Online Courses: Tips for Success

Students of online courses celebrating their success.

1. Be inspired

A drive to keep studying week after week is how you push through online courses. The ultimate goal is what gives you energy and determination. Be inspired about what you are going to accomplish and success will inevitably follow.

2. Be professional

Why have debates in your own mind about when you're going to study? That will soon have you coming up with excuses not to. Treat online study like a job – be professional – and you will put in the required hours for sure.

3. Create a timetable

When are you going to find time to study online each week? Create a weekly timetable and the answer will be in front of you. The schedule needs to balance study with everything else. Remember, proper study can be time consuming.

4. Micro-manage time

Find yourself wasting away minutes or even hours on social media? Did you do everything else this week except finish the major assignment? Stop it. Manage time carefully. Set goals for each day and each hour within the day.

5. Study in blocks

Real progress is made when you got lost in your online course and think of nothing else. Deep immersion, full attention, knowledge aquisition. Achieving a good learning state takes more than 5 minutes. So set aside at least an hour at a time.

6. Find a quiet place

It may be fun to study in the loungeroom when everyone is watching TV. But are you really studying effectively? To focus on your online course, find a regular space and time where you can expect peace, quietness and solitude.

7. Use online resources

Online universities and colleges give you the tool to achieve study success. Why not use them? Take a little time to figure out exactly how to navigate through the different parts of the online interface. See what resources are available.

8. Break down tasks

Trying to absorb everything at once can lead to confusion and a sense of not making progress. Instead, you can break up your online course into bite-sized chunks. Focus on a small topic and master that before moving on.

9. Switch your brain on

Real learning requires mental engagement. You don't achieve that through passive reading or thoughtless note taking. Find ways to keep mentally engaged throughout the course (e.g. test your understanding after each chapter).

10. Take notes

With all your course content received online, you have it all recorded digitally. But it's still important to take notes. Jotting something down keeps you engaged, helps with retention, and will be useful for exams or assignments.

11. Browse with purpose

Much of your research and learning happens using the internet. To keep focus and create your own content, use flashcards or subject worksheets. When you find something useful on a topic, record it and make a note of the source.

12. Have fun

You're much more likely to put in solid hours studying if you generally enjoy it. If coffee or a little light music helps, go for it. Learning should be a rewarding activity in itself. Study for personal enrichment as well as to pass the online course.

13. Take breaks

To study efficiently and consistently, get in the habit of taking regular short breaks (5-10 minutes). Quick time-outs keep you fresh and allow you to put in longer hours. Walking the dog or tidying up may be preferable to frequent snack breaks.

14. Stay healthy

Paying a little attention to your health is good for your studies and good for you in general. Sleep is vital. Hydration is essential if you are consuming caffeine. Eating well gives you energy. Exercise makes you stronger and fitter.

15. Connect to classmates

The success of online courses often depends on communication between classmates. You can use each other for learning, motivation and support. To connect, join online discussions and make posts. You can also form a study group.

16. Ask questions

Good students understand how their online course works. They also achieve a solid grasp of every topic. These things don't happen just by chance. If you are ever struggling to figure something out on your own, just ask a question online.

17. Beat deadlines

There's nothing like an urgent deadline for motivation. The trouble is that leaving everything to the last minute costs you marks. If anything goes wrong, an assignment can be low quality or late. Allow time for good work and revision.

18. Reward yourself

Putting in solid hours of self-directed learning is an achievement. Working towards a qualification and a better career means something. So celebrate your online study milestones and successes. You've earned a reward for discipline and effort.

These tips and suggestions are based on the experiences of many online university and college students. We looked at the entries for our "study tips" scholarship competition to find out what actually works for people doing online study.