As naturally curious creatures, human beings are compelled to continue learning throughout their lives. You may not be consciously aware of it, but chances are the idea of learning new things and broadening your horizons is one that really appeals to you. Nevertheless, with balancing an active modern life representing a serious challenge in its own right, the prospect of returning to any kind of meaningful education has long been lost on the average adult.
That was of course, until the Internet came alone turned the whole subject on its head.
Slowly but surely, distance learning is becoming less of an unusual concept and more of an everyday norm for millions. These days, the fact that all you need in order to study any subject imaginable is a computer with an Internet connection has opened up a world of academia to a new off-campus generation. From fulltime degrees to purely vocational studies and right through to free-of-charge courses open to anyone, it’s never been easier to dive headfirst into high quality education.
That being said, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that home study is an entirely different process and experience than traditional classroom study. Even if you were the most fantastic student during your college days with more discipline than a dozen of your counterparts, this doesn’t mean you won’t find home study challenging. Your personal priorities get in the way, you find yourself slightly behind schedule, you panic that you are falling behind and before you know it, you’re in a mess.
But it doesn’t have to be like this, as by following a few simple rules along the way, success in almost any home study venture becomes much easier to attain.
So whether you’re considering enrolling in the near future or are already knee-deep and in an intensive home study course, here’s a quick rundown of the 12 simple secrets to successful home study courses:
First of all, just because you technically can fit your studies into random hours in and around your normal routine doesn’t necessarily mean you should. When it comes to distance learning courses, not to mention education in general, the creation of a workable schedule should be considered mandatory. This means knowing exactly when you should be studying, which elements of the subject you should be studying at the time and when your studies can be put to one side. Without a schedule, you will constantly find yourself thinking you should be studying when you aren’t, along with finding any excuse possible to reschedule study sessions when the mood takes you.
We all have very different habits when it comes to successful study – the key lying in finding out which system works best for you. Do you find it easier to read the required text three-times over before getting started with the assignment, or simply dive in and do the reading as you go along? Is it better for you to split your weekly study sessions into a handful of three-hour blocks, or do you prefer to work 30-minute sessions on a more regular basis? There’s definitely some trial and error involved when it comes to working out your system, but whatever it is that works for you is the system you should be following.
Just as some simply cannot focus unless they study in unbroken silence, others find it impossible to study without background music. Likewise, some get a lot more out of their study sessions if they take them outdoors to a park or another public place, while total seclusion at home works for others. Working out the ideal environment for you personally means considering what it is that assists with your focus and concentration. This more often than not means minimising distractions, but what it is that constitutes a distraction differs significantly from one person to the next.
That being said, one universal distraction that really should be taken out of the equation during study sessions is that of your Smartphone. Mobile devices are generally banned from most learning environments for a reason – they do nothing but distract. You may be studying from home, but this doesn’t mean you can’t treat each session with the same kind of discipline as the real deal, which means checking your Smartphone at the door or at least turning it off.
Successful completion of the course may be your ultimate goal, but it’s also good idea to establish smaller goals and targets along the way. And it doesn’t necessarily have to represent a goal with regard to academic achievement, either. For example, you may choose to reward yourself the first time you manage a full month of study sessions without deferring from your schedule. Or if you had assignments to complete, perhaps set a goal of completing them a couple of weeks ahead of time, in order to give yourself a little well-deserved freedom. It’s always good to have regular and measurable goals to strive for, whatever it is you are studying.
Try to remember that when any home study course states a recommended number of study hours, this generally represents the bare minimum recommendation. Or in other words, just because your course suggests 280 hours of study time doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit enormously by investing 340 hours of your time. It’s often difficult to become an overachiever when working entirely under your own steam, but it can certainly work in your favour to do so.
While it may occasionally feel as though you are somewhat isolated and alone in what you are doing, this really isn’t the case at all. Whatever it is you choose to study at home, you will find an enormous online community of others doing exactly the same as you. Getting involved in such communities can not only be incredibly motivating, but is also a great way of bouncing ideas and insights off one another.
One of the most important rules of all when it comes to home study is that of remaining meticulously organised at all times. It’s a little too easy to fall into a false sense of security when working entirely from a home computer. That is, until something disastrous happens and you lose all the work you completed prior to its malfunction. Staying organised as a distance learner means not only organising your work, your files, your reading materials and so on appropriately, but creating backups of absolutely everything of any importance whatsoever.
While it’s not to say you’ll necessarily need the most astonishing supercomputer in existence, you cannot expect to perform to your maximum potential if you are held back by hardware. Persistence and patience are all well and good, but if you only have access to a computer that is constantly freezing, crashing, disconnecting you from the Internet and generally misbehaving, this can and will have a marked impact on your studies. This should of course be considered before going ahead in the first place, though it’s hardly a secret that computer hardware can throw a tantrum at almost any time.
More often than not, a high quality home study course will include as standard every required course material for successful completion. Nevertheless, even in instances where reference material is provided, it is still important to get into the habit of carrying out further external research independently. Just because you have all the answers in front of you doesn’t mean there’s nothing to gain by going beyond the basics.
Starting home study courses for the first time can be an intimidating prospect. As perhaps the first time you have ever taken full control of your own education, it’s natural to feel somewhat overwhelmed. Not only this, but if the subject you have decided to study is one you are not familiar with, you may feel as if you are completely over your head and do not understand a word of it. Nevertheless, patience and perseverance will always pay off and will be called upon throughout the course of your studies.
Last but not least, the very best home study courses available these days often come with comprehensive tutor support as standard. Which essentially means that there is an experienced professional available (usually via email) for any questions or concerns you may have. It’s one thing to persevere, but it’s something else entirely to allow yourself to be held back due to confusion, uncertainty or a general lack of understanding. Where tutor support is offered, it is offered for a reason and represents part of the package you have paid for. Ask as many questions as necessary as frequently as necessary – whatever it takes to nurture your understanding and resulting success.