Australia has made a name for itself in the world of online learning, pioneering world-renowned distance education programs since the early 1990s.
The industry has since entered mainstream academia, with now over 1,000 online education providers. This mode of education currently rakes in $5 billion dollars in revenue with a continuous rise in popularity due to its convenience and flexibility. Reports show that one in five domestic students currently partake in online or “distance” study options, with exceptional use among mature-aged and postgraduate students; likely due to its generous delivery of graduate courses and one’s ability to tend to other work or family commitments.
With continual evolutions between educational technology and course offerings in higher education, online learning is only set to expand. But at the cost of a full, on-campus experience, how does one ensure success pursuing an online education?
Here at AIICT, we dive into the top practices for academic excellence as an online student.
Maximise your resources
Before starting your online journey, it’s best to take note of all the educational, support, and communication resources you have on hand.
What study materials (lectures, readings, videos, online tests, etc.) do they have available? Are there online forums for interacting with fellow trainers or students? Who are your contacts in times of assistance?
At AIICT, for example, students are treated to an online learning portal that they can access 24/7. This platform provides them with all their study needs, including recorded or real-time workshops and any necessary course materials. Students are also given access to LinkedIn Learning with thousands of video resources to aid in their training; along with phone, SMS, Skype, and forum-based communication with trainers.
Of course, payment plans also play a role in this. Take time to review the options provided by your institution, as these are often established to financially support your academic goals – making them a more affordable pursuit. AIICT, once again, offers the option of monthly payments that make up the total course fee, or the alternative of paying larger sums at fewer intervals during your course.
Understanding the resources at your disposal can help enrich the online academic experience, and gives you access to proper support in times of need.
Having a set, organised schedule
As an online student, it’s imperative to maintain an organised schedule. The flexibility of online education allows participants to study wherever and whenever they choose, offering what is arguably its biggest advantage over traditional learning.
With full autonomy over your schedule, however – poor time management can cause your studies to fall by the wayside.
To avoid this, read through your provided course calendar to keep track of important due dates and exams. Block out specific, consistent times during your week for readings and assignments, ensuring you can come to deadlines at a timely manner. Having long and short-term academic goals in place (with reasonable timeframes) can help keep you on track; and provides a clear, full picture of your course responsibilities, helping you tailor your personal commitments as necessary.
Additionally, first-time online students are recommended to start their coursework early, providing enough time to get accustomed to the materials and software. Any technical difficulties or inquiries on coursework can thus be dealt with at an early stage. It’s best to anticipate these inevitable bumps in your studies, and give you (and your trainers) enough time to overcome them.
Connect with your online network
As a part of your online toolkit, you’ll likely have a platform for connecting with other fellow students, and a few resources for keeping in touch with instructors.
Make the most of these tools and become an active communicator. Seeking help from instructors can help provide you direction in your studies, while your online classmates can offer new perspectives in understanding the course materials. Treat the online classroom as you would a physical one – by engaging in dialogue and encouraging feedback.
With nearly 90% of the Australian population on social media, this could also be a useful way of reaching out. Online study groups and friendships can easily be formed through sites such as Facebook (garnering 91% of the nation’s social media users), while platforms such as LinkedIn are ideal for establishing professional, long-lasting connections with trainers and other faculty.
As mentioned, AIICT has a learning portal where students can access and contribute to discussion forums. Trainers can easily be contacted through a myriad of options, including Skype messenger. Knowing your available communication channels can help liven your online experience and keep things interactive – and offers a strong support system throughout your academic journey.
Create an effective study environment
With the lack of a physical campus, online students are encouraged to choose or set up a study space that maximizes their productivity.
Identifying your worst distractions can be a start, keeping your environment free of such. This can be as simple as temporarily blocking off your social media sites, or keeping your room clear of pets, children, or roommates. Having your mobile phone far from reach as you catch up on readings and online lectures can help in more effectively retaining information; research has shown mobile devices to prominently decrease one’s ability to pay attention.
Keeping your study space clutter-free can also grant you that boost of productivity. A Harvard study discovered that students who attempted complex puzzles in an untidy environment (compared to a clean and organised one) were often left frazzled – and as a result, less productive – by their messy surroundings. Maintaining an orderly system for all your study notes and materials can also reduce that extra time spent searching for important texts or documents.
Finally, consider using background music to aid in focus and information retention. While loud, unfamiliar sounds will likely be a study detractor, soothing instrumentals have been proven to improve memory and block out other distracting environmental noises. Additionally, music can help you draw associations with your course materials, helping you improve your memory of your texts.
Online learning involves discipline, open communication, and persistence
Apart from the evident flexibility it offers, online education has also shown to result in better academic outcomes overall. Studies have found the mode to engage students on a greater level, improve digital literacy, and even enhance one’s employability.
However, such benefits are only reaped with the proper study practices in place. This includes maintaining discipline, self-motivation, and persistence. Despite its adaptability to one’s personal schedule, time management is key to effectively balance coursework and other “life” commitments. While all necessary resources can be found online, one must still establish the right environment for maximising their academic potential.
Finally, ongoing communication is crucial among peers and instructors – this provides you with the feedback, support, and collaboration you need to stay engaged in your course.
With proactiveness, drive, and high self-efficacy, the world of online learning is sure to bring plenty of academic and professional opportunities your way.
Looking to pursue online study?
Here at the Australian Institute of ICT (AIICT), those passionate in the field of information and communications technologies can sharpen their skills through our vendor-certified, nationally-accredited training. With flexible online delivery and dedicated student support every step of the way, you can easily pursue the qualification you’re after, while tending to other personal commitments. Enquire today to kick-start your career in ICT.