Online Learning – The Ultimate Survival Guide

Online learning has tremendous benefits, primarily being able to study at your own pace, in your place and at your time. However, completing an online education isn’t as routine as all that. It requires dedication, commitment and the odd flash of inspiration.

This survival guide will ensure that online students can start strong and finish stronger. We’ll be covering everything from project planning to relaxation. It even includes links to terrific resources that will keep you motivated and on top of your work!

Dedicated workspace for online courses

Let’s start simple. Whether you like to study in your bedroom, living room, a café or in your bathtub – ensure you have a dedicated study space free of disturbances. Create a zen study space and a perfect solitary time-period so you can dive into your work without distractions.

Everyone has an optimal study environment, so it could be fun to compare your productivity in different settings. Who knows? Your optimum workspace could be tidy, bright and quiet or a tiny room with metal blaring – à la Christian Bale in the Big Short. Although Princeton’s Neuroscience research shows quiet and clutter-free is the best way to study.

Project planning for distance learning

One crucial skill obtained from online learning is the ability to plan and schedule study around your lifestyle. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail, and when you’re distance learning – you’re in the spotlight for your success and failures.

Online courses can usually be completed at the student’s own pace (within a set time frame). So, if you have a busy lifestyle, flexibility is your friend. However, it allows for loss of focus and information, particularly in more intensive courses.

Be sure to set yourself a target finish date on the outset of your course. Detail what you’ll need to accomplish day-in, day-out to achieve this goal and stick to it. Agile project management tools like Trello or Asana enable students to plan projects easily, stay on track with goal-setting and collaborate with other students (if applicable).

Resist social media urges

How many times have you thought “Oh, I have a couple of notifications – I’ll just quickly check” and proceeded to spend 40 mins looking at cat videos? Social media can break up any workflow consistency and opens the door to a litany of extra distractions.

One peek at your Facebook wall, or Insta-feed can leave you travelling along a breadcrumb trail of all the things you like – that aren’t your projects.

That said, social cold-turkey is difficult. So if your social media willpower is weak, download FocusMe. An app like this will help you block out some of that social media noise. 

Maximise tutoring in online learning

This is specific to Code Institute, so if your course doesn’t have a mentor – you might enjoy finding out what they do. Mentors are professionals, usually working at the top of their field as software developers in today’s industry. They offer insights that give students an edge with projects and professional guidance.

Students in a physical classroom rarely receive 1-to-1 tutoring, but with our online tutoring – you are the main priority. Universities rarely afford students this luxury – even in online programmes.

You must stick to your tutoring and mentoring appointments, particularly in intensive courses like software development. They offer insights beyond problem-solving, they can give you the scope of the industry, tips on finding jobs or help you discover what your strengths are.

To maximise your tutoring time — email your problem BEFORE your appointment. This will give your tutor a chance to explore the issue before the discussion.

Collaborate with your network

Although you work remotely, you’re never really alone when you’re learning online. In any course, there is a connected network of thousands of students learning to programme the same way you are.

For example, at Code Institute, we encourage a collaborative atmosphere through our student community on Slack. If you’re having trouble with a small problem, pop onto the community network. Chances are, one of your fellow students will know how to solve it!

Student networks provide insights from people on the same track as you. You can work with them through study strategies, complicated modules and learn a few career-tips along the way.

Shows how helping other while online learning is the best way to reinforce new information.
Learning Pyramid

If you know the solution to a tricky module, don’t hesitate to answer other students’ questions. According to the National Training Laboratories “Learning Pyramid,” teaching someone else is the best way to reinforce new information.

Stay fit & look after yourself

Juggling online learning and your lifestyle is demanding. Also, those long learning sessions staring at a laptop screen take their toll both mentally and physically. Be sure to regularly exercise to elevate your mood, productivity, and fitness. This doesn’t mean you should go on a 10km run every night (although that would be great!). A pleasant evening walk or a swim will suffice.

It’s not just what you output; it’s what you put in. Make sure to have a healthy diet. We understand the demands of juggling life and academia, so try and minimise take-away dinners and up your veggie intake.

Ergonomically, it’s essential to keep your computer monitor at a comfortable height. Keep it out of the glare of the sun too. Working for lengthy periods of times with poor screen visibility and high glare can strain your eyes.

Take breaks and have fun!

Don’t forget to have fun! Schedule time for the things you love to do; playing video games, music or sports, reading and anything else that makes you happy. Students must be content to maximise network engagement.

According to productivity perfectionists, Buffer — taking work breaks is a key to success as it helps you refocus and reevaluate your goals. The folks at Buffer have also provided a break scheduler – so start planning on kicking back!

Be proactive | Get in the hunt

Students should be proactive about their goals towards the end of their online course. At Code Institute, professional preparation is key, but students need to think about their next steps. 

Code Institute’s Careers Team will help you with your career search. They have built hundreds of industry partners and assist students in various ways. However, at the appropriate time, students need to put the proverbial “feelers” out. Research the job market in your area and consider the kind of jobs that you would like to do.

Lifehacker has created a handy Excel-Sheet that’ll help you keep track of your job search. Detail the companies you’ve scouted, their culture, their openings and any other benefits that are important to you. Research ensures that you don’t just land a job. It helps you land the right job.


Once you’ve gotten yourself set up, you can begin prospecting jobs using web-tools like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, and any of your social media channels. One thing that you will learn from working with our Careers Team is that many jobs are not even listed, and there are ample opportunities available.

The wealth of tech jobs has created an abundant supply of tech recruiters. As a starting point, you can check out Sigmar, CPL, Hays, and Morgan McKinley. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of recruiting agents – find the one that suits you!

Most of all, don’t be disheartened by a bad interview or negative response emails – perseverance is a crucial element of job hunting. Keep coding, keep hunting, and keep learning.

Try online learning for free

If you want to sample what it’s like to learn to programme remotely, try our free 5 Day Coding Challenge. On it, you’ll learn some of the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and after five days, you’ll have built your first webpage.

If you want to know more about Code Institute’s Full-Stack Software Development programme, register for one of our online open evenings now through the form below.

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