The Ultimate Online Learning 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 online learning isn’t as routine as all that. It requires dedication, commitment and the odd flash of inspiration – particularly for bootcamp-style online learning.
This survival guide was written to ensure that online students can start strong and finish stronger. We’ll be covering everything from project planning to rest and relaxation including amazing resources that will keep you motivated and on top of your work!
Find Your Dedicated Workspace
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 their own 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.
Images (Left / Right) Obtained via Shutterstock and Paramount Pictures
One of the most important skills obtained from online learning is the ability to plan and schedule studying around your lifestyle. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail as the old saying goes, and when you’re learning online – 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). This is a great benefit for those with busy lifestyles, but it allows for loss of focus and information, particularly in more intensive courses.
Be sure to set yourself a target finish date (month, week etc) 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’ve a couple notifications – I’ll just quickly check…” and proceeded to spend 40 mins looking at cat videos? This breaks 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 Self Control – a social blacklisting app – and block out all the noise. (Make sure you get the mobile app too… seriously!)
This is something that’s 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 – ours for Google, AliBaba etc – with insight that gives students an edge with projects or professional guidance.
It’s rare that students are tutored 1-to-1, but with online mentoring – you are the main priority. According to a K-12 Report, low student:teacher ratios vastly enhance student success. Universities rarely afford students this luxury – even in online programmes.
It’s imperative that you stick to your mentoring appointments, particularly in intensive courses like software development. They offer insight beyond problem solving, they can give you the scope of an industry, tips on finding jobs or help you discover what your strengths are.
To really maximise your mentoring time — email your problem BEFORE your appointment. This will give your mentor a chance to fully explore the problem prior to discussion.
All questions are warmly welcomed and promptly answered by your assigned mentor.
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 the same way you are.
For example, at Code Institute we encourage a collaborative atmosphere in class and online. This is achieved through our Student Slack Network. If you’re having trouble with a small problem and don’t want to spend mentor time, pop onto the student network – chances are, one of your fellow mentored online students will know how to solve it!
Student networks provide insight from people on the same track as you, so you can work with them through study strategies, difficult modules and learn a few career-tips along the way.
If you know the solution to a tricky module — don’t hesitate to answer other students’ questions. According the National Training Laboratories “Learning Pyramid,” teaching someone else is the best way to reinforce new information.
Code Institute’s student network is monitored by our in-house mentor and former Google-employee, Yoni, so you’ll never be steered or steer someone the wrong way. Student network collaboration combined with practical projects and active mentor engagement, covers the whole learning pyramid covered — top to bottom!
The Learning Pyramid: Devised in the 1960s to understand learning habits.
Stay Fit & Look After Yourself
Juggling online learning and your lifestyle is demanding and those long learning sessions staring at a laptop screen take their toll on students both mentally and physically.
Be sure to regularly exercise to elevate your mood, productivity and of course, and your fitness. This doesn’t mean go on a 10km run every night (although that would be great!), a nice evening walk or a swim will suffice.
There are alternatives if you simply don’t have the time; from standing desks – that can be picked up cheap in IKEA – to the more extreme treadmill-working.
It’s not just what you output, it’s what you put in. Make sure to have a (relatively) healthy diet! We understand the demands of juggling life and academia so try and minimise take-away dinners (as much as we love pizza) and up your veggie intake.
From an ergonomic point of view, it’s important to keep your computer monitor out of the glare of the sun and at a comfortable height. Working for lengthy periods of times with poor screen visibility and high glare can strain your eyes and you’ll wind up wearing a thick pair of these…
Glasses* Not Sunglasses or cats…
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 (non-academic) and anything else that makes you happy. It’s vital that students are content to maximise network engagement.
According to productivity perfectionists, Buffer — taking work breaks is a key to success as it helps you refocus, retain 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
The onus is very much on the student to be proactive about their goals towards the end of their online course. At Code Institute, professional preparation is key, but students need to plan their next step before we can help.
Start by putting the proverbial “feelers” out, research the job market in your area and consider the kind of jobs – tutoring, lecturing, development or consultation etc – that you would like to do.
Lifehacker has created a handy Excel-Sheet that’ll help you keep track 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, you land the right job.
Once you’ve gotten yourself set up, you can begin prospecting jobs using web-tools like LinkedIn, Jobbio (content-oriented), Monster (traditional) and any of your social media channels.
The wealth of tech jobs has created an abundant supply of tech recruiters. As a starting point, you can check out Recruiters, CPL, Stelfox, and Morgan McKinley. That’s just the tip of 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.
Got any online learning tips of your own? I’d love to share them with our students!
Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re enrolled at Code Institute and have any general queries, pop Tiffany an email at email@example.com or check out our FAQ!