One of the most attractive features of online learning for many people is that it is done in the comfort of their home, in their pajama, any time of day or night. But, this great advantage is at the same time one the biggest challenge online learners’ experience. How can you convince your family that, just because you are at home, it does not mean that you can do the laundry, take dog for a walk, fix the leaking faucet and thousands of other chores that have to be done daily. One of the first tasks in your online learning life is to create your own school environment, which will convince both yourself and your family or roommates that when you study, you are not available for anything else. They should just pretend that you are not there.
If we disregard the small problem of being exhausted and sleepy, is almost easier if you work whole day and sit at your computer only after the dinner dishes are washed, kid’s homework is done and everyone is asleep. But, if you are unemployed, laid off or just finished raising a couple of toddlers, you spend your day at home and your will have to carve your online learning time out of the rest of your day, and then guard it with the tenacity of a pitbull.
Plan your day
Once you get your online assignments, a list of literature, all the software that enables you to communicate with your teachers and other students, you have to start behaving like any other student: plan your every day. You have thousands of chores to do, kids to take to school, vacuuming of the house to do, garden to weed…Your study time has to fit somewhere in between. Some people think and focus better in the morning. Others are night awls. Decide when you are the most productive and dedicate a number of hours during that period for your studies.
The number of hours your need for studying depends on your learning skills and the amount of work your studies demand. It will take some time for you to figure out how many hours you need every day for your ‘school’, but once you figure it out, stick to it. Some days you will have more work, but there is a minimum number of hours that you will find necessary for coping with your assignments. Stick to them religiously. Announce to your family that, for example from 9 am to 1 pm, you are ‘in school.” You are not available to feed their gerbils or make chocolate chip cookies. Be adamant, and eventually everyone, including yourself, will get used to it.
Create your classroom
For obvious reasons, studying on the kitchen table is not a good idea. Ideally, you should dedicate one room in the house for studying, and it should be a room with the door you can close. If you do not have a study or a guest room, your bedroom is the next best option. You need a desk, even if you work from your laptop and it is so tempting to just work from your bed. Your desk, with a good, comfortable computer chair, lamp, a few notepads, pens and all necessary reference book will create your learning background, even all you need is online and you do not need any papers or pens. It is the atmosphere that matters. Make sure you have a bottle of water, large cup of coffee or your favorite soda, so that you do not have any excuse to interrupt your work.
Pajama – not a good idea
Just like your study area will put you into the study frame of mind, your clothes will do the same. Get dressed in the morning just like you are actually going to school. Slippers are fine. Not only that you will feel more in the mood to study when you are dressed, but your clothes will give a clear message to your family: I am serious about it.
Get rid of distractions
During your study hours, let your phone pick up messages. Explain to your friends, mother and mother in law that you will not be picking up the phone during your study hours. Leave e-mails and Facebook for later. Tell your neighbours what your study hours are and ask them not to disturb you. Let them all tease you and make fun of you, you will have the last laugh. You are the one who will come out of it with a diploma.
Develop a support team
Once you start your online experience, you will find that people who are in the best position to help you are other online students. You will have school advisors, mentors, professors and assistants, but other students know exactly what you are going through. They might be anywhere in the world, but you and they have a unique bond. You can proofread and edit each others’ papers, suggest best sources of information, share relevant work experiences, encourage each other and discuss challenges and problems.
Be prepared for some adjustment period. There will be some difficult days and unique challenges. But, once you get into the habit of studying and actually start enjoying yourself, you will deal with problems much easier. As you become more confident in your ability to learn and develop new skills, your newly acquired confidence will spill out into the rest of your life.
About the Author:
Sameer Bhatia is founder & CEO of ProProfs.com which is a leading provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge. Through its eLearning Authoring tools, Sameer has a background in technology with a Masters in Computer Science from USC (University Of Southern California) and is an ed-tech industry veteran.