There are many advantages to earning your exercise science degree online. Remote learning gives you the flexibility to fit your studies around your existing commitments – a must for anyone who has a family or wants to achieve their degree at the same time they build their career.
Online learning also means you can study at your own pace and at the times that suit your natural productivity patterns best. It can be a manageable way to gain new qualifications that will help you in your future career.
However, there can also be challenges to learning effectively online, especially when you are already busy with your other commitments. Being aware of these challenges and making a plan to overcome them will help you study for your online degree with much greater success.
Fortunately, there are some simple adjustments you can make to your study habits that will make online learning much easier. We’ve compiled 10 tips to help our students get the most from their online degree programs.
1. Have a Dedicated Study Space
One of the biggest challenges of studying at home is separating your learning time from the rest of your life. If you have a family, this can be especially difficult to achieve.
Having a dedicated space for online learning can help you to make the transition from home life to study time easier. Ideally, this would be a separate room, but if space is an issue, you can also set up a desk in the corner of another room.
The most important thing is to make sure this is an area where you can close the door and have some uninterrupted time to concentrate.
You’ll find it easier to be productive if your study space is well planned. Make sure you have a comfortable and supportive chair, a good internet connection, and all the IT you need to access your course materials.
If you can, leave this space set up all the time so that you can start studying as soon as you sit down, and try not to use the area for anything else. This helps you concentrate on the task at hand and not all the other items on your to-do list.
2. Plan Your Schedule
If you are balancing online learning with family or work commitments, it can be hard to carve out the time you need to focus on your studies. It is easy to assume you’ll find the time, but when you are tired at the end of a long day, feeling motivated to study can be a challenge.
Studying remotely means you can pick your own schedule, but it also means you are the only person who can make sure that the work actually gets done. To make sure you achieve your goals and don’t miss deadlines, plan your schedule in advance.
It helps to write down what you need to do each week and then map out what time you have available to achieve it. You can use an online calendar or a paper organizer to help you identify when you can set a block of time aside for study.
If you can, having regular times each week that are dedicated to online learning can help you get into a good routine. You’ll also need to allow some flexibility to accommodate deadlines for assignments, as well as the needs of your work or family.
Try not to overschedule yourself either. Build time into your plan for relaxation or fun to avoid burnout. Give yourself a little more time to achieve tasks than you think you’ll need, so you don’t feel under pressure. We don’t learn well when we’re stressed.
3. Communicate with Family Members/Friends
Juggling the competing pressures of study, work, family commitments, and a social life can be tough, but it becomes much easier if you communicate clearly with the people around you. This is especially vital if you live with other people or share caring responsibilities.
Talk to the people you live with about the time you need each week to achieve your online learning goals. Make sure they know when you’ll be available and when you need to be undisturbed so that you can concentrate.
Ask for their help too in keeping you focused and motivated. If they know your workload and deadlines, they’ll be less likely to tempt you away from your studies with requests for a trip out or a Netflix marathon.
If you have children, establish some boundaries with them. If the door to the room you study in is closed, it means you aren’t available. Younger children will need to know which adult they can go to instead.
Don’t forget to carve out some time that is free for spending with your loved ones too. They’ll be able to respect your study time better if they know when you’ll be around.
4. Understand Your Productivity Patterns
A major advantage of studying for a degree online is that you can pick your own work pattern. If you’re a night owl, there’s no need to force yourself to early-morning classes. And if you are most productive early in the morning, you can power through some study hours before the rest of the world has had their first cup of coffee.
We all have times of day when we’re most productive and others when we struggle to focus. Instead of fighting those natural patterns, bring a sense of curiosity to your day and notice when you find it easiest to get your head down and learn.
Of course, if you have other commitments, you might not always be able to save your study time for when you are most productive. However, understanding your preferred work patterns means you can allocate tasks more easily.
Save the assignments that you find hardest to focus on for the times when you feel alert and motivated. Tasks that are easy or especially interesting can be done during your lower attention hours – you’ll find it easier to motivate yourself to do something you want to do than something that feels like a chore.
5. Get Rid of Distractions
Studying at home means there’s plenty to distract you from your work. Even if you’ve successfully set up your workspace, organized your schedule, and established boundaries with family members, you still need to reduce other distractions so that you can focus on your learning.
