A few prerequisites
There are a few prerequisites to getting up and running with your online studies. Obviously you’re going to need to be able to get online, which means you’ll need to have access to the appropriate technology to do so.
Having the technology isn’t enough, though. You also have to be able to use that technology. Having the technology and knowing how to use it will make your transition into studying online significantly easier because every aspect of your studies will involve the use of technology in one way or another.
You will be provided with excellent learning materials and experienced lecturers to help you learn but you’re going to have to provide the motivation. You need to motivate yourself to put in the time and effort it takes to complete the work required by your units. The results you achieve will reflect the effort you put in.
Putting in just enough effort to get by might be tempting, but sometimes a few assessments will be due at the same time, having put in some effort ahead of time will save you a lot of stress. Remember, you’re studying because you’re interested in the content and you want to do well. If you can keep your motivation levels up, you’ll get the results you want.
A few tips
#1 Get organised
Spending some time to get prepared ahead of time is invaluable. Think about how much easier it is to complete a sketch for your unit if you’ve already got a sketchpad, pencils, a workspace, and a comfortable chair ready beforehand, rather than having to get all those things ready on the day you’re supposed to start sketching.
The big thing about being organised is that it helps you make your study experience simpler and allows it to better fit into your life. Being prepared allows you to dedicate your energy on the task, instead of all the fiddly stuff you need to do to get the task under way.
#2 Set up a schedule
It’s amazing how much time is available in a day if you have a schedule that you stick to. The time that you spend evaluating when you can fit your studies into your routine will be time well spent because doing so will simplify things. You won’t be stuck wondering when you’re going to find time to finish up that task if you’ve already set aside an hour to work on it.
#3 Find a study buddy
One of the great things about online study is that you don’t need to be in the same place to study along with someone. Having someone to study with can really help on those days that you just don’t feel like getting started.
Knowing that someone else will be working along with you is often enough to push past that momentary lack of motivation and get you started on the day’s work, and that’s usually half the battle.
Study buddies are great for bouncing ideas off and confirming you’re both on the right track for study and assessment tasks as well.
#4 Develop good habits
It’s all about habits! Get good study habits going early and you’ll be more productive and efficient, which will help to avoid your motivation waning.
Get in the habit of checking the discussion boards, following your study schedule, checking in with your study buddies, and having your materials ready ahead of time.
These are little things but they all add up and when they become second nature, you’ll be getting work done without even thinking about it.
#5 Remember your goals
Every task that you undertake as part of your studies is a small step towards your bigger goals. Taking a minute to remind yourself of why you decided to start studying in the first place can be enough to help you push through something you’re not in the mood to do.
#6 Reward yourself
Find a way to reward yourself for all the hard work you’re putting in. It’s amazing what you can get done when you know there’s a payoff at the end, so think about some rewards that you can give yourself for putting in the hard yards, and then enjoy the spoils of victory once you achieve your goals!
#7 Remember that big problems are made up of small problems
Everyone gets overwhelmed at some point. That’s alright! It’s totally understandable when you’re facing a big task or a big problem.
The best way to deal with feeling overwhelmed is to look at the problem from a different perspective, and especially to acknowledge that even the biggest problem is really just a collection of smaller problems.
Start identifying the small tasks that you can start working on and finish them off one at a time. Remember that every little task you get through brings you closer to finishing the big task.
Remember, even the longest marathon is only made up of small steps.
#8 Make it fun!
The best possible way to motivate yourself to do something is to find a way to make it fun. Ask yourself:
- Is there a way to turn your work into a game?
- Can you inject some humour into the task at hand?
- Can you find a way to relate it to something else you enjoy?
- Can you work on it with someone who’s company you enjoy?
Studying is as fun as you make it, so don’t be afraid to be creative in how you go about it.
#9 Take a break when you need one
Sometimes you’re just not going to make any more progress no matter how hard you try. When you’re facing that scenario, you have to take a break because trying to push on will more than likely mean you’ll do sub-par work which you’ll just have to fix up later.
There’s no shame in having a break. Sometimes taking a break is exactly what you need so you can come back refreshed and attack the work again later after you’ve recharged.
Make sure that when you take a break, that you actually do take a break. There’s no point worrying about the work you’ve got to do while you’re taking a break. Worrying will reduce the benefits of taking a break, so find a way to relax and enjoy yourself for long enough to get your energy levels back up.Don’t feel guilty, just enjoy whatever it is you choose to do, then come back brighter!
Digital literacy is a fancy way of saying “knowing enough about your technology to be able to do what you want with it”. This has direct implications for online students because your studies will depend heavily on your ability to take advantage of the technologies involved in the process.
General Computing Skills
First things first, regardless of what type of computer you’re going to use, you’ll need to be familiar with it and know how to perform basic functions like opening specific applications, getting yourself connected to the internet and generally knowing your way around your operating system. How you achieve these basic tasks will vary from device to device and between operating systems. You don’t need to be an expert, you don’t need to know the best way possible, as long as you can do what you want to do when you need to, you’re ready to go.
Online Communication Skills
Studying online requires a fair bit of communication via email and discussion boards. It’s alright if you’re new to that sort of thing but it is quite important that you have a good awareness of the basics, such as netiquette, before you get started.
In addition to these online writing skills, general writing skills are very important.
As an online student you’ll be spending quite a lot of time accessing websites and that means you’ll be spending a significant amount of time using your web-browser to navigate and interact, so you’ll definitely have a more pleasant experience if you already understand how to do things like:
- Go directly to a specific url (without going through Google)
- Search the web
- Search within a page
- Reload a page
- Open and use several tabs at a time
- Work your pop-up blocker
- Work with common browser-plugins
- Clear your browsing history/cookies/cache
You’ll have to provide your work for assessment and that will sometimes mean you’re required to compile a presentation and send it through to your lecturer. For the more tech savvy students, this will be a non-issue but some of you may have very little experience with things like working with powerpoint and compressing files for upload.
When you’re struggling to to meet an assessment deadline, the last thing you’re going to want to deal with is figuring out why your presentation file isn’t uploading or why the layout you’re trying for just isn’t working.
The majority of your assessments will be presentations and the more capable you are at making good presentations, the better your work will be presented.
A good place to start is our How To Use Powerpoint page.
And here’s a document about creating presentations.
Videos relating to presentations
- How to use Powerpoint [4:08]
- How to turn a Powerpoint file into a PDF [1:14]
- How to reduce your Powerpoint & PDF file sizes [4:37]
- How to embed media into Powerpoint [1:05]
Other content relating to presentations
- How to create Powerpoint presentations
- How to compress Keynote presentations
- How to document work for electronic submission
A lot of your work will be captured as digital files and you’re going to have to manage those files yourself. You can’t get through studying online without knowing the basics of keeping your files safe and well organised.
You’ll have to know how to: copy, move, compress, and backup your files as an absolute minimum. Losing months worth of work because a file becomes corrupted is a horrible experience, don’t learn it the hard way.
Uploading and Downloading files
There’s no upload or download happening, this is just an image.You’ll have to download and upload a lot of files while you study online. You’ll have to upload your presentations and download unit materials, there’s just no way around it. Little things like knowing which directory your downloaded files end up in and why uploading a 500MB file is a bad idea.