When you’re a distance learning student, you’ll definitely feel that you’re on your own. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. One of the most common complaints from students studying online is that they feel they’re not really considered serious students.
And this may well be true. Many universities seem to look at online students as their own personal cash-cows. A lot seem to think that their main aim is to get you to sign up, tell you what to do, and then ignore you completely except for when it comes to assignments. So, what can you do to stop this so that you will become an online learning superstar?
1. Create a Supportive Study Group
Unfortunately, not much, as I doubt this situation is going to change anytime soon. However, the best way to counteract this is to be proactive.
The first thing to do is get a list of all the other students in the course and contact them. Normally, a list of all students’ emails is published at the start of the course. If this is the case, getting in contact with other students shouldn’t be a problem.
Choose as many students, who you think might be a good fit for a study group, as you like and ask them if they’d like to form a study group. When you think you have 3-5 good prospects, invite them to your group. The $64,000 question? How do you know they are good prospects?
Well, do your homework, and see if you can work out what their strengths and weaknesses are. When you contact them, tell them your own strengths and weaknesses. Ask them to do the same when writing back, and in that way you should be able to get a well-balanced group of students.
If you’d like more details about study groups, head over to Education Corner. Although this post is aimed at real-world students, it still has some really good ideas that’ll help you get started.
2. A Comfortable Learning Area
I realise that you may have thought that where to study would come first, but I really think having a support network is the most important thing to organise. Everything else comes second. And a place to study is that second.
Below you will find a very useful video from College Info Geek. In it, you will learn a lot about what you should be thinking about when you want to set up a space for you to study in. I should point out that this is also aimed at real-world students but there is still a great deal of value in it for you as a distance learning student.
Some of the things talked about in this video are:
- Where you should study
- Lightening in your study area
- Room temperature
- Access to everything you need
- Changing locations
I really liked one idea. If you are in a study area where you keep being distracted, write down what distracts you. At the end of your study session, look at those distractions and see if you can get rid of some of them, or even work out a way to avoid them altogether.
I also liked the idea of looking at your study space as a ‘work in progress’. Don’t think that your study spot should be perfect right from the start. Play around with things until you are happy with it.
3. Furniture Conducive to Studying
To continue the cohesive nature of this post, after the study area must come the furniture to fill it. The main thing here is to choose what will be most comfortable for you. However, I have a few tips that might help you out.
Firstly, you need to decide if you want a desk or a table. Personally, I always think a table is the way to go. You can convert a table into whatever you want, but a desk will always be a desk.
I also would go for a long table. Having a lot of space means you can spread out. You can also move away from your computer while you write, thus removing yourself from a serious distraction. Below is the kind of table I’m talking about.
The next most obvious item is a decent chair. Again, I can only talk about my own personal opinion. I think a reasonably sturdy chair, with armrests. It should be adjustable, both vertically and horizontally, so you can lean back for power naps, and a headrest to help with the aforementioned power naps.
Anyway, I could go on about lights, cushions, and footrests, but I won’t. What I will suggest is that you head over to houseology.com. There is an excellent article there that does much more justice than I can to all the necessities of good study room furniture.
4. A Realistically Scheduled Study Plan
So, now you have a group to study with, a place to study, and furniture to study on/with, or whatever the correct preposition is there. Now you need to set up a realistic study plan. You’ll have to think of two things here; the responsibility you have to yourself, and the responsibility you have to the various groups you will be affiliated with.
Once more, I am going to yield to someone more knowledgeable than I. Develop Good Habits has a great post written by guest blogger, Niklas Goeke.
It really is a most interesting read and, for once, the post is especially relevant if you are a distance learning student who is going it alone. The story of Felix Wong who completed an MBA in 4.5 months is particular impressive.
5. Set Up Milestones Each Month
Another strategy is to set up goals or milestones each day/week/month to keep you on the right path. It is easy to get distracted or downhearted; especially, when you are going it alone. By setting up milestones, you not only give yourself goals to aim for but you can also give yourself rewards for reaching each milestone.
Yes, it sounds a little childish to give yourself rewards for doing something which is its own reward, but I don’t care. Everyone likes rewards, no matter what their age, and there’s no reason not to do the same for yourself. Just in case you’re not sure what milestones are, check out this link.
6. Have a Meet Up in Your Area
This is another piece of advice for those of you who are going it alone as a distance learning student. I can’t stress enough how often you’ll feel lonely, but there are ways to mitigate those feelings. One of the best ways is to arrange meet ups with others who are going through the same experiences as you are.
Admittedly, when I checked out the ‘Learning’ meet-ups in Granada, I cam up blank, but hopefully you will have more luck where you are based. And if there aren’t any, you can start one yourself to get the ball rolling.
Of course, you could also check out the classified ads in your local paper or on Craigslist to see if there are any groups meeting to support distance learning students. In fact, there are probably many alternative ways to meet like-minded people; it’s just a matter of thinking creatively.
7. A List of Reasons to Study
Finally, and it’s not because I needed another strategy to make seven, keep a list of reasons why you are studying. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous to need a reason to keep studying something that will only be a benefit to you, but it’s not.
Everyone needs a reason to do something that is more than just logic. You can see this most often when people do stupid things like climb really tall mountains or try to walk to the South Pole. After all, logically, no one in their right minds would do 90% of the ridiculous things people do on a regular basis.
So, make a list. Sure, you can put down that you want to get a better job or earn more money, but put down more than just the tangible; put down the emotional reasons for wanting to succeed in whatever you are trying to achieve. If you are looking for inspiration, check out this list from the Odyssey Online, or just look at one of the most famous reasons for doing something.
Wrapping It All Up
And there you have it. Some advice to help you survive being a distance learning student. I hope you found it useful. If so, please leave a comment below. And if you have any ideas yourself, let me know too.
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