5 tips for learning online

So you've taken the plunge and signed up for an online course. Congratulations! This is the first step in an amazing online learning journey.

If you haven't studied online before, you might be feeling a bit wary. What's the technology like? Who can you turn to for support? Can you really study in your lounge room while the kids are running around and the dogs are barking?

All valid questions! But don't be nervous. Learning online is a skill, just like any other. Once you start, you'll find it a great experience. Most people who start online learning never stop; they end up taking more and more courses.

Having said that, it's always good to be prepared. So here are our top 5 tips for learning online.

1. Understand the course outline or syllabus

Make sure you thoroughly understand what will be happening during your course before you start. You can usually find this information in the course outline or syllabus. If your course is broken down into modules or weeks, pop these in your calendar or diary while you're reading the outline. Nothing says success like preparation!

At the Australian Writers' Centre, all of our courses have a detailed course outline which you can download from the website. You will also receive it as part of your enrolment process.

2. Block out time in your schedule

When you enrol in an online course, you might be tempted to just ‘fit it in' whenever. This method might work for a self-paced course where you have one year to complete it. But that 12 months can disappear very quickly! Between work and family commitments, it's easy for time to slip away from you. 

Commit to your course. Choose a block of time each week when you know you'll be sitting down in front of your computer to work. And have a back-up plan! Never cancel your session; reschedule it within the same week. Regular commitment will ensure you stay on track.

3. Prepare your friends and family

Whether you're taking a short self-paced course or committing to the 6-month or one year Write Your Novel programs, let everybody know. Tell your friends and family, post it on Facebook, break the news to your barista.

Firstly, this demonstrates your commitment. Secondly, your family and friends will help to keep you accountable. And thirdly and most crucially, let them know that this is important to you. Make it clear that you need their help and understanding to give you the time you need to really get the most out of your course.

4. Have a study space

In an ideal world, you have an amazing book-lined study, a deep leather chair, and a zippy computer with all the latest technology. The reality is you'll probably be studying at the end of the dining table on a five-year-old laptop while fending off quarrelling kids. 

Your study space doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be yours. If you are studying at the dining table, make it clear that the area around your computer is a study zone. Surround yourself with pens, notebooks and post-it notes. Put your phone on silent. Wear headphones to listen to the audio recordings. This also demonstrates that you are off-limits. You might head out to a cafe or the library to give yourself more distance. Just make sure it's not somewhere where you might run into a friendly neighbour for a never-ending chat.

If you prefer, you can listen to your lessons while on the move. For example, on your commute, while doing the dishes, or when walking the dog. Be mindful that you may miss points or find it harder to jot down notes as you go, so you may need to have another listen a bit later. In any case, you'll need to put your bum on the seat at some point so you can do the exercises or assignments. Make that space your own.

5. Relax and enjoy yourself

Finally, make sure you have fun! You're not training to be a heart surgeon (maybe you already are one). Yes, studying online requires commitment. But if you're learning with the Australian Writers' Centre, it’s likely you’re craving more time to devote to your writing – whether that’s to exercise your creative muscles, complete your novel or to start earning money as a freelance writer. It’s still important you enjoy yourself along the way.

Participate in the course chat and get to know your fellow students. Not only will you be part of a network of like-minded writers, you might also make amazing new friends. The writing community is warm, supportive and generous, and the more you reach out and connect, the faster you'll progress with your own manuscript or career.

Your study time should be a period that you look forward to. We want all our students to learn, engage and enjoy their courses. Go into it with a smile and enthusiasm, and we know you will succeed.

Want a sneak peek of the AWC online classroom? Check out our video tour to learn more about our tutor-led online courses.

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