I’m going to come clean on distance education: it’s both a blessing and a curse. I’ve done it. I’ve been there, I know all about it. You have all the freedom you had before, if not more, but also a whole lot more responsibility. I’m going to hand over my top tips on how to handle studying by correspondence the right way.
- Write a weekly schedule.
This is one to stick to. If you were study on campus you would have weekly lectures and pracs that you would attend. Just because you’re not turning up to class each Tuesday morning at ten o’clock doesn’t mean you skip the class entirely. Get yourself a weekly planner – buy one, print one, draw one up yourself – and don’t deviate. You might say to yourself that you’ll do Tuesday’s work on Wednesday but the chances are, it won’t happen. Keep to your routine and stay on top of it. This also includes all other aspects of your life as well. Factor in your work commitments, exercise, whether you have kids plus time to unwind as well. Get everything you want to include in your week onto that planner and get dug into it.
- Communicate with your class and lecturer.
It’s very, very easy to feel isolated when you aren’t speaking face to face. I found this one of the hardest things to get used to after taking on my first correspondence subjects at university. When you see your lecturer and classmates on a weekly basis on campus, you get a feel for the class level. Conversation flows easily and you have the chance to ask questions without really thinking about it. It feels natural. Studying by correspondence is a little different. You don’t get that face to face interaction so it’s so important to be involved in the online discussion. If you don’t open and participate in the dialogue, you may get left behind. Develop a relationship with your lecturer and other online classmates – you will need them!
- Don’t limit yourself to your house.
Working from your house isn’t always the most conducive to an effective study mode. There are fridges to wander to, cleaning to sneak up on you and other general distractions that can essentially keep you from getting your work done. I combatted this by learning my favourite coffee shops in the area and settling in for an afternoon. Not only do you have a good supply of caffeine and food at your disposal, you also become more productive in a public environment. With both people around to judge you (or at least it felt that way in my head) and the inability to leave your laptop unattended, you haven’t got any other choice but to sit and do the work in front of you. Another place to venture out to is your local library. It’s the same principle in the sense that you’re working in public. However, the library gives you an extra pang of guilt if you aren’t being as productive as you know you should be. There’s also every resource you will probably need at your fingertips – internet, books, journals. Not to mention super helpful librarians if you make friends!
- Create physical content.
It’s already a very digital scenario – sometimes it’s easier to concentrate on something tangible. I found I enjoyed my readings and focused best when I had the material in my hands rather than scrolling on a screen. I could highlight important lines. I could turn the pages and see I was moving through the content. If you struggle reading from your computer for long periods of time, or you find your mind wondering to the open Facebook tab – try printing off what you need to focus on.
Are you studying through distance education? What are your tips to remaining motivated and organised? Share with us all in the comments below!