13 ways to succeed in your online course and distance learning

Online courses and distance learning can be a very convenient way to gain more opportunities and skills to progress further in a career. While it can be a challenging experience which requires time, self-discipline and motivation, it can also be extremely rewarding if you’re prepared to work for it.

Here are our tips to help you succeed in learning online and remotely:

1.    Establish why you’re doing the course

You don’t want to commit yourself to a long-term course, only to find out it’s not for you. Determine what you want to achieve with the course. Are you hoping to gain a promotion? Are you looking for a new career or to improve your job prospects

Keep this in mind throughout your course, even when it gets challenging. It will help with your long-term motivation and also ensure you understand what is expected of you in undertaking this course. 

2.    Give yourself short term goals

Use the syllabus to set yourself mini goals that you want to achieve at the end of each unit. It will motivate you throughout your course and demonstrate how well you’re progressing. Hold yourself accountable for each goal you set.

Buy yourself something new when you’ve finished a topic, have your favourite snack ready for after a study block or reward yourself with a coffee when you complete a task. It will give you the motivation to get the next task done. 

3.    Create a study plan

Putting together a large calendar or plan that incorporates course and personal deadlines will keep you on track with both. Ensure that you block out a realistic amount of time for each task and leave enough space for breaks to prevent the risk of burning out and losing focus. 

When writing your schedule, try to get ahead of deadlines instead of leaving them to the last minute. The earlier you’re able to get your work completed, the less stress you will feel about completing it. 

4.    Understand how you work best

You may have to try a few different methods to figure out how you work best as everybody takes in information differently. Perhaps you learn better in the morning, night, during your commute or prefer to sit on the sofa or in your bedroom. Some studies have found that learning information before sleep is remembered and recalled more easily. 

Try to take the time to find out what is the best method for you early on as it will make learning easier through the entirety of your course.

5.    Swap tech for learning

Consider switching off your social media when you are learning. Swiping to find out what is going on it someone else’s life can distract you from the task at hand – to study. 

It’s good to have frequent breaks during your studying, however, research has suggested that social media can lower productivity levels and switching your attention from studying to social media can heighten tiredness. 

6.    Take notes

Regardless of your learning technique, taking notes is generally beneficial for everybody. Notes can help you to remember the finer details of all the information you’ll consume throughout your course and are easier to refer to as a reminder of textbook topics.

Try colour coding, using symbols or typing your notes as methods to help remember information. 

7.    Test yourself

Set regular times for testing and reviewing what you have learnt to ensure you are engaged with the course content. Testing yourself requires discipline and practice, but it will be extremely valuable in highlighting the areas that you may need to go back and run through again. 

The use of flash cards, using old tests and writing essays can all be effective ways to check what you’ve learned. 

8.    Create a study space

When studying, you need to have a quiet, inspiring and tidy space for yourself. This will help you feel more organised and get you into the right frame of mind for learning.

Do you like listening to music when you study? Are there any snacks or drinks you like to make your studying experience more enjoyable? Be conscious of the distractions from your phone such as social media and apps. Also keep in mind lighting, desk space, seating and noise when choosing the best place for you to study.

9.    Take advantage of everything

Use all the resources you are provided with to study, not just the compulsory ones. You’ve committed time and money to your studies so make sure you get the most out of it. Taking advantage of everything that is available will not only make your course easier but will also provide you with a deeper understanding of the topic. 

10.     Get help when you need it

While you’re using all the physical resources available, it’s important to remember the people who are there to support you. Don't struggle alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  Reach out to your course tutor or speak to your peers. There are loads of discussion boards out there which can invaluable in supporting you while you are doing an online course, as everybody is in the same boat. 

MOL’s learner support network provide learners with access to experts in the industry and topics covered by their courses. 

11.     Talk to your family and friends

Don’t forget the support network you have at home. Share your study plan with your family and friends, so that they can help you to stick to your schedule and can plan around your deadlines. It would also be worth telling your employer that you’re doing an online course as they may be able to help you with scheduling, advice and managing workloads. 

12.     Use cloud storage

Technology can sometimes fail us, but to avoid any mishaps, make sure you save work often and back up your work using cloud storage just in case your internet stops mid-study. It will give you peace of mind that you can’t lose everything you’ve been working on.

A reliable internet resource will allow you to study whenever you want, giving you the flexibility to work when it’s best for you.

13.     Look after yourself

This is perhaps one of the most important points on the list. If you aren’t looking after yourself properly, it could be holding you back from reaching your full potential. 

It can be easy to demand too much of yourself early on which causes burnout and illness, ultimately making it more difficult to study in the future. Remember to look after yourself both mentally and physically while studying. Be realistic with your schedule, allow some time for yourself and accept that there will probably be days when you aren’t able to achieve everything. 

It's also important for you to eat well, exercise and to stay hydrated as this will make you feel physically better when studying, which can have a positive effect on your mental health and ability to concentrate. 

MOL is committed to providing high quality, online courses for learners who work full time, but want to open up new opportunities that a qualification can bring. For more information on how we can provide you with a course that will kick-off your career, call our programme advisors.

A person studying at a desk