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The Ultimate Guide to Studying for Online Classes

Written by Nicole Krempasky on Wednesday, 31 August 2022. Posted in Life Hacks, Online College

Woman with blonde hair wearing glasses writing in a notebook with a laptop in front of her.

Whether you’re starting online school for the first time or returning to take new courses, it can be a tricky time. To succeed in online classes, you’ll need discipline, determination, and confidence. Sometimes these traits don’t come easily, so Ashworth is here to help with tips and ideas to make the most of your experience studying online.

11 Tips for succeeding in online classes

Whether you’re starting online school for the first time or returning to take new courses, it can be a tricky time. To succeed in online classes, you’ll need discipline, determination, and confidence. Sometimes these traits don’t come easily, so Ashworth is here to help with tips and ideas to make the most of your experience studying online.

1. Figure out your learning style

You are unique and with that uniqueness comes your own learning style. Some people know what works best for them, but others are still trying to figure it out. One of the great things about online school is that you can tailor much of your studies to what works best for you. Before you start on anything else, figure out what method (or methods) help you learn. There are three main types of learning styles: visual, audio, and kinesthetic. Once you know which way, or ways, help you retain the information, you’ll be better set up to use other study aids to help you along your journey.

Find out more: What Is Learning Style – and How Can It Help Your Online Education?

2. Create a study space

A big problem online learners sometimes face is where to study. Ashworth gives you the flexibility to study anywhere that’s convenient for you, so it’s great if you’re working or traveling and need to keep on top of your coursework. But, having a dedicated space to do most of your schoolwork and studying is important. It can help keep you organized and focused, as well as save you time. If you float around from spot to spot, it’s also more likely that you’ll misplace important items like notes. It doesn’t need to be big, but pick out a comfortable spot that’s free from TVs, excess noise, and other peoples’ belongings so you can more easily access what you need.

Find out more: How to Organize an Effective Study Space

3. Set a schedule

Yes, part of the beauty of self-paced, online classes is the flexibility to study and complete coursework when it’s best for you, but having a schedule is important for staying focused. Setting aside a specific amount of time each day or week, preferably at the same time when you can, will help you avoid bad study habits like procrastination and cramming, keeping you on track with both your studies and other responsibilities.

4. Create a to-do list

Similar to setting a schedule, get even more specific with to-do lists. Create a to-do list for each week by prioritizing what is most important first, or categorize tasks by making lists of what is urgent, important but not urgent, and not important or urgent. This, too, will help prevent procrastination and can give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment each time you mark something as completed. Most importantly, to-do lists can help manage feelings of being overwhelmed.

Read more: 5 Study Hacks to Keep You Motivated

5. Set goals for yourself

Keeping along the same lines of scheduling and to-do lists, goals are extremely important when looking to make the most of your education, especially with self-paced learning. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you have a lot of time to complete your work. While you don’t have to go by anyone else’s pace but your own, it’s easy to repeatedly put things off which can lead to losing sight of what you’re hoping to accomplish. This is where goal setting comes in. It provides motivation, a sense of personal satisfaction when achieved, and inspires confidence to keep going. This doesn’t need to be a complicated process. Some important things to remember when setting goals include:

  • Make sure your goals are set for you. Don’t set your goals based on the expectations of others; do it for yourself.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed. Goals don’t always have to be huge benchmarks. Start small and work your way up. Each time you reach a smaller goal, it’ll help you carry on to the next, slightly bigger thing.
  • Don’t be afraid to be imperfect. This may sound counterproductive, but we’re all human and that means we sometimes miss the mark. Instead of letting these moments get you down, use them as moments to learn about ourselves and how to approach what comes next. Sometimes our mistakes teach us the most.
  • Reward yourself. Just like embracing your mistakes, you should celebrate your successes. Brains respond to positive reinforcement, so when you cross a completed goal off your list, reward yourself for a job well done.

6. Avoid multitasking

It’s tempting to make sure we get everything done that needs to be done, and the ability to multitask is an important skill. However, multitasking while trying to complete schoolwork will only divert your attention, preventing you from fully focusing on the tasks you need to complete. You might feel like you’re being productive by tidying the kitchen or folding laundry between chapters or lessons, but it can create bigger distractions. The chores aren’t going anywhere; concentrate on one thing at a time.

