10 Study Tips For Online Courses (Improve Your eLearning)

Aria Miller
Published by Aria Miller
Last Updated On: December 8, 2021

One question you might be asking yourself is ‘how to study a online course syllabus’? This is one of the questions we’ll be answering in this guide to online learning. While online courses are very convenient, they can be challenging for some online learners.

As a teacher, I am here to give you some tips to help make studying easier, which will help keep you focused and motivated.

10 Study Tips When Taking an Online Course

A woman on her workspace

Below are 10 study tips that have been curated specifically for online classes, and directly relate to the learning process that is needed to succeed in online college classes.

1. Understand the Expectations

It might be disappointing to hear, but online courses aren’t easier than a traditional classroom setting. You find that the same subject, both in a traditional and online setting, has the same expectations. People simply find that they can study online more conveniently.

To succeed in any of your online classes, you need to do the following consistently:

  • Dedicate Time
  • Show Up Weekly
  • Concentrate
  • Commit to the Program

You will have to do the same amount of work as a traditional class, so understand that your professors will have those same high expectations. You will be required to work with others on projects, complete assignments on time, and be self-disciplined to get it all done.

An online learner must stay focused in spite of any distractions that appear in their at-home study space.

2. Get a Handle on Technology

A person using her gadgets

Technology is not perfect, and you will most likely run into glitches along the way as you pursue an online degree or certification.

To avoid losing a paper because of a computer crash, remember to repeatedly back up your documents.

Most of your study materials are going to be completely online, so get accustomed to navigating the course and the notes online.

Some online course material can be tricky to access. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you run into any technology issues.

“Technology is technology. It is not good or bad. Technology is a tool.” -- Alfonso Cuaron, film director 

Before the class even begins, check to make sure that you have reliable internet access as everything you do will require decent internet.

3. Create a Study Space

To have academic success in an online class, you need to create a dedicated study space. This is where you will keep any papers, pencils, notes that you might need for online learning.

This space can be your home office, a living room, or even a library. When looking for that perfect study spot, think about the following criteria:

  • Is it quiet?
  • Is it organized?
  • Are there any distractions here?
  • What is the availability of the space?

Once you’ve created this space, only do your studying and learning here. This will trigger your brain into ‘work mode.’ Have writing utensils at the ready in this space because handwritten notes increase retention rates.

4. Set up SMART Goals

A woman taking notes and having goals

To stay on track, you will need to create goals that help you get to your final destination.

These goals can be related to a specific online course or targeted to the entire program. Whatever you have in your mind, make sure that they are  SMART [1]:

  • Specific -- Be clear and specific as you set your goal, so they are easier to achieve.
  • Measurable -- Measurable goals can be tracked, giving you the opportunity to track your progress.
  • Attainable -- Is this goal something you can do with your own skill set? Your goals need to be within your control.
  • Reliable -- Reliable goals are the ones that you can realistically achieve without overwhelm and stress.
  • Time-Based -- Adding a date to your goal helps you stay focused and motivated because you have an end in mind.

5. Build a Study Plan

Having a study plan is critical for success with online classes. Many programs have a set end date without any dates for turning in assignments. It is up to you to get all the work done before the end of the course, which is why you should know how many hours you should dedicate daily to an online course.

Begin by planning ahead. Don’t start the day before an assignment or pile up work on one day as this will cause you to stress out and lead to you not being an effective online student. 

Time management is crucial here, so get a planner and write in any vacations, appointments, or other events that will affect your study schedule.

Create your own schedule and make it work for you. A morning person might do their studying in the morning on your weekly schedule, while a night owl would do their studying after dinner. Make your plan work for you.

6. Partner Up

A virtual study partner through a meeting

Don’t think you have to go through your online classes alone. While you may be independently going through the course, you can always reach out for help to your professor or other classmates.

Trying to go alone without asking for help can lead to you falling behind, which will lower your self-esteem. Start every course by reaching out to your professor.

We recommend that when doing online learning that you contact your professor regularly.

They are there to help you succeed, utilize them.

Online discussions are also a great place to find others who are going through the same classes and might like to team up. Get a partner and work together to hold each other accountable. One study found that study groups are one of the most effective study methods  [2].

7. Review, Review, Review

One of the most important online learning practices is to continually review.

Make time to go back and look over what you’ve already studied, as this will improve your memory and help you better understand the course material.

You can study for class by creating flashcards with key terms on them or using an online quiz generator to practice different concepts. This is also a great time to reach out to your study partner to go over the course material together.

Your classmates might also have great tips, study notes, or habits that could benefit you as you review your class and study materials.

8. Take Breaks

A woman relaxing in her table

While taking a break doesn’t seem like much of a tip, it is one of the tips for online learning because it recognizes that everyone needs down time.

If you are trying to overextend yourself, your performance will decrease, and you’ll become frustrated.

By adding in personal time, you will begin to find yourself working more effectively and reaching your SMART goals with less stress.

We recommend that this break be taken away from your dedicated study space with a set time for length.

“Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.” -- Russell Eric Dobda, writer

Many online learners found that going on short walks outdoors for their breaks helped renew their energy and get them back into the right mindset as they returned to watching lectures.

9. Take Advantage of Opportunities

Unlike an in-person class, you won’t attend classes on a regular basis as many online courses are self-paced with online lectures. That means you will have to make an effort to interact with others on your e-learning course.

You can connect with other virtual college students through a social media account or discussion forums. Some schools even encourage virtual study group programs that get students together for a study session. However, you will have to make an effort to get involved with this valuable resource.

It is important to pay attention to how you are responding to online comments as you want to be respectful and write with clear sentences.

Just like group discussions in an actual class, you can find cool opportunities to engage with other adult learners through your school’s program.

10. Stay Motivated

A motivated woman doing her presentation

Staying motivated is one of the most important online study tips mentioned because this is what gets you to the finish line.

You need to fully commit yourself to completing assignments and taking online classes seriously.

Here are some tips on how to motivate yourself to keep up with online courses:

  • Create a to-do list to help yourself stay on track
  • Decorate your study space with the reasons why you are pursuing a college degree
  • Eat healthy snacks
  • Reward yourself for following the course schedule

Studying for the same course day in and day out can be tiring, but finding ways to stay motivated will help make taking online courses easier.

Why Is It So Hard to Focus on Online Courses?

A person resting her head on her hand

Focusing can be hard, especially when you study online. You constantly have internet access to social media accounts and other sites that lead you to do other things besides studying. Problems with focusing stem from the following five things  [3]:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Multi-Tasking
  • Boredom
  • Lack of Challenge

Another factor that affects your focus is the environment. Placing your review materials in the kitchen might be distracting if you have pets or kids running around.

That is why taking these tips seriously and implementing them will help you focus better on your e-learning course.

There are a variety of free resources online that help minimize distractions like blocking certain websites which could help you stay focused when working towards your degree programs.

How to Commit to an Online Course?

Commitment is important for achieving success, especially when you study online. The best way to do this is to focus on something bigger than yourself.

Why are you contacting your online instructors? Why are you taking notes?

The answer: you have a goal and a dream. These dreams will help you overcome online distractions and commit to finishing your classes.

Follow the above tips, and you’ll find that studying online, turning in homework assignments, and taking practice tests are all completely doable. You don’t have to be in a physical lecture hall to do well in school.

Good luck as you pursue your online studies.


  1. https://positivepsychology.com/goal-setting-psychology/
  2. https://source.wustl.edu/2006/07/discovering-why-study-groups-are-more-effective/
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/202005/focus-is-hard-come-these-days-heres-why

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