Don’t be like the thousands of Australian learners that enrol in online courses every year and never finish their training. Online learning has so many benefits but with no-one making you go to class (or asking you about your assignments) it can be easy to let your training fall away. This article delivers practical study tips to help you stay focused on your online course and finish your qualification.
Undertaking a nationally recognised training course online is not like doing a short course in customer service or RSA. You’ll have written assignments to complete (and upload), plus there will be documents to read and videos to watch — so make sure you prepare yourself (and your equipment) before getting started.
One of the best study tips we can give you is to pay attention during the enrolment process, this really can be the difference between success and failure. It’s important that you fully understand:
- How many hours a week you’ll need to dedicate to your studies
- What type of assignments you’ll be doing, and if they have deadlines
- The equipment, hardware, software, and library resources you’ll need to complete your training
- Whether you’ll need to attend scheduled classroom sessions or webinars
- If you need to do a work placement or be assessed in an actual workplace
There are so many study headaches that can be eliminated simply by asking these questions before enrolling in your course.
Next make a list of the resources you are going to need and make sure you have everything in place before getting started. Here are some things to consider:
- Computers — you’re training online so check if you need a Windows PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone to complete your training. How will you upload your assignments?
- Bandwidth — some courses use video resources almost exclusively which will chew through your bandwidth. Do you have enough data?
- Headphones — if you’re living in a shared spaced or doing your training at work you’ll definitely benefit from a decent set of headphones.
- Software — what software will you need to complete the course? You’ll probably need at least some applications from the MS-Office Suite, but you might also require specialist software like Adobe Creative Cloud, Pro Tools, Windows Server or Cloud Platform apps.
- Specialised items — do you need to obtain knives, cooking utensils and a uniform (commercial cookery); a Google Adwords account (digital marketing); or a working with children check for work placement (community services).
- Additional learning — some courses require you to take additional units with other organisations (eg, first aid certificate, vehicle licences).
- Library — if you live in regional Australia do you have access to sufficient online resources or a community library?
One of the best things about learning online is the ability to study at your own pace. That said, you’ll still want to set yourself realistic study goals so you are completing work regularly, submitting assignments, and steadily making progress. At the very least you’ll want to be looking at your study material once a week, otherwise you might lose interest.
Your timetable should take into consideration:
- Your ideal graduation date
- Compulsory assessments and their deadlines
- Face-to-face study blocks
- Work commitments and family time
- Upcoming vacations, work conferences, and special occasions
You’ve enrolled in your course, purchased all the necessary resources, and set a realistic study timetable — let ’s look at your actual study habits.
First, where are you going to be studying? Even though you’re studying an online course you’re not really going to complete your Diploma of Community Services on the bus or at the beach.
Sure you can watch videos and review course materials while you are commuting, but you’ll have a far better learning outcome if you complete full modules in uninterrupted blocks. Where is the best study space to make that happen? A home office? At work? The library? The kitchen table? A coffee shop?
No matter where you study make sure the people around you (spouses, kids, housemates, coworkers) understand and respect your study times. Study requires concentration and you don’t want to be interrupted by hungry kids or militant work supervisors. The same thing applies to distractions.
Don’t study in front of the TV or in a room with any unnecessary distractions. Turn off your social media and email notifications and (if possible) leave your mobile phone in another room.
Establish good study habits from the get-go and stick to your timetable, every week. We suggest as a minimum:
- Studying at the same time each day (or week)
- Completing training blocks or modules in one sitting
- Spacing your training out so you aren’t trying to do too much all at once
- Not leaving too much time between study sessions
- Starting (and finishing) assignments early
- Taking notes or completing self-assessment quizzes immediately after reading course notes or watching course videos
- Practicing what you have learned as soon as possible
It takes time to develop good study habits so don’t be too hard on yourself in the beginning. And if you are struggling, get in touch with your trainer or course supervisor — the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) will do everything they can to help you complete your training. They want you to graduate.
A final word about lifestyle. If you’re serious about your study, and committed to graduating from your course, you’ll need to implement some good lifestyle choices.
You’ll study better (and retain more knowledge) if you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and properly hydrated. And you’ll enjoy your life (and your study) a whole lot more if you plan your social outings (especially ones that involve alcohol and food indulgences) at different times of the week to your course assignments.
Studying doesn’t have to end your social life, in fact if you create a realistic study plan (and stick to the timetable) social outings can be a relaxing reward after completing a study module or submitting an assignment.