a space free of distractions to do your best study. Turn off phone app and desktop email notifications from view. Choose music and not radio with chatter and don’t turn on the TV. Cover windows that have a great deal of activity on the other side that may distract you and close the door to the hallway.
- Make sure your family or housemates know not to bother you unless urgent. Remind them gently, even if they offer you a cup of tea, that you need to keep your focus on your reading and thought processes.
- Make use of other quiet spaces. If all these tips fail and you still feel your study space is becoming disrupted, feel free to take a desk space in our campus libraries or in public libraries.
Timetable your time
- Be honest about your life commitments. You need time for sleep and rest, eating well and exercise, but also for family time, and perhaps work and cultural or spiritual commitments.
- Plan hourly slots for your weeks of study. Block out your commitments in advance giving enough time to your personal life and then you’ll be able to understand what time you have left to study. You may choose to make certain sacrifices to fit study time in after you’ve reviewed your timetable. Next, identify your assignment deadlines and plot them across your schedule.
- Then be regimented about your time. Break up your study sessions into blocks you can achieve easily, so you’ll always know you are making some progress each time you study. Plan your sessions so that you can reach each goal that leads up to your assignment deadline. Make sure you have time to review your assignment and extra time to manage problems when it’s time to submit your assignment.
- Plan for downtime to rest. Schedule time in to thank yourself when you do reach an assignment deadline, you’ve earned yourself a pamper moment, time in the sun or in nature or a catch up with friends!
Be ready to learn more about just your course
Online study involves you becoming independent as you won’t have classes to keep your momentum high. Your lecturers are there to answer any questions and offer advice, but you can find your own mini superpower in using online tools to develop your research or practical skills.
- Research and practice using online tools. Spending a little more time to find out about your online study tools in the beginning will pay off as you study, because you’ll find your ability to work in systems will mean smooth sailing when it comes to preparing and submitting your assignments. Read the supporting documentation about your online tool or read a blog with tips for using it best. Then practice using the new tool and identify what you are struggling with. Reach out to your lecturer with questions when you find a gap that can be filled with a hot tip from a professional.
- Find out about your referencing format. Most assignments at TAFE require correct referencing. Save time by learning your referencing method early. Visit the library website and reach out to our friendly librarians to seek advice.
- Make use of online support when it is offered too, such as special tutorials or chat groups with other online students. Online forums can also help, you can be sure if you have a question, someone, somewhere in the world will already have asked it and received the answer!
It will happen! You can be the most dedicated learner and still find your mind wandering! It’s better to get up and go for a walk or grab a hot or cold drink to reclaim your focus. Stretch or meditate instead of turning to social media or turning on the telly.
Perhaps check that study goal note you made to yourself! Just a 5 minute break will allow you to refresh and return to your study with a new determination.
Manage your note taking and research
- Save your notes well. As you progress, you will find interesting information that should be recorded for later. Make the most of this time by having a system to organise your notes. Make a folder and save or file notes into it for easy access later. Categorise your notes into topics and build reference lists as you go, rather than at the last minute.
- Manage your research time. Don’t spend all your time googling. You need time to complete your research and create your practical efforts or assignment submissions. Be strict about how much time you will spend on research. Refer to your notes and reference lists to save time skipping back to interesting information.
Take care of your health
Your brain needs energy and focus to learn, so exercise, sleep and healthy foods are important. Exercise improves blood flow to your brain and reduces stress. Sleep helps your brain and body replenish and healthy foods stave off colds and viruses that can disrupt your study schedule. If you do get sick, take time to recover well to get back on schedule!
Wellness & support - helpful resources
- Self-help App
The self-help app by Headspace(opens in a new tab) includes meditation instructions, nature sounds and music for sleep.
- eFriend Online Peer Support
A free virtual peer support service which connects you to a community of trained, specialist eFriend peers via video or audio call. You can access 6 one-on-one sessions with the same peer worker from the comfort of your home. Visit https://efriend.org.au/(opens in a new tab)
Keeping connected with your online classmates and your lecturer is an important part of studying online. The following tips can help keep you connected and engaged.
- Keep your lecturer informed
If you need help with any of your study, ask your lecturer and seek this help early. Let your lecturer know if you aren’t able to attend class, can’t log in or are having technology troubles. You can find the contact details of your lecturer under ‘Staff Contacts’ in Blackboard. Don’t forget to use your official student email account.
