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Proven Tips for Studying Online: How to Stay Motivated

Posted by Jenna Baskin on 13/03/2024
Jenna Baskin
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how to stay motivated

In today's fast-paced digital age, the education landscape is transforming faster than ever before.

The surging popularity of online learning is far from being simply a passing trend, as it represents both the present and future of education -- as a space that is increasingly accessible, flexible, and diverse.

Whether you're a young adult considering your career path, a mid-career professional looking to improve your prospects, or you're just exploring the possibility of re-entering the workforce, the virtual classroom brings it all right to your fingertips. 

But the transition to an online setting is not free of obstacles. While online study is flexible, allowing you to fit study around your life and maintain other commitments like your job, it also means you need more motivation, self-discipline, and better organisation. 

Here are our top tips for studying online.

Online Study Tips for Success

Create a study schedule

Managing your time effectively can be challenging when studying online. When you're not on campus and don't have a place to physically be, we can sometimes prioritise other life things over study.

Create a timetable to help you manage your time -- and stick to it! 

  1. Schedule your important academic dates, like assignment due dates, semester breaks, exam periods, and dates and times for online lectures and classes.
  2. Use this schedule to map your personal commitments, too. It's important to have a good balance, so jot down ongoing weekly commitments (singing practice, yoga class, babysitting your niece) as well as one-off events (weekend away, best friend’s wedding, mum and dad’s anniversary lunch). Make sure to put away some time for yourself and loved ones too.
  3. Allocate study time between your commitments. Try and think about what time of day you work best. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you prefer to work in long three-hour or four-hour blocks and get it done at once, or work best doing a little bit every day?
  4. Make sure you allow time for breaks to stretch your legs or calm your mind. This will ensure you remain productive.
  5. Stick to it! Consider this schedule as your commitment to study. Share your study plan with family and friends so they know when you’re unavailable, and can be there to offer support and motivation when you’re having an off day.

It's important that you get the most out of your study sessions. You may find you're sticking to your study schedule and sitting down with your course materials at the dedicated time - but if you aren't effectively using this time, you may find you're falling behind in your course.

Find the style of time management and study habits that work best for you so that your study sessions can be as productive as possible. Maybe you work well if you have a to-do list, with time put aside for each task. Or else you could try splitting your course workload across several weeks in your calendar, so you can visually see what needs to be completed by when, and work that into your study schedule.

Have a Dedicated Study Space

The best way to get in the ‘zone’ is to create a dedicated study space that inspires you, is well organised, and free of distractions. Unlike traditional classrooms, online learning offers you the freedom to choose where you learn best.

Choose a quiet area

Find a spot in your home where distractions are minimal. Whether it's a quiet corner of your bedroom, a dedicated office, or in your living room, the key is to choose a place where you can focus without interruptions. Ideally this space with face a window or have plenty of natural light. 

Organise your space

A clutter-free desk = a clutter-free mind. Keep your study area tidy and organised with all of the necessities close by, like textbooks, notebooks, pens, and highlighters. You almost want to mimic a classroom setting -- personalise your space so that it feels motivating and productive. Maybe some motivational quotes or some plants? Keep healthy snacks nearby to boost brain power, too. 

Get ergonomic

Your physical comfort is crucial during long study sessions. Invest in a comfy chair and position your screen at eye level to avoid strain. Remember: a comfortable body supports a focused mind!

Minimise distractions

Online, distractions are just a click away. Keep your space free from unnecessary digital noise. Use apps or browser extensions that limit your access to distracting websites or socials so that you can get some productive study time under your belt.

Develop effective learning strategies

You'll get the most out of your online learning by actively participating in forums, discussions, and virtual study groups. By engaging with your peers and tutors, you're not only enriching your understanding, but also fostering a supportive community atmosphere. Utilise interactive content like quizzes and webinars to diversify your learning methods and keep things interesting. 

SMART goals can also be effective in making sure you're hitting your goals and staying on track. Regularly tracking your progress not only helps you maintain motivation but also shows you how far you've come. 

Beat procrastination 

Procrastination happens to the best of us. Before you know it you've been sitting in front of your screen and have done everything except your actual assignment. The hardest thing when it comes to getting yourself motivated when studying online is getting started.

Be one step ahead of the procrastination monster by clearing your study space of distractions. Close all social media; ensure your phone is out of reach and ask housemates to be mindful and keep the noise to a minimum. By ditching the distractions you’re turning your full focus to the task at hand.

Tip: Try unlocking your learning style to discover which study habits work best for YOU.

Make the most of supportive services

It’s okay and perfectly normal to not feel on top of things all the time. It can be tricky, but don't be afraid to ask for help. Expert support services including the Wellbeing Service Program, offered by MCI Institute, could be just what you need to get you out of your study rut and back on track.

Never underestimate the power of peer support. Check with fellow online learners in your course to see if there are any study groups you can join. Online study groups are a great way of going over course content and study materials with other students and helping everyone on their way to online study success.

Take notes effectively

Taking effective notes is a crucial skill, especially in an online setting where information can be vast and varied. 

Start by choosing a method that suits your learning style -- whether it's the Cornell method, mind mapping, or simply bullet points. Focus on capturing key concepts, definitions, and questions rather than transcribing everything verbatim. Take advantage of digital notetaking tools and enhance your notes with charts or diagrams to help with retention. 

Take time for yourself

The most important tip for studying online? Take some time for yourself. Everyone needs time to have some fun and unwind -- otherwise you could be on your way to burning out

You'll be more productive during your study sessions if you give yourself time to rest and unwind. Try setting realistic study goals and once you've achieved them, reward yourself.

Got great marks on your last assignment? Reward yourself. Finished your essay a day early? Reward yourself.  

Promising yourself a reward can also be the motivation you need to excel at finishing your task. It’s important to recognise important milestones and celebrate achievements, just like you might do with classmates if you attended on-campus classes. Celebrating the wins along the way will help you have a positive online learning experience, and help you maintain your motivation.

Transform your online study experience

Whether you're navigating the complexities of time management, crafting the perfect study environment, engaging deeply with coursework, or harnessing the power of community and support, we hope these tips for studying online have been helpful.

At MCI Institute, our goal is to guide, support, and empower you every step of the way. Let's make your online learning journey not just a path to academic success, but one of personal growth and achievement. Explore our nationally recognised online courses today!


Download our free ebook to find out how online learning can fuel your personal growth.

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By Jenna Baskin

Jenna Baskin is the CEO of MCI and has over 11 years’ experience in the training and education space. She was responsible for the creation of the MCI's online consumer division, the MCI Institute, and the transition of the organisation into the digital learning landscape. This includes platform partnerships across North America, unique content development, and the introduction of virtual reality learning methodologies.