Succeed in Distance Learning Programs

Get Online and Learn with These 10 Tips

distance learning student

Distance learning programs give you the freedom to progress on your own terms, but you alone are responsible for jump-starting your education.

Effective time management is the most important skill you’ll need in order to succeed in an online degree program.

Here are 10 tips to help you remain focused and on track:

1. Carve out a workspace for yourself that is conducive to learning

Find a specific workspace at home, or someplace public like a favorite coffee shop, to work on your computer. Make sure your workspace is quiet and distraction-free, and use it only for studying. Lying on your bed with your laptop might be comfortable, but your body recognizes it as a place to sleep, and therefore you’re likely to nod off.

2. Analyze your time-wasting tendencies

Do you sit down to do work, but end up reading the news or playing online games instead? Once you’ve pinpointed the source of your procrastination, you’ll be able to rein it in. Schedule only ten minutes of web surfing for every half hour of work. This will turn your nasty procrastination habit into a positive reward system.

3. Study at the same time every day

If you’re a morning person, get up an hour early, stretch and chip away at your assignments with a pot of coffee before work. If you’re a night owl, plan for an hour of study time before bed with a cup of tea. Whatever your preference, you’ll see results if you embrace the structure of a normalized study time and stick with it.

4. Use online tools for better time management

There are many online tools that will help you get organized and stay on task. Setting up an online calendar for yourself is a simple way of keeping track of assignments, tests and other deadlines for all of your online classes.

If your organizational needs are a bit more complex than a simple online calendar can handle, create an online to-do list at This cool site allows users to quickly and easily organize work into hierarchies, add subprojects, set due dates and see what assignments are overdue. It’s perfect if you’ve got loads of work to juggle and thrive on making lists.

5. Discover time management motivators

Work doesn’t have to be its own reward. While it’s important to focus on specific study goals, it’s equally valuable to reward yourself for meeting important deadlines. This positive reinforcement will motivate you to meet future goals.

  • Treat yourself to a study-free night out with friends after completing a big test, or relax with a massage after finishing your finals.
  • Create a balance between work, play and exercise. If your life is whittled down to toiling at your day job and studying for an online degree by night, you’ll burn out quickly. Instead, slip in a study session after a quick workout, when your body is relaxed and your mind is clear. You’ll also feel more upbeat and focused on your work if you’re getting enough leisure time with friends and family.
  • Keep study sessions short and sweet—90 minutes per session, tops. Then take a break. Procrastination is more common if your study sessions are monstrous—say, a three-hour cram session every three days. It’s more efficient and manageable to break that study session down into smaller daily study periods.

6. Prioritize work after procrastinating

If you do fall into the procrastination trap, don’t hyperventilate—prioritize. Work with your deadlines in mind but also try to study your most difficult subjects first, when your brain is fresh and you’re more alert. If you arrange your workload from the most challenging to least difficult, you won’t get frustrated as easily. Getting the hard stuff out of the way will leave your mind knowing the easy stuff is coming.

7. Schedule study time around your professors’ online office hours

By simply scheduling your study time when you know your professor will be available, you can email them questions that may come up as you work. This way, if you get stuck on a difficult concept or problem, help is only a click or phone call away.

8. Create a study plan that works for you and stick with it

If you find your schedule growing monotonous after awhile, don’t be afraid to mix things up by studying in a new location, or even taking your homework to the gym.

9. Ask a friend or family member to volunteer as the “learning police”

Give them the power to prod you about your homework, investigate whether or not you’re meeting deadlines, and be a nosy—and noisy—reminder that you’ve got an education to earn.

10. Find an online study-buddy in your program

Not only will this make group projects easier, but also you’ll be able to exchange emails about assignments, compare notes, answer each other’s questions, and provide encouragement and support to each other as you take swift strides towards earning your degree.