AIU Blog

The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

When the World is Your Classroom

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One of the great things about being an online student is the convenience. When you learn online, you can access your course materials from an Internet-connected computer—and sometimes from a smartphone, too. This means your classroom goes wherever you can take it, and, as long as you’re focused, you can learn on the go.

But are some places better learning environments than others? This article looks at the pros and cons of a few different places online learners can go to study.

The Coffee Shop

Coffee shops and cafes, whether chain or independent, increasingly have free wi-fi access to go along with comfortable seating, easy restroom access, and plenty of tasty beverages and snacks. Online learners who need to get out of the house, or who are on a lunch break from work, can take advantage of these inviting spaces to study, watch a lecture, or participate in a group chat with online classmates.

However, coffee shops have their downsides for students. Coffee shops are increasingly taking steps to ensure “laptop squatters” don’t take up an entire table for six hours while only nursing one drink. You should be prepared to make regular purchases (and leave tips!) throughout your study visit if you’re planning to be there for more than an hour.

Also, coffee shops with free Wi-Fi may not take appropriate security precautions with their networks. If you don’t take steps to protect your machine, you may find you part with more than the cost of a latte during your study time.


If you have a long commute, there are a number of ways to make the most of it. Drivers who are good auditory learners (more likely to retain knowledge through listening) can download podcasts or audio lectures to listen to while they wait in traffic. Those on public transportation can also take advantage of recorded lectures, or watch videos or complete assignments on a laptop or smartphone.

The downside of studying during your commute is that, as a driver, your attention can become divided between the road and the podcast. If you find yourself in really difficult driving conditions, don’t put yourself in danger: turn off the lecture until later. Similarly, public transportation commuters could miss a stop if they become too absorbed in their schoolwork. In this case, setting an alarm to go off five minutes before you expect to reach your stop reminds you to pack up.

In The Waiting Room

Doctor, dentist, or other professional keeping you waiting? If you have a smartphone or portable media device, a long stint warming a seat in a waiting room is a great opportunity for a little study time. The instant accessibility of smartphones may be one reason why a recent study by student assistance website StudyBlue suggested that students with smartphones actually seem to study more often than those without.

Don’t launch into a two-hour lecture while you wait for your checkup, though: pick a rote learning activity, such as reviewing vocabulary terms for your computer networking class or important dates for world history. Just make sure you’re able to hear the receptionist when they (finally) call your name.

Consistency Matters

While the flexibility and convenience of online college education is a major draw, don’t assume that just because you can study when and where you want that you will do it. For success in pursuing your online college degree, it’s important to be disciplined. Make sure you know when assignment deadlines are and when required chats happen. Block out dedicated study sessions to make sure you’re ready to participate and make the most of the great opportunity online learning offers.

This article is presented by American InterContinental University, a leading provider of career-focused education. Online or on-campus via AIU Online, AIU offers students degree programs without distractions. Find out more about AIU’s associate, bachelor, and master’s degree program offerings at