Staying on track with Online Study How to stay motivated and do well in an online course

Online study can be a tricky thing to manage - How do you stay on track? How do you not get distracted by cat videos, cleaning out the pantry, video games or baking muffins?

Check out our six tips for keeping on top of online study.

Tip # 1 - Use a study schedule

One of the hardest parts of online study is keeping up with lectures and tutorials when they are recorded. It can feel like you can watch them anytime - so why watch it now? Fast forward a few weeks and all-of-a-sudden you have 8 weeks of lectures to watch the week before the exam!

To avoid this - Set aside time for online learning just as you would if you were attending online classes. You could try to stick to the same timetable you would have had if you were attending your lectures and tutorials on campus.

If that is not an option, then come up with a new weekly 'timetable' for yourself, with specific times to watch lectures for each course. Treat these like an appointment or a job - if you can't do it at the planned time, then reschedule it to make sure it gets watched sometime that same week.

You could use something like this weekly planner (see pg 2), google calendar or your diary.

Tip # 2 - Break down tasks into small steps

Trying to absorb everything at once, or complete a whole assignment can feel overwhelming, difficult, too boring or just plain unappealing. These uncomfortable feelings can make us more likely to procrastinate.

Breaking a task down into a small steps can reduce the level of discomfort, making it easier to make a start and thus avoid getting stuck in procrastination. The small steps can also give us more of a sense of achievement as we see some progress, which can lead to further motivation.

What is the next small step that I can take to complete the task?

For example - Task: to complete 1500 word essay

Step 1: Read the question

Step 2: Open a word document and write out the headings

Step 3: Read the provided resources - making notes into the word document as I read them

Step 4: Find 2-3 more articles and make notes

Step 5: Write the introduction paragraph ...

A strategy such as the Pomodoro technique can be another way to improve productivity by breaking tasks down using chunks of time.
Tip #3 Create a separate space

When you are not coming onto campus to study, it is harder to have a clear distinction between 'work' time and 'play' time. Having a separate space set up for study can help give your brain a clear message that now is the time for work (not netflix).

You work space should be as free of distractions as possible. This might mean leaving your phone in another room to reduce temptations. A website/app blocker such as Cold Turkey can also be useful when your willpower tank is a little empty.

When you are done with study, move into a different space in your room or home to enjoy some down time.

Tip #4 - Make the most of your study network

Make the most of your supports. Staff at UON are all here to help you. Your lectures and tutors can help you with coursework, Learning Advisors are available to provide feedback on writing, there are online PASS classes or Peer Writing Mentors for study, and Counselling for emotional support.

One of the most under utilised resources is other students in your course. There are lots of ways to connect with fellow students online, such as getting involved in the blackboard forums or starting a chat group with a few people from your course. It can be motivating to set up a study buddy to help keep each other accountable to some daily goals, or to problem solve a tricky assessment task.

Put yourself out there and ask a question or make a comment on blackboard. It can be scary to do at first, but there is often a lot of support and people willing to help.
Tip #5 - Reconnect with why you are doing this

When you are in the midst of a struggle, it can be easy to get disillusioned.

It can be helpful to connect with the reasons that you started the degree, or why learning matters to you.

Perhaps stick up an image or quote near your study area which inspires you or reminds you of the bigger picture or end goal.

Tip #6 - Ask for help

As well as your lecturers and tutors, the Academic Learning Support team are here to help you succeed with your study. They offer online appointments with a Learning Advisor, as well as workshops on a range of topics.

The University of Newcastle's Counselling and Psychological Services is open and you can contact for individual appointments either face to face, by phone or online.

Appointments can be booked via in person, or by phone or email

The University's Online Drop In is running with 6 sessions a week. Drop-in for a chat with a counsellor (via Skype text) and get advice and support – no appointment is necessary.
  • Monday 1 to 2pm
  • Tuesday 8 to 9pm
  • Wednesday 3.30 to 4.30pm
  • Thursday 2.30 to 3.30pm and 8 to 9pm
  • Friday 10 to 11am

To use Online Drop In, send a request on Skype to add UoNonlinecounsellor to your Skype contacts. Once this has been accepted, you can chat during the session times.

The University's After-hours Crisis Support Line can assist with support and advice outside of business hours.

Ph: 1300 653 007 or SMS: 0488 884 165

  • 5pm-9am weekdays,
  • 24 hours on weekends and public holidays
More information on coping with COVID19


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