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5 Tips for Studying While Completing an Online Degree

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The biggest advantage to taking classes online is the flexibility you get with this approach to learning.

It’s certainly a plus for working adults trying to balance career and family responsibilities while acquiring some new skills or working towards a degree. No matter how high-tech education gets, however, you still have to find time to study. You still need that self-motivation to get started, but it’s not an obstacle you can’t overcome. Here are five tips for studying online:

Keep Distractions to a Minimum

It’s inevitable. You sit down to study and the phone rings or the kids need you to settle their latest dispute. The key to successful studying is to keep distractions to a minimum. Don’t study in Grand Central Station. Find a place that’s quiet. Wear noise-canceling headphones to increase concentration while you are watching lectures or presentations. Take notes so that if you are interrupted, you can refer to them to see where you left off, and then go back and watch it again from the beginning.

Set a Realistic Schedule

It’s great to jump in full throttle and be dedicated to make the most of the online learning experience, but reality should play an important part of your scheduling efforts too. You may want to squeeze in an hour of study time when you get home from work, but if this is when the kids come home and it’s time to get dinner ready, it’s not going to work. Set aside times that you can realistically get some studying done. Make your study schedule known to those around you and inform them that you’re not to be disturbed, unless it’s an emergency.

Take Study Breaks

You’re not trying to broker Mid-East peace talks, so take a break now and then. Schedule regular study breaks or take a break when you get stuck on something or you are frustrated with trying to grasp a concept. Give yourself something to look forward to when you’re done studying, such as a movie night or dinner out with your friends. A potential reward helps keep you focused and motivated.

Build a Support System

Studying online doesn’t have to mean a solitary existence. Connect with fellow classmates via social networks and online forums or schedule group study times. This gives you a chance to share ideas and ask questions. Schedule one-on-one sessions via video conferencing with your professors. This gives you a chance to ask questions directly and clarify things you don’t understand. Build an additional support system with your friends, family, and co-workers.

Set and Review Goals

Determine what it is you want to accomplish with your online studies. Are you just looking to brush up on your current skills? Are you trying to earn that promotion? Do you want to get into an entirely new field? If you have a clear understanding of what you want and you have a goal to work towards, you will be more motivated to study.

You will only get as much out of online courses as you put into them. Granted, you have more realistic distractions now than you did in high school, but it’s still possible to squeeze in some productive study time. Remember, it’s quality over quantity. You can try to study for a few hours with a bunch of distractions and come away with very little in terms of retention. Conversely, you can get in 20-30 minutes of productive study time and come away with a better understanding of the material presented to you.

Kristin Lee blogs about higher education, including online degree programs. If you are interested in earning an online MPA, you might consider applying to onlinempa.usfca.edu or www.northwestern.edu.

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