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How to succeed with online learning

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If you’re new to the idea of taking classes online, it can take a bit of adjustment to get up to speed. To help you out, we take a look at some tips to help you succeed with online learning.


For many students, the start of the new academic year looks very different. Whether you’re going to university for the first time or returning to continue your studies, the COVID-19 pandemic means there are many changes afoot. So, with many courses and classes taking place virtually, how do you succeed with online learning? 

As well as exploring some of the current debate around online learning, we’ll also look at some tips and tricks on how to maximise your effectiveness. For many learners, the skills and knowledge are already there. As we’ll see, it’s just a case of knowing how to apply them.

Are we ready for online learning?

The corona virus pandemic has meant that we’ve all had to change and adapt our lives to some degree. In many cases, it’s also accelerated some of the trends that we were already seeing. One such change is the move towards online learning. But are students ready for a fully or mostly online experience? 

Several articles published reported that experts fear that new students have ‘lost the discipline of learning.’ Their reasoning is that the months of lock down without exams to prepare for could mean they struggle to adapt to learning independently at university/TVET Colleges.

Similarly, research from suggests that one in five students don’t have access to online learning. Specific groups were hit hardest, and as many as one in three students said their online learning experience was of poor quality. 

Although this all sounds quite downbeat, there are several factors that give hope. For example, recent statistics show that 46% of individuals aged 16-24 in already use online learning materials. What’s more, many universities across the country have experience providing online learning opportunities and support and encouragement for students. 

The current generation of learners are known as ‘digital natives’, having grown up in the age of the internet. Hopefully, this experience with technology, coupled with the structure provided by higher learning institutions, will allow students of all kinds to succeed with online learning.

How to succeed with online learning

Although there are uncertainties about how this year will pan out, there are several steps you can take to make sure your online classes, lectures, and courses are as effective as possible. Again, much of the knowledge and many of the skills are things you apply to your learning already. However, it’s worth knowing how and when to use these. 

To succeed with online learning, there are four main areas you might want to consider. Paying some attention to each of these can help you learn as efficiently as possible:

Your routine

Your learning routine is one of the cornerstones of your online studies. If you keep up positive habits, you’ll soon see the results. Although it’s tempting to get complacent when your classes are on the internet (whether live or recorded), it’s vital you stay focused. Here are some ways you can do so:

Treat it as you would in person

One of the best ways to succeed with online learning is to treat the experience as you would with an in-person class. This means approaching your studies in the same way you would if you had to attend campus. Hold yourself to the same standards, making sure you’re organised, on time, and ready to learn. 

As enticing as the prospect of studying from your bed or playing video games during lectures sounds, it’s not conducive to learning. You wouldn’t do it during your regular studies, so avoid doing so when you’re learning online.

Stay disciplined

Part of treating your online learning as you would with an in-person experience is to keep disciplined. Although your home or halls of residence don’t look like campus, you still need to have the same self-discipline when it comes to independent learning. Your class and study schedule should match that outlined in your courses, and you also need to dedicate time to your own studies outside of that. 

Set aside time and space in your day to study, and stick to your timetable once you have it. Try and account for the time spent at your desk, as well as that for things like lunch, short breaks, and the end of your day. Writing your schedule down can help, as it might force you to stay on track with your learning.

Write up your notes

Whether your lectures or seminars are pre-recorded or broadcast live, you should aim to make time to write up your notes. It might be tempting to think of the online resources as pre-made study notes. However, making your own notes encourages you to engage with the material and put it into your own words. 

For live video, try and pay attention to what’s going on at the moment rather than writing notes straight away. Hopefully, you’ll be able to revisit the video later. If your class is pre-recorded, you can pause and take notes as you go.


Learning is a two-way process. Although turning up to online lectures or reviewing the material is important, so is getting involved with the discussion. Ask questions where appropriate, and don’t be afraid to seek help with the material if you need it. 

You may also find that there are things like discussion groups, forums, or message boards where you can post questions. Try and contribute to these where you can, whether it’s reading what others have written or asking questions yourself. At the end of the day, you’re there to learn, so if you don’t understand something, you’ve a right to ask for clarification!

Follow up

Once your class, lecture, or seminar is over, don’t just forget about it and move on. As well as writing up your notes, spend some time to think about the subject you covered and any questions that were asked. Make sure that you’ve grasped the details before you conclude your learning. 

Keep in touch with your tutors as well. They may ask for feedback on their materials and videos, for example. Don’t forget that this is probably a new way of doing things for them too. They want you to succeed with your online learning, so honest feedback on how effective their presentation is can go a long way in helping you both.


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