Foundation Education

01 Sep 2023

9 tips on how to study online effectively


Studying online is one of the most amazing new developments of the 21st century. You get to learn hugely valuable skills and get qualified for a new chapter in your career, all on your own watch.  

Now that stuffy classrooms and restrictive timetables are a thing of the past, it’s no wonder why students like online learning. 

But studying online comes with its own set of challenges – just ask any student. Learning how to study online effectively is key to actually learning important content, avoiding burnout, and acing your assignments. 

Whether or not it’s your first adventure into the world of online education, there’s always room to refresh your process. Get yourself prepared for a smooth study experience with our tried-and-tested tips and tricks for online learning. 

1. Create a positive, enjoyable study space  

Studying online means you can study anywhere, which gives you incredible flexibility. But then you need to ask yourself - where?

Think about what kind of person you are. Do you focus best when you study at home, in complete silence? Or do you feel more motivated when there’s other people working nearby? Ideally, if you prefer to work alone, you can create a space in your home that’s solely dedicated to studying. Set it up with things that lift your mood, like artworks, favourite stationery or photos of your family, and only use that space for studying. That way, your mind will come to associate that place with study, and you’ll be able to enter into ‘focus mode’ way more easily.

For a few more detailed tips on how to create a perfect study zone, we’ve written a whole guide which you can read here.

Alternatively, if you don’t have any space in your home, you could create a routine around visiting your local library or favourite quiet cafe to study. Find your favourite spots to sit and get comfy! 

2. Understand how online study works  

The best way to get comfortable with something, is to get rid of any guess-work. Before you even start your course, get super familiar with how online study works. That means exploring your Learning Management System, finding out where you’ll need to submit your coursework, as well as where you can access content, discussion groups, enrolment details and how to get support when you need it.

Once you have all of that down-pat, you’ll be far more free to focus on your course, and have a lot more control over how you spend your time.

woman views computer

3. Motivation is key  

It doesn’t matter if you’re studying online or in-person, motivation is easier said than done. Sometimes it’s hard to match the frustrating work you’re doing now to your end goal. In fact, motivation is one of the key things you’ll need to pay attention to if you want to know how to study online effectively. 

Just remember you’re not alone! Many people struggle with motivation, but there are plenty of tactics to keeping your motivation on track. 

Of course, you’ll need to keep your eye on the big picture – soon all this hard work will pay off, and you’ll have a rewarding career ahead of you. But more importantly, you should also create small goals to keep the pace going. 

Always break down your work into smaller tasks so they don’t feel so intimidating. If you need to write a presentation, for example, don’t put “write presentation” in your planner. Maybe the first step is to “take notes for the presentation”, followed by “plan the presentation”, and so on.  

And when you finish a task, you can plan a reward at the end of it! For example: if you finish watching all the content in Module 2, you can catch up with your friend for coffee afterwards. It’s a simple trick, but it makes a huge difference. 

4. Schedule time to study on your calendar  

Arguably one of the best parts about studying online is that you can study wherever, whenever you want. You can continue to work, take care of family commitments, and make your study fit in around your life. But with that freedom comes a price. It means you’ll have to master your time wisely. 

Organising your schedule so that you have enough time to study each week is a task that can’t be skipped. Because while we’ve all been there, no one should need to pull all-nighters in order to complete assignments. A great schedule will prevent that from ever becoming a necessity. 
Figure out what parts of the day you generally have the most time and energy. If you generally focus better in the morning, wake up early and create a routine of getting a set amount of work done in the morning. If you’re more of a night owl, plan to study at night. 

If you’ve got children, choose times when the kids are least likely to need your attention, for example, when they’re asleep or at school. If you’d like more tips for studying online as a busy parent, we’ve got some handy advice here. 

It’s also worth noting that the best work is done when you have plenty of time for deep focus. So make sure you’re not in a rush. Plan it out in blocks of an hour or a few and be sure to take breaks in between. Which brings us to the next point. 

5. Take breaks, and take them often  

No matter which way you look at it, human beings were not designed to sit and focus for hours and hours on end without a break. It’s natural for you to start getting distracted and a sore back after sitting for so long. 

If you’ve got a day where you have a lot of work to get through, make sure you get up, do some stretches and drink some water every hour. It’s the best way to keep yourself focused and healthy while you study. You’ll be even more productive for it, too.

man views computer

6. Actively take notes  

The best way to study online is just the same as studying in-person – by taking notes! It’s not enough to simply watch some videos and read some content on your learning platform. By actually writing the notes in your own words and trying to think about the topic for yourself, your brain will soak up that information and store it for later. 

Taking notes also helps your brain function more efficiently in the long term, as it promotes active thinking, boosts your comprehension abilities and lengthens your attention span. Just think of it like exercise for your brain. 

7. Do one thing at a time

If there’s one sure way to get yourself feeling overwhelmed, it’s multitasking. It’s easy to look at all the work you have to do and feel like you need to get it all done at once, but let us assure you that it’s always better to take things one step at a time. 

A huge body of research has shown that individuals almost always take longer to complete a task and make more mistakes when they switch between tasks, rather than when they just stick to one. In fact, it seems like we all tend to overestimate our ability to multitask quite a bit. 

Unfortunately, our brains just aren’t designed for concentrating on more than one thing at a time. That’s why multitasking isn’t very efficient: because it takes up a lot more energy to constantly switch your focus. 

So whether you’re getting distracted by messages, browsing the internet or having trouble choosing which task to work on first, these are some of our best online study tips: get up, take a breath, get a drink of water. Make a list of your tasks, and figure out which one is the top priority. 

Do you have any deadlines coming up soon? Are you more behind in one subject than the other? Find the top priority, break it down into smaller tasks, and once that’s finished, move on to the next one. Keep it simple, silly! 

8. Get social

Just because you’re studying at home, doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. While you won’t have as much social interaction as you would in a real classroom, there’s still ways to reach out, get support and connect with your peers. 

Whether you need help learning how to study online effectively, or you’re feeling lost with your coursework, Foundation Education has a thorough student support system to help you throughout your course. There’s friendly mentors available to talk via phone or email whenever you need extra help. You’re also welcome to join coaching sessions where you can connect and discuss course content with trainers and assessors. 

9. Treat yourself

All work and no play is a one-way ticket to burnout. Of course it’s important to make sure you reach your deadlines on time and keep up to date on your content. But don’t let your studies overwhelm other important aspects of your life – make time to get out there and enjoy yourself. Even if it’s something as simple as going to the cinema or taking a relaxing bath, a little bit of self care will go a long way to keeping your mind grounded and ready to focus again tomorrow. And remember: if you feel like you really don’t have time to enjoy yourself, maybe go back to point number four. 

The overall lesson is that studying online isn’t a free pass, and it still comes with the need to organise your time and learn effectively. Studying online is a wonderful, flexible way to achieve your goals. Just remember to be kind to yourself and enjoy your education along the way. 

If you want to chat about how you can study online and what options for online study are available, get in touch with one of our friendly Careers Advisors on 1300 616 197 and start your online studies today.


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