NEXT UP ON this.
If you think online study means attending classes in your pyjamas and harbouring snacks at your side while you study… then yes – you can absolutely do that.
Dr Adam Brown has taught digital media and communication online for a number of years, and says motivation is a recurring theme among his students.
‘I’ve got hundreds of students who are working on social media now – hopefully connecting very well with their peers and their tutors – and motivation is something that is quite often posted about on twitter and other social platforms.’
Staying motivated will likely be your biggest challenge regardless of whether you’re in high school or university, but Dr Brown says it’s one of the most crucial study online ‘do’s’.
‘I can’t emphasise enough how important it’s going to be for students to find ways to inspire themselves, where they might have sometimes been more inspired in a classroom setting just by being surrounded by people or having a teacher present.’
So, what can you do to stay inspired and make the most of your online learning experience?
‘I’ve found that gamification works in different contexts in terms of motivating people,’ Dr Brown says. While there’s no one solution for everyone’s motivation needs, there’s an app for almost anything you could want.
‘There’s a lot of gamified motivational apps out there, such as habitica, Microsoft to-do and todoist, that can give people some notifications every now and then, a little sense of structure,’ he says. ‘Students can help plan their structure by entering in their daily tasks or their assignment deadlines into those apps.’
On the flip side, there’s a little procrastinator in us all, and maybe you’re a repeat offender – maybe you’re reading this article while you’re avoiding your homework. That’s okay, we won’t tell.
But, Dr Brown says if you’re trying to stay focused, using an app such as Forest can help you concentrate by gamifying the practice of not looking at your phone. ‘It’s quite successful for a lot of people.’
Understanding your educational setting, keeping in touch with teachers and peers and engaging with the material available are all crucial in staying on track and motivated.
Dr Brown says it’s a good idea to get a sense of what’s expected of your studies, and engage early on. ‘That leads onto the second point: make sure you ask questions and get in touch when you need to,’ he advises, explaining the electronic means of contacting others can make you a little more invisible.
‘It also makes it a little harder to reach out.’
He also says, ‘The concept of “you’ll get out of your studies what you put into it” applies whether you’re online or in the classroom. You could be sitting in a classroom of 30 people, hiding in the corner, not engaging, looking at Instagram and not having prepared for the class. And in a sense, feel like you’ve done your job for the day when in fact you probably didn’t get that much out of it.’
The same goes for online study. If you show up prepared, and ready to engage with the material, you’ll find it a lot easier to stay interested and inspired.
'I can’t emphasise enough how important it’s going to be for students to find ways to inspire themselves.'
Dr Adam Brown,
Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University
Morning lark or night owl, a fan of flexibility or lover of structure – Dr Brown says online study has been a popular choice for many uni students because it suits any kind of learning style.
Moving to online study is a great time to ‘step back and think about how you learn’, he says.
‘In an online context, there might be more flexibility and freedom, and more of a need for students to take initiative.’ Take opportunities offered by your teachers, but also try to find your own. You might want to organise an online study group so you get a chance to talk about your ideas with others. Or you might find that spending time studying in different areas of your house helps your learning.
Whatever you discover your preferences to be, Dr Brown says structure is key.
‘Having some form of structure to keep yourself motivated and in the headspace of study is going to be really important.’
Whether you’re emailing a teacher, connecting with peers through social media or on a video conference with the class, you want to maintain the same level of professional communication as you normally would.
‘All these practices of communication are still exactly the same on a practical and moral level as speaking to someone face-to-face,’ Dr Brown says.
‘I think the biggest “don’t” is to lose sight of the fact you’re still interacting with a person or group of people,’ he says. Interacting with them online isn’t a free-pass to be hypercritical or impolite.
This is a valuable time to develop your skills in effective online communication. It’s something Dr Brown explains will be ‘absolutely pivotal to every single job in every industry, with very few exceptions’.
Some days, you may want to put your laptop in a dark corner and never open it again. Other days, you’ll have three coffees and still not be able to focus on your studies.
You don’t need to feel like you should always be ‘on’ – it’s okay to have off-days, just as you would in a traditional classroom. But when you feel like this, remember that overcoming these challenges offers amazing rewards.
‘You are actually developing real world skills just by the very act of studying online,’ Dr Brown explains. Taking initiative, being organised, demonstrating self-management ‘when you don’t have the usual support or structure’ – these are all stories you can use to impress future employers and help your resume stand out.
‘It might be a thin part of the silver lining at the moment, but students who embrace the digital possibilities of this world will be the ones who succeed in the future.’
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