When you learn in person, the space is already set up for optimal learning. With online learning, you must create that space yourself.
How to set-up your learning space
Online learning is very different than learning in a classroom setting. Typically, when you learn in person, the space is already set up for optimal learning. When you are learning online, you must create that space yourself. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to specific aspects of their learning space, but the following considerations work well for many people when setting up their learning space:
- Have access to good lighting. You should be able to see your work and create an environment for productivity. It can also be a lot easier to take a nap when the lights are dim!
- Gather the proper supplies. This can mean pens and paper, a calculator, or tools specific to the task or skill.
- Use headphones when possible. This is key for online learning. Headphones provide clear audio and block out other distractions that may be around you. Some people also focus well when they listen to music in the background. Use headphones if this is a strategy that works well for you.
- Find a good place to sit where you can comfortably use your computer and other materials.
- Limit distractions by putting away your cell phone and being away from other people who are doing other things such as watching TV. This will enhance your ability to focus.
- Look for a quiet space. This is more of a preference — some people like to work in a quiet place with no distractions, whereas others need white noise while they work in order to focus.
- Ensure you have access to a nearby outlet. If your computer starts to run out of battery at a coffee shop and there is no outlet, you will have to relocate to continue your studies. This can break your focus and be very inconvenient.
- Set up your space in an area with good internet connection. A strong connection is critical for successfully attending zoom sessions and submitting online assignments.
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Assignments can be daunting at times; therefore, it is important to approach them with a strategy to avoid getting overwhelmed. Having a strategy to approach your assignments is even more important when learning online as you do not necessarily have an instructor lining up a work schedule for you.
Below are four steps you can take to help you prepare and complete assignments with minimal stress and maximum success. These tips can be embedded or nested within the planning stage of the process that independent learners follow when taking courses. Visit the module My Online Learning Journey of this course to know more about who independent learners are.
Step number one is to create an assignment plan. The plan is divided in four tasks
a) First, Understand the assignment: Read the assignment outline and ask any questions you may have after you first read it or received it. The last thing you want is to start working on it and realize that you are confused.
b) Then you will need to budget your time: This is especially important if you have other commitments such as work or other courses. Creating an assignment schedule can assist you in knowing when you need to get things done and when you can just relax or work on other things.
c) For larger assignments or projects you can create a project plan noting how long each step of the project or assignment would take to complete.
d) Finally, consider the deadline! In order to account for events out of your control (loss of internet, faulty printer etc) consider moving the deadline up by one day, just in case!
Procrastination is not your friend. The earlier you complete your assignment plan the more time you will have to work on the assignment, re-work any parts if needed, and ask questions along the way.
Step number two is selecting the space where you will work. Use the suggestions from the section on setting up our learning space to create a space that is inviting and has everything you need to complete your assignment.
In step number three you will start to work on your assignment. Here are three useful tips:
e) Tip number 1. Tackle the hardest portions first: You have the most energy when you first start, so use that energy and focus on the hardest portions of the assignments so that later when you are tired you can have a brain break by working on the easy portions of the assignments.
f) Tip number 2. Keep moving ahead: If you get stuck, try and work through it the best you can but do not dwell on it. It is better to ask your instructor or your peers for help than wasting time getting nowhere.
- There are two different types of thinking, focused and diffused thinking. Focused thinking is self-explanatory, it is when you are concentrating on a particular task and distractions do not exist. Diffused thinking on the other hand is when you let your mind wonder freely and let you brain connect the dots on its own. When you brain has a chance to relax it gives it the opportunity to make a creative break through. So, consider switching to a diffused way of thinking if you get stuck.
g) Tip number three. Take breaks: Unless you are on a roll, try to take a 15-minute break every hour. This will keep your mind fresh and focused throughout your study time.
The final step, step number four is to get help when you need it
h) UCalgary Continuing Education has many support resources that you can utilize to make your learning experience as stress free as possible.
i) Always keep in mind that is better to get help than try to figure things out on your own and fall behind. So, reach out to your instructor, peers, and any other people from your support network.
How to manage daily course tasks
To keep yourself organized and on track it is also important to create daily checklists to ensure that you prioritize and use your time efficiently.
For each task you should ask yourself these questions:
- When is the due date?
- How much time will it take?
- Is this task a priority?
Here is a step-by-step system you can follow to organize your daily tasks:
- Find the format that works best for you. This could be a paper planner or a planning app on your phone, tablet, or computer.
- Divide your work into smaller tasks. Creating smaller manageable and achievable tasks will not only help you get the task completed but it will help you feel less overwhelmed and more accomplished.
- Assign these tasks to specific days and work blocks.
- Prioritize each task. Complete the high priority tasks first and then work your way down to lower priority tasks.
- Once the day is over, assign any leftover tasks to other work blocks/days.
- Reward yourself for a job well done! This will help you be motivated to stick to your schedule.
An abundance of assignments or tasks can lead to becoming overwhelmed and stressed. A healthy amount of pressure is healthy for being motivated but once it becomes too much it can hinder an individual's productivity.
This is normal for many students, and we want you to know that you are not alone! Throughout this course we want to give you the tools you need to tackle online learning and do the best you can possibly do. The tips and steps above are meant to help with these feelings of stress as well as making assignments less stressful so that you can gain as much as possible from your learning experience.