Top Tips for Online Learning
The moment you enrolled in your UCD Professional Academy course was an exciting one. Whether you’re upskilling or retraining, the start of your course is the beginning of new possibilities for your career.
Whether it’s your career, your studies, or anything else in life, you can achieve anything with the right plan. To help you put your best foot forward, we put together our best tips for online learning. We’ll show you how to:
Stay motivated throughout your course
Manage your time, even with a busy schedule
Learn the way that makes sense to you
With this guide, you’ll know how to get the very most from your UCD Professional Academy course.
Let’s get started!
1 - Set Your Goals and Add a Reward
You chose your UCD Professional Academy course for a reason. Maybe there’s an internal promotion you’re chasing, or you’re re-skilling for a new job or even a new industry. Or maybe you just love learning for the sake of it.
Whatever motivation you had for the course, it’s time to use it and transform that initial spark into a definable, measurable goal. Setting a goal for the course will not only help you finish on time, but it will drive you to get the very most from the experience.
Goal setting isn’t just a box-ticking exercise.
As psychologists Locke & Latham (2006) explain, setting goals can help improve your motivation, self-confidence, and self-esteem. All of these will make it easier to navigate the peaks and troughs of not only online learning but learning a new skill in general.
But any psychologist will tell you that setting goals is the easy part. Generating action to achieve them can often be the difficult bit.
To that end,why not complement your goal with a reward for completing the class? Your reward could be anything that gives you something to look forward to:
an extravagant takeaway
a day dedicated to finishing the rest of Netflix
a quick weekend trip down the country at the end of the course.
By the end of this exercise, you’ve got a goal to provide you direction, tools to help you persevere, and a reward to look forward to at the end! You’re more prepared than ever to not only complete your course but carry it with you into your career.
2 - Use a Dedicated Space to Learn
If there’s one thing you’ve heard a lot over the two years, it’s that you need dedicated time and space to work, whether it’s your job, your studies, or even finishing a book.
There’s real science behind this claim.
Studies of teleworkers show that our environment directly impacts our ability to not only produce but stay motivated. Many people need to stick to the same routine when they log on for the day, or they struggle to connect and engage.
Integrating this tip into your studies is fairly straightforward. Pick a spot in the house (or somewhere else) that you can dedicate to completing your UCD Professional Academy course. If you’re working full-time and working from home, try to complete your course away from your desk to help take yourself out of ‘work mode’ and focus on your studies.
Tip: Do you have noisy flatmates, an unending stream of distractions, or find yourself struggling with productivity after spending the last year and a bit in the house?
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your space for the duration of your course. You might try out a hotdesk or co-working hub if you're completing a bootcamp-style course. You could even tether your phone to your computer and head out to the garden, the park, or even just go sit in your car somewhere. Whatever you do, just try to keep it consistent.
3 - Schedule Your Lectures, Study Time, Assignments, and Exams
With a dedicated workspace and a dream, it’s time to schedule your week. A schedule will help pick up where your willpower might leave off. It’s also a great way to establish new habits and train your brain to study.
Your UCD Professional Academy course adds scheduled lecture time to your weekly calendar. So, you need to be sure to add them to your diary or put them in your Google Calendar or iCal to remind you. In fact, give yourself 15 minutes on either side of your lecture, giving you time to prepare your brain to transition between tasks and refocus on the lecture.
Tip: Using Google Calendar? Set the lecture event to recurring weekly so you only need to enter it once.
Schedule Assignment Work to Maximise Efficiency
Lectures are your first priority, but you’ll also have reading to do and assignments to plan. Scheduling time for your assignments can help you manage your time efficiently and do better work, particularly if you have competing priorities.
What can an assignment schedule look like?
You might schedule one hour three times per week for completing coursework. Add these to your calendar, and stick to your schedule!
Make sure you build these hours around other commitments and don’t forget to add in transition time. For example, if you walk through the door after work at 5:15, don’t immediately sit down at your computer. You might start your session at 5:45 to give yourself half an hour to decompress, have a cup of tea, spend time with your partner or kids, or even take a quick nap.
4 - Participate Like It’s an On-Campus Course
One of the best tips for online learning that we can offer doesn’t revolve around scheduling tips, noise-cancelling headphones, or even productivity. It’s all about experience.
To make the most of your online learning, act like you’re on campus.
What does this mean? It means interacting with your course mates and lecturers in any way you can. You might be at home or in the office, but you’re very much a part of your course community!
When you increase your engagement with others, you’ll learn more. You’ll learn from others’ experiences, ask questions you never would have thought of on your own, and find yourself inspired to keep growing and developing not only across the course but after you receive your certificate.
A few ways you can engage with other students during online learning include:
Raise your hand for group assignments and projects.
Set up or join a Zoom or Teams-based study group to connect with others.
Participate in forums by sharing your own thoughts, respectfully responding to others’ posts, and initiating conversations.
Connect with other students on LinkedIn to keep in touch and build your professional network.
Email your lecturer with questions, comments, or thoughts on course material or even other subjects related to their specialty.
Ask for help if you hit a wall. If you lose motivation, find a module or assignment difficult, or can’t wrap your head around a concept, ask a course mate or your lecturer for their thoughts.
5 - Reassess Mid-Way Through the Course
You have a workspace and a schedule, but don’t turn on auto-pilot for the rest of the course. Check in mid-way through your course to make sure your plan is still working for you.
Even if you’re flowing through the course with ease, every student benefits from an opportunity to assess how their course is going so far.
You might take time to ask:
Is your study schedule working for you?
Have you been able to be productive in your workspace?
Are you getting everything you need from the course? From your lecturers?
Are you still motivated?
A mid-course check-in gives you a chance to not only answer these questions but then optimise for the rest of the course.
For example, if you’ve scheduled study time for after work but you find it a long slog after a busy day, you might try switching your schedule to before work or on the weekends.
Tip: If your course involves upskilling for your current role, you might even talk to your employer and ask if they won’t give you an hour a day of work time to do your studying and assignments. After all, you’re bringing back skills that will add value to your organisation!
6 - Lean into Your Learning Style & Productivity Skills
There’s no right way to study or learn. Everyone has a learning style, which means you may learn differently from your peers.
What is a learning style? A learning style refers to the way you gather, sort, and process information and then come to conclusions based on what you learn. There’s limited science behind the 70 different learning styles out there, but you can do your own experiments to optimise your online learning experience.
We recommend getting started thinking carefully about how you tend to better handle information. A simple way to do this is to think about the sensory approaches:
Use these approaches to help you better structure your learning experience. For example, you might use YouTube or podcasts to help you learn if you’re a visual or aural learner. If you tend to learn through reading and writing, you might keep a journal throughout the course.
7 - Train Your Brain to Study
Studying is a skill, and if you’re returning to studies for the first time in a while, you may need some extra help to get back into the swing of things.
One way to get back into studying is by training your brain through productivity techniques.
The simplest of these techniques is the Pomodoro system. With the Pomodoro system, you set a timer (usually for 25 minutes) and then focus until the timer beeps and then it’s ‘pencils down’ for five minutes. You can run this with the alarm on your phone or with a free Pomodoro app.
Tip: If you’re really struggling, start with a shorter timer. Go 10 minutes on, five minutes off and build your way up to 25 minutes on five minutes off.
If you need extra help staying off your apps, then apps like Freedom or Forest can help you get through Pomodoro by locking you out of distracting apps or websites.