Read more: How to Break Bad Study Habits and What to do Instead

7. Eliminate distractions

This can be a tough one, but too many distractions can make or break your study time. While it might not be possible to find a spot to be completely alone and uninterrupted when studying, there are other ways you can limit your distractions. Make sure you stay away from televisions, silence your phone, and avoid social media like Instagram and TikTok unless you’re on a scheduled break.

8. Take a break

Even though you shouldn’t get distracted and look for excuses to avoid your work as a habit, learning and studying can be exhausting. It’s important to know when you’re reaching your limit, even if you’re still within your allotted study time. Everyone’s brain needs a little rest to recharge. If you feel ready to doze off or unable to concentrate, take five minutes to do something else. Keep a healthy snack nearby along with a drink. It can refuel you and give you the time you need to reset and refocus. Or just simply get away from your study space for a few minutes for a change of scenery in order to regroup and start over.

9. Take care of yourself

It’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves when we have so much going on. But one of the best ways to help yourself do well is by getting proper nutrition and sleep. “Brain foods” like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains help your brain work efficiently and give you physical energy. Sleep is equally as important, improving memory and creativity, as well as aiding in making better decisions.

10. Connect with others

Going to school online doesn’t mean you’re alone. Ashworth has a large, engaged Student Community where you can get assistance with your program or just communicate with your peers. “It’s one of those platforms that gives students the opportunity to be themselves, get into specific groups, find common ground, and help push each other to be successful in their particular programs,” explains Community Manager, Shawn Bryant. It’s easy to join, too. If you’re enrolled in an Ashworth program, you’re automatically registered for the Community, too!

Read more: An Interview With the Ashworth Community Manager

11. Ask for help

No matter how many schedules we make, to-do lists we write, goals we reach, or how much sleep we get, we all need a little help sometimes. When we do, it’s important to be able to ask for help from those around you. Have a spouse, partner, child, or roommate help with tasks like meal prep, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, and other light chores, just to take a few things off your plate so you can focus on the things - like studying - that only you can do.

How can I be more productive with online college classes?

If you’re wondering how to be more productive in online classes, time management is always a great place to start. Organization is a key element to productivity, and time is no exception to that rule. Time management doesn’t always come naturally though. If you’re a person who struggles with either of these skills, there are a lot of resources out there to help you.

You can start with the very basics, like buying a planner or using the calendar on your phone to organize your schedule and to-lists. Or, if you feel like you might need even a little more help, that’s ok. There are many apps and programs available to help you. My Study Life uses a cross-platform planner to help you with your schedule. You input your classes, homework assignments, exam dates, and other important things to keep your life and time in order.

If time management is less of a problem and actual study skills are where you face a challenge, there’s help for that, too. Apps like Chegg and Brainscape utilize functions like flashcards to help you study, while Evernote assists with note taking by allowing you to create tasks within your notes, so you can add due dates and reminders.

There are also apps and websites available for subject-specific help like math, English, and more.

Read more: 23 Helpful Website & Apps for Students to Help You Study

What to do in online classes when you’re bored

Even the most dedicated students hit a slump sometimes, finding themselves zoning out and feeling bored during class. If this happens to you during your online classes, there are a couple of tricks you can try to get your mind refocused. Make sure you prepare yourself to focus by staying hydrated, don’t start studying when you’re feeling hungry, and make sure you’re getting enough rest.

Also, don’t be afraid to hit pause on your lessons for an hour. There’s no need to keep going over the same thing repeatedly if your mind isn’t in it. You won’t retain any more information that way. Don’t completely abandon your studies for the day, but take a little time for yourself. Indulge in a little caffeine like coffee or tea, eat a healthy snack, or even switch to a different subject. If time is of the essence and you really can’t switch gears, find ways to make the topic or class more interesting. Make a list of questions of things you don’t understand about the subject or that have made you curious, or make a list of five or 10 things that were mentioned that you’d like to learn more about. Take some time to explore these subjects further and find the answers, or work on getting in touch with your instructors to find out more.

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