A Student's Guide to Online Education, Part 4
Staying Focused (Separation, Adaptation & Motivation)
Staying focused starts with keeping different responsibilities separated, confined to their specific locations and times. This keeps distractions to a minimum and helps prevent feeling overwhelmed by too many obligations at once. Separating obligations makes it easier for students to adapt when