The idea of being able to study a complete course from the comfort of your own home certainly sounds like an attractive proposition for many people. It allows you to enrol for courses that do not offer classes in your area, study at your own pace and fit your work around your existing commitments, to name but a few of the benefits. However, this style of learning may require many students to rethink their study methods and mind-set, especially if they are new to the concept. This is why we have produced a list of 10 top tips to help you with your distance learning and hopefully achieve a good grade.
1. Set enough time aside to study
There is nothing worse than cramming your studies into a few minutes that you have managed to grab in your busy schedule. Be sensible here and allocate a sufficient amount of time for studying each week.
2. Don’t study for too long a period
On the other end of the spectrum from the problem above, don’t study for hours and hours simply to plough through the necessary course materials. Study periods of 30 to 45 minutes at a time with short breaks in between are often ideal, and just a few study blocks like this in one day will be best to help you retain information.
The time scale allocated to distance learning courses will reflect the fact that the majority of students will be studying the course part time. Plenty of time will have been given to allow you to complete your course without the need for cramming or studying overload. Plan ahead and try and get yourself into a routine.
3. Ask questions
If you are unsure and need assistance, make sure you’re using the help available to you. For example, here at ILSPA all distance learners have a course assessor whom they can email. There are also staff available at the head office for them to call for help with their course.
Just because you have chosen to study from home does not mean that you are expected to study completely independently. Take a look through your course guidance and make a note of where to turn if you ever have a question. Don’t hesitate to use these contacts; there is nothing more demotivating than your studies coming to a halt because you are stuck. A quick phone call or email will clarify the issue in question and allow you to move on, saving you time and frustration.
4. Make sure your studying environment is completely comfortable
There is nothing worse than studying when you feel uncomfortable about something within your environment, be it cold feet, an annoying draught, etc. Make sure you are completely comfortable before you sit down to study so that you are not bothered by distractions which will prevent you from learning.
5. Personalise your study area to meet your needs
In addition to comfort, make sure your study environment meets your personal needs. If you prefer to study in silence, make sure you’re away from interruptions and noises. If you need a bit of background noise, have a radio near. If you know that you normally like a snack or drink, have these things readily available.
6. Set a study target
Before you start the session, look through the study materials you are about to cover and identify exactly where you would like to reach by the end. If you feel able to go a little further once you have reached this point, only do so if you are not too tired and remain engaged with what you have been learning.
7. Reward yourself in small ways
Once you achieve certain personally-set goals throughout the course, reward yourself in some small way as you go along. Whether this means watching that film you had your eye on or buying that pair of jeans you really like, this is a perfect way of congratulating yourself for having reached those all-important milestones.
8. Stay motivated
As you are working your way through a course, every now and then stop what you’re doing for just a minute and remind yourself of exactly why you decided to undertake the course in the first place. Remind yourself that every completed assessment is an achievement and each new module started is a step towards your ultimate goal.
9. Keep organised
Keep your work space clear and organised. Find a system that works for you to organise not only your paper printouts, but also your computer files. That way you are not wasting time searching for things. Ensure that other non-course-related papers or documents do not get mixed up in your course work.
Make sure you have everything you need ready. It you have a constant workspace, keep it stocked with your required stationery. If you pack your workspace away, have a pencil case and folders that are easy to grab when you next sit down to study.
10. Don’t procrastinate
Procrastination is the enemy of the distance learner! Planning and routine are key. Plan your time off for the times that you know that you will need it, making sure that you have hit your study goal first. It is unwise to put things off indefinitely. If you take a break, make sure you have a clear plan of when you will return to your studies.
Putting things off to the last minute can make a small problem much bigger than it needs to be and cause unnecessary stress. Your internet going down or an extra shift at work the week of your deadline is a real problem if you’re struggling to get the work in. Yet if you have planned your time well and kept to your routine, they barely need to be an inconvenience.
Distance learning will require a number of key skills, and these will come over time as you settle into your studies. Hopefully, these top 10 tips will point you in the right direction and help you knuckle down to more effective learning routines from the very start.