The Beginners Guide to Learning Online
With the huge popularity of learning online, both in Australia and around the world, we take a look at studying online and share some useful tips on what to look out for.
Without doubt one of the main advantages of studying online is the flexibility it offers. Regardless of whether the course is being offered by a private college or a university, studying online gives you the ability to fit your study around the rest of your life. This is a big advantage to those who have current commitments - and lets face it - who doesn’t. Whether it be working a full or part-time job or looking after a family, or both, life can get seriously busy. Studying online gives you the ability to study at night, on the weekends or at times during the day or even to and from work. In most cases this just wouldn’t be possible in an on-campus facility.
Some online educators also have more flexible study periods so you can study at your own pace. This can be an advantage for those times when life gets really difficult and you just need some extra time to work things through.
Not only can studying online be more flexible from a time perspective, but it also offers you the ability to work in different locations, be that at home after the kids have gone to bed, during a commute to work or even at the park on a nice day. This freedom is something that people really enjoy, especially for people who don’t like the traditional classroom setting.
Communication with a broad network of trainers and fellow students
It might not be an obvious advantage at first but being part of an online community (a common component of many online institutions) can widen your exposure to other students. With current technology, communicating with fellow students via online forums is a great way to learn more and get access to other students who are studying at the same time or who are further progressed in the course than you are. So in reality you’re only limited by how big the online community of the provider is, for some online learning educators this can run into the many thousands. It’s a good idea to check before you enrol with an online college or university to get a clear understanding of what features and access their particular online learning system can give you.
One of the areas people need to appreciate when undertaking online study is the need to be organised. While learning in a traditional on-campus setting gives a natural structure through it’s practise of classes and deadlines, the inherent flexibility of studying online can be a challenge for people. The key to keeping on top of your studies and to keep progressing is to stay organised and make sure you have time set aside each week to study. A simple timetable, looked over at least once a week is often a great way to go. It’s also necessary to be realistic at the beginning as to how much time you are willing and/or able to put aside for studying.
Before enrolling in a course, its a good idea to ask what support they offer. Do they offer study guidance if you need help getting back on track with your studies? If you’re paying for a course you have every right to know what level of service and support you can expect along the way.
In many ways, learning online at home is a bit like working from home. While its certainly possible to catchup on study notes, view timetables and view online forums while you’re on the go, most of the time when you really want to get down and study you’ll want a nice quiet space.
Ideally, try and study away from distractions like the tv and loud noises, in a place where you can concentrate and be efficient with your study time. If a dedicated space is not available still make the effort to be distraction free. This can include putting your phone on silent (or in another room) and closing the door.
Connecting with tutors and trainers
How well you are able to connect with trainers is very much dependent on the individual college or university but it’s fair to say that being online is quite different to being in a classroom setting. There will usually be some sort of lag time between you asking a question and the response. Again, organisation is key here and many trainers do their best to respond as quickly as possible. On the flip-side, it has to be said that many trainers work outside ‘normal’ hours and respond to student needs well and truly beyond what would be possible in a traditional class room environment.
Is learning online for you?
There is no doubt that learning online is here to stay. The advantages of technology are allowing for a more nimble, individual and flexible approach to studying and offers huge benefits to busy people who want to improve their skills and get ahead. If you're willing to work hard and have a disciplined approach to learning you too you can take advantage of learning online.
Now that you've got an idea about what learning online is all about, take a look at our Study Guide, in Part 1 we take a look at getting your environment set up and the tools you'll need to start studying effectively.