Footpath with "Passion led us here" painted above where two people stand.

The Secrets to Studying Online?

It is officially T-1 week! This time next week I’ll officially be starting study towards a Master of Evaluation at the University of Melbourne.

It’s an incredibly exciting and nervous time. Exciting because I’ve been thinking about some form of graduate study for a few years now, as I consider what my next career step will be. Nervous, because I haven’t done any sustained formal university-level study in almost 10 years – and undergraduate when you’re fresh out of high school and have no idea what you’re doing is quite different!

At the same time, there’ll be students starting in the first few topics of our new Bachelor of Healthy Ageing – a brand new fully online degree that I’m leading the educational design on.

As I wrote the preparation and orientation material for these topics, I realised I was drawing on my own experience as an apprehensive and anxious almost student and some of the best practice advice out there.

In this post, I want to share some of the tips for starting off the study journey right. I adapted these from a video I wrote for our incoming Bachelor of Healthy Ageing students. 

They were originally written for a student cohort in a fully-online program of study (i.e. they’ll never come on-campus), but I think they’ll be applicable regardless of what mode of study you may be doing.

  • Make time every week to study. Even better, is to make it the same time every week, and try not to miss a week. If you need to shift your study around, it’s better to ‘get ahead’ and work on activities early, than to leave it until later to catch up.
  • Find a physical space, or two, that is your study space. Get it ready with all the devices and supplies that you need – computers, paper and pens; space for books and files; inspirational photos and aspirational goals to remind why you’re here and working hard.
  • Read through the overview information and make sure you understand it. Look for information about your assessments – what you need to do, how you need to do it and when you need to submit it.
  • Get to know the tools and where to get help. Look for the support resources and how to contact your institution’s support team. Read through any provided information to check everything is set up on your computer so you’re ready to go and as confident as you can be with the technology. 
  • Spend time getting familiar with the different ways you can communicate with your instructors and peers. Online study can be lonely sometimes, especially if you don’t have any synchronous classes or chats, so use the tools available to talk to your peers. Is there an ‘Introductions’ forum? Use it! Post info that you’re comfortable sharing in a professional environment. Ask questions and respond to others. Is social media appropriate? Use it! Some subjects use a Facebook group, or a twitter hashtag, or a drop-in hangout tool for ‘hallway conversations’ – if you’re comfortable sharing using those tools, then I encourage to get involved.
  • Most importantly – don’t put it off, just get in there. Ask questions. Read the texts. Find your peers. Get in the habit of starting now, knowing you can edit later. 

The reality is that study can feel overwhelming at times. This is normal and, to a certain extent, to be expected. If it becomes debilitating? Not so much.

Me? I’m feeling nervous and a little overwhelmed already, but also determined and stubborn. I’ve started putting together some ‘study mantras’ for myself to help remind me of the attitude I want to bring to my study:

> It’s up to me to ask for help and it’s completely normal to do that.

> It’s not going to be easy. It is going to be worth it.

> Passion led me here, but effort will get me there.

> Just get started.

Small seedling growing out of sand. Text "Just get started" underneath.
You can’t grow a tree without a seed, so plant the seed already. Just get started.

Do you have a tip or mantra for studying that you’ve found useful?

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