Our phones are one of the biggest distractions of modern life. It can be hugely tempting to pick it up and check your messages or have a quick scroll through social media. Plus, the constant ping of notifications can easily pull your attention away from your task.
Reduce that temptation by turning your phone off while you study. If you need to keep it on (if you have caring responsibilities, for example), try leaving it in a drawer or in another room, so it is out of sight. Turn off any unnecessary notifications too, so you’ll only get interrupted if someone genuinely needs you.
The same goes for your computer. Mute notifications and log out of email and messaging services so that you can focus on your work.
6. Take Breaks
Human beings aren’t designed to focus on a single task for hours on end. Although you should try to reduce distractions while you’re working, you’ll also find it easier to take in what you’re learning if you give yourself frequent breaks.
Split your time into chunks of an hour to 90 minutes. You might need to experiment to find what works best for you. At the end of each chunk, step away from your study area for 15-20 minutes to refresh your body and mind.
You may also find you can focus better if you vary the tasks you do during each of your study sessions. For example, instead of watching back-to-back video lectures, try watching just one, then doing some reading, then a written assignment.
Keeping the tasks varied helps you to maintain interest and concentration, making your study time more productive.
7. Take Active Notes
Taking notes is a skill that you’ll need to master to get the most from your online degree. It helps to solidify your learning, providing a summary of a video lecture or reading assignment that you can come back to later.
Taking notes also helps you actively engage with what you’re learning. It forces you to pay attention and helps you remember the information later.
Note-taking can be active or passive. When you copy something down verbatim, it is considered passive notetaking. But when you summarize information in your own words, add your own thoughts and questions, and make connections between different topics, you are taking active notes.
Doing it this way means you are engaging fully with the information, so you’re more likely to understand and remember it.
You can also experiment with different forms of notetaking. While some people learn best by writing linear blocks of text, you might find you prefer making bullet points, mind maps, charts, or even drawings.
Some methods of note-taking work better for video lectures and others for reading or revision, so you don’t need to lock yourself into a particular style.
8. Connect with Peers
Remote learning can feel isolating but choosing to your degree online shouldn’t mean you miss out on interaction with peers.
Most universities offer remote students opportunities to connect with their fellow students via online portals and forums. At Concordia University Chicago, for example, we intentionally keep class sizes small so that it is easier for our students to get to know their peers, even though they aren’t physically in the same space.
It takes a little more intention to connect with people online than to socialize in person. Make a point of reaching out to your fellow students to share ideas and experiences. Speaking to other people in the same circumstances can support you on your online learning journey.
9. Connect with Your Professors
Just as it is important to connect with your peers, it is also vital to remember that your professors are there for you when you enroll in an online degree program. You may not spend time with them in person, but they are a fantastic resource, and you should make the most of their knowledge and expertise to support your learning.
Even when your studies are asynchronous (meaning you access pre-recorded resources instead of live online lectures), they are delivered by real-life people who are invested in your success.
Reach out to your professors and don’t be shy to ask questions. This is especially important if you are struggling with any aspect of your degree studies. Asking for help early can help you overcome issues and succeed in reaching your learning goals.
10. Look After Your Health
If you’re considering studying kinesiology or exercise science online, we assume you’re already interested in health. However, even students with a passion for keeping healthy can find it hard to maintain good practices while studying.
Any form of learning can be stressful at times. This is especially the case if you are balancing your studies with other commitments. Taking care of your physical and mental health is vital to help you manage that stress and get the most from your online degree.
Make time to get outside, move your body, get to bed at a reasonable time, and eat healthy and nutritious meals. You’ll find it easier to focus on your studies if your physical needs are taken care of well.
Don’t neglect fun and social connection either. Spending chunks of time alone to study can leave you feeling isolated, so it’s important to allow yourself time to relax, pursue hobbies, and connect with family and friends.
Choosing an Online Degree
If you are still looking for an online degree program, it helps to choose a university that specializes in online learning. At Concordia University St. Paul, our PhD and EdD in Kinesiology programs are 100% online, so we have plenty of experience in helping students get the most from their remote studies.