Long before the Internet, Doctor Seuss said it best: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. / The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Online learning is a wonderful, flexible way to broaden your horizons, improve your skills, work towards a degree or simply enrich your mind. But starting and sticking with an online course can be challenging and seem overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. You can make it happen for yourself, with a little planning and support.
The first part of the process is choosing the right course for you (read more about that here). There are loads out there, offering the flexibility a mum needs – we’ve got a whole website section devoted to them!
Think about why you want to take the course, and what you want to get out of it. Like most things - if we do them with purpose and a sense of direction then we get more out of them and feel more fulfilled.
Understanding the issues for online learning will help. In the Journal of Interactive Online Learning, scholars argue that online students need to be more intrinsically motivated than traditional students, as they are responsible for their own learning to a greater degree. However, the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning found through a series of case studies that “the perceived importance, relevance, and utility value of the activity (associated with identified regulation) were just as important as the interest or enjoyment of the task associated with intrinsic motivation).”
What this means for you is that it’s important to provide yourself motivation both from the pleasure of the activity, but also from consciously employing strategies to reinforce that this is something that is important. Here are four ways to keep yourself hitting the books (or the online lessons!):
1. Be realistic.
Choose attainable goals from the start. You can begin small, simply audit a course without being required to do all the homework, and still get a great deal out of the experience. Then, develop a realistic schedule that incorporates your study times into your other daily activities and responsibilities. Make appointments with yourself to study, and try to set aside a space that is just for you to do your work.
2. Take time to be you
As you make your schedule, leave time for yourself in there too. Give yourself a breather, a date night, a chance to read a non-class related book or see a movie. It’ll keep you happier and more balanced in the long run, and keep you safe from burn out.
3. Get involved
Online classes can feel isolating. You can break those walls down! Connect with your classmates and teachers online or via video chat. Talk about what you’re learning, whether with someone you already know who has similar interests, or with your online friends. Find study buddies you can interact with in person in your community, through an independent study group, or by encouraging a friend to take the class with you. All these tricks will help reinforce what you’re learning, build a support network, and stay motivated.
4. Celebrate your achievements
List your goals and why you want to learn, and review this list often. Visualise yourself accomplishing your goals – whether it’s getting a degree, or speaking French on a trip to Paris. Then, with each little step towards your goal, acknowledge your hard work and reward yourself for your progress. Give yourself a little treat, whether it’s watching a favourite TV show or getting a pedicure. When it feels tough to keep going, look at how far you’ve already come!.
© Take time to BE YOU – September 2015.