8 real-life, practical tips for making online study work
From finding time to finding your tribe, eight online students at CDU share their insider tips on how to make online degree work for your life and goals.
Make small lifestyle tweaks to find time
Paramjit studied an online nursing degree part-time while working full-time. She reckons a few lifestyle adjustments bought her valuable pockets of study time.
“I have managed to balance my nursing degree with full-time work commitments by reducing my after-work socialising during semester times, having a plan for personal commitments, using travel time to work for listening to lectures or weekly readings instead of listening to music, and having designated study time every week rather than leaving it to the end of semester.
Aim for progress, not perfection
Genevieve studied an online social work degree while juggling a small business and two young children. The secret? Keep perspective.
“At the beginning of my degree I pushed myself very hard, I’d stay up every night studying, I was exhausted and started to burn out. Now I have made the conscious effort to engage in self-care, whether that’s simply exercising a few times a week, eating well or reading a book. Taking some time out for myself during the semester has been essential for me.
"Something I now embrace is to aim for ‘progress not perfection’.”
Lean on the lecturers and support services
Margaret did an online law degree with two toddlers (impressive, right?) and she’s the first to admit she was worried about finding a balance.
I was sceptical at first about studying online, but from that very first lecture I logged into, all my fears were allayed.
"I formed excellent relationships with most of my lecturers and always found them accessible by email or phone. And the standard of the lecturers has been incredible. Staff at the library were also always available to help, even at the last minute. The ability to borrow books whilst living interstate was also an excellent resource,” Margaret said.
Study space set up: You do you
For single mum Sharni, sleepy toddler and study space often become one as she works through her online nursing degree.
“It’s often easier to work in bed when my son’s asleep on me,” she says.
“But, it’s not uncommon for him to be doing cartwheels while I’m doing an assessment and there’s definitely been some ice cream bribes to keep him quiet!”
For pro-cyclist and online exercise and sports science student, Jacob, anywhere and everywhere is a study space.
“I have to make time whenever I can to be able to study, whether that’s at the cycling track in between sessions, or at home while everyone is asleep.
"It makes things so much easier to have access to all your units whenever and no pressure to attend classes at exact times.”
Believe you can do it
Mel had her heart set on changing careers and studied an IT degree online to make it happen. The secret, she says, is finding your confidence.
“You may feel intimidated. You may feel as though you don't possess enough hands-on skills and experience to be successful or even just to be hired when you graduate. I struggled with these feelings for a long time. Then I realised that employers are actually looking for motivated individuals, with a willingness to learn.”
Adjust as you go
Sallie did an online teaching degree to change careers, and adjusted her study tactics as her degree progressed.
“In the beginning I took on a full-time study load, which meant studying all night, every night, just to keep up. I ended up run down and not seeing enough of my family.
I decided to cut back to part-time study, which has been a lot more manageable.
“I try to do all my study on weeknights, so I can spend weekends with the family. It doesn't always happen that way, but I'm lucky to have a very supportive husband and family who make life a little easier.”
Working dad and IT specialist BP studied creative arts online and credits his support network for his study success.
“My wife took over many of my household chores to allow me time to study. My workplace was also flexible which allowed me to attend lectures as they were happening. The amazing people I worked with helped me to balance the demands of study, work and family” he says.
Find online study buddies
Your virtual network of study buddies is essential, says online nursing student Paramjit.
“Facebook groups helped me connect to other external students who are in the same boat. They are like a support group," she says. “Other students are also always there [in the online learning platform] to help with the queries that you would normally sort out in a physical classroom environment.”
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