If you're an adult student seeking to pursue a degree amid a job, family and life's other demands, the growing availability of online programs can make higher education both more accessible and achievable. Yet while you'll likely appreciate the flexibility of going to college online, you may be unsure about how to set yourself up for success outside the traditional classroom.
The good news is that it's absolutely possible for students to thrive in the online environment. Sure, the question of how to study for online classes will have a range of answers based on your courses, goals and personal studying style, but these five study tips provide a great starting point:
- Designate a study space. Laptops and tablets give us mobility and allow us work and read anywhere: at the kitchen table, in a coffee shop, and even on the go, if you've got an Internet connection. But you may find your focus is harder to find when you're working all over the place. Choosing one specific spot in your home and stocking it with the necessary study supplies will make it easier for you to work. What's more, keeping all your school related items in the same place will save time because you won't have to go looking for what you need. Creating an organized, comfortable study space may help minimize distractions. (Though this article is geared more toward younger students, it has some great ideas for making use of small spaces.) If you prefer to work in a public library or another location away from home, keeping a bag prepared with all your needed supplies will also be a timesaver.
- Maximize your productivity with a timer. Studies have found that productivity is improved when you use a timer to keep track of your work. This approach has an actual name: the Pomodoro Technique, which involves 25-minute work sessions, followed by a 5-minute break. A quick Internet search will bring you to several timer application options that can be installed on your computer desktop and configured based on your academic needs. There are also several Pomodoro apps for mobile phones and tablets. Many people find they can commit a 25-minute block of time to a task when they know they're going to get a brief break.
- Get serious about minimizing online distractions. Ideally, you'd probably like to totally disconnect from the Internet when you have to study, but taking online courses often involves online research and logging into learning platforms. And sometimes it's hard to avoid the temptation of clicking over to Facebook or Instagram. Logging out of social media sites may provide enough deterrent, because the act of needing to log in again may remind you to resume studying. But if you need something more stringent, there are several tools which can block social media and other distracting sites while you work.
- Create a study schedule. The life of an online adult learner is a busy one, with work and family obligations adding another layer of commitment to a full daily schedule. Attending online classes is a great option for adult students to fit in going to school, but time to complete assignments and studying need to be incorporated too. The above study tips for adults in college are only effective when they're put into use, which calls for the establishment of routines and habits. Designating specific days and times and adhering to your decisions will make the process more manageable. You may need to accept that some activities may need to be shelved while school is in session.
- Treat yourself well. Successfully juggling school, work, and family successfully can be rewarding, but it's exhausting too. Giving yourself time to relax is important for your mental and physical health. Devoting time to hobbies and fun may seem too indulgent while you're a student, but taking breaks can help you maintain your motivation. If you have a family, make sure to find time for fun group activities that give you a well-deserved break.
Working on an online degree is a marathon, not a sprint, but using the above strategies may help you achieve the academic success you want, keep on top of your work and family obligations, and find time to recharge when needed.
Get more tips on how to do your best in school: Read our College Success blog.