The library can provide technology support, so reach out through our library website(opens in a new tab) if you are having any technical difficulties. If you need to reset your password, you can also call our Client Contact Centre on 1800 001 001.
- Give and expect respect
It can be easy to misunderstand and incorrectly interpret online communication, particularly through an online discussion or email conversation. To help avoid this, re-read any communication you send. Remain courteous, and professional at all times when dealing with staff or your fellow students. Ensure you read and abide by the Student Code of Conduct.
- Create a virtual study group
Online students can often feel isolated. Learning with other students in your online group can really help with feelings of isolation as well as improve the learning experience. Be open to working with others in your group and making a connection through the Blackboard communication tools. Keep each other engaged and accountable.
Just as you need to take the time to learn the content in your course, you also need to take some time to learn how to use the technology and systems used on your computer and phone.
- Stay connected
Use the Office 365 tools to stay connected. You are expected to regularly check your student email – at least once a week. You can check your email by installing Outlook on your computer and phone. You can also chat, share files and do video calls using Microsoft Teams, which is also available on your computer and phone.
- Log in regularly
Students who regularly log into Blackboard are more likely to be successful with their studies. Stay up to date with course content, review your assessments, and engage with the online activities. Read the instructions carefully, and seek clarification with your lecturer if needed. It will make you feel like you are on top of things, and ensure you stay on track with your studies.
- Always save your work
Always save your work – either locally on your computer or via the Office 365 cloud services provided to all our students. Did you know you can turn on AutoSave for files stored in your student OneDrive account? If you are working on study notes, or drafting an assessment, it is important to save your work often.
If you need to post a response into Blackboard forum, we recommend you create your response in a word processor, save your comments and then copy and paste this response into Blackboard; if you then lose internet connection, you have not lost your response.
- Keep things up to date
Regularly updating your operating system and applications will ensure they have the latest features and security patches. If you are having trouble accessing content online, try updating to the latest version of your web browser. We recommend Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.
- Use apps to stay on track
Some quick tips to staying organised while studying online with Office 365 apps:
- Save your files to your OneDrive account for easy syncing, sharing and collaboration
- Add all your scheduled classes, assessments, and study time to your Outlook calendar and sync with your phone calendar
- Keep track of your assessment deadlines and other reminders using the To Do app
- Chat or video call your peers on Teams
- Use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to complete your assessments
- Use Office Lens and OneNote to scan, upload and compile your notes
- Create learning portfolios, reports, blogs, and newsletters in Sway
Online classes are not the same as attending on campus. But with these tips, you’ll be better prepared to stay engaged and support a positive class environment.
- Always be prepared
Test your connected devices such as your headset, microphone and webcam well in advance of the session. Learn how to set these up at the system level and for each app that you use. This will ensure you are always ready to engage with an online class, and keep it running smoothly. Log in early and make sure your headset, microphone and webcam are working.
- Use headphones
Using headphones or earphones ensures that the noise coming through your speakers doesn’t go back through your microphone – creating a very distracting audio loop! This will audio clearer for everyone.
- Keep your microphone on mute
Background noise coming through a few separate microphones distracts everyone. Once you’ve finished talking, put yourself on mute – each program will have a quick shortcut you can use to do this.
- Setup a webcam
It’s nice to be able to see your peers when you first log in to an online class or when someone needs to ask a question. Consider turning off your webcam when your lecturer is presenting to ensure the internet connection remains stable. Follow advice from your lecturer about when and how to best use your webcam. Position the webcam so you are fully in the frame, close to the camera – without too much space above your head. Look at the camera as you’re talking, and use some extra lamps for lighting if needed.
- Stay engaged
Use the interactive features during an online class – use the raise your hand feature to ask a question or ask questions in the chat box. Re-watch recorded sessions and take notes on any challenging topics. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Come dressed to impress
Don’t forget that a class online is just like a class on campus. You are expected to be dressed neatly and professionally – it will boost your confidence and keep you in a study mindset. Keep the area around you tidy and organised, and make sure there are is nothing offensive in view of your webcam.
- Stay focused
Close all those distracting social media sites and put your phone away. This will stop you from straying off task when taking part in an online class. You never know when you might get called on to answer a question.