I’m met by the same reaction each time I tell someone I study online- they tell me that I must have the most excellent work ethic, that they could never have the motivation for it.
It doesn’t take much work ethic to wake up at 9am and start studying in your pj’s, but it can be hard to manage your time wisely when you study from home.
Online study is one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I don’t think it gets as much attention as it should. When I was eighteen I thought my only option was to study full-time at the university my parents shipped me off to. I didn’t know that I could work, have hobbies, and study full-time.
The many positives of online study include taking holidays when you want (and much cheaper holidays in term time) and not having to commute every day.
The negatives are there too; it’s hard to get to know your tutors, studying can be overwhelming and lonely, and some degrees can’t be offered online for need of hands on learning.
I wanted to write this blog post of studying online to help out any current distance students, or anyone who’s thinking about studying via distance.
Create an organized space you feel comfortable studying in
An obvious one, but extremely important for distance students. Make sure you have a lot of natural light and plenty of desk space. Mimic a library, keep it quiet and warm without any distractions. Also, download the app Forest on your iPhone, you can set a timer for an amount of time and you can’t exit the app whilst it’s on, so you have no choice but to leave your phone alone. You can also choose for the app to plant real life trees also, win-win.
Time your day
Distance students usually have other activities on such as work and hobbies, so timing your day will help a lot. I find that I need to give myself big blocks of time to study in a day, around five hours. This is so I don’t get distracted by other things I need to complete. Take small breaks in that big chunk of study such as making a snack or walking around the block. When you have big blocks of study done you can take whole days off for when you work.
Be active on the forums
A lot of the time, it’s difficult for tutors to teach online study if they are used to normal teaching. Being active on the forums and opening up discussions will put your name out there in a positive light to your tutors, and your thoughts help the other students too. Answer students’ questions if you know the answer instead of waiting for your tutor to get around to answering them.
On the same notion, never ask your tutor on the forums when your marks are going to become available. There’s literally no point in getting marks back early, all you are doing is stressing out your tutor- they have their own things going on besides online study just like you do!
Learn about your tutors
It’s very important to get to know your tutor’s preferences. Your tutor will introduce themselves at the start of the semester. If they don’t divulge that much about themselves or their professional career then you can always google them to find out what their academic preferences are. I don’t mean Facebook stalking them and casually mentioning their favourite movies in an essay, but just retaining the information your tutor says about themselves will be crucial to your grades.
For example, one of my past poetry tutors hated rhyming schemes because she found them fake and forced most of the time. Even though I disagreed with it, I made sure not to write one rhyming poem that semester. I was surprised by the amount of people who continued to do rhyming schemes even though she explicitly said she didn’t prefer them. It’s not worth trying to prove your teacher wrong, just stick to the angle they like teaching.
Create a Facebook group or join one for your paper
Some tutors are funny about distance students creating Facebook groups outside of the forums, but it’s just a place for the students to chat to one and other and to make distance studying less lonely. There’s usually one person in the paper who will create one for that semester, but if they don’t then do it yourself. I remember in one paper a tutor asked to be part of the group so they could check nothing sinister was happening, but most of the time it’s just people saying, “Wait we’re already up to week 10? I’m still on week 2,” or, “When are we going to get our marks back??!!!!!”
I hope these tips helped anyone who’s thinking about doing distance studying. It’s perfect if you’re not ready for the full commitment of university and just want to try out a few distance papers, or if you want to be able to study, work, and travel at the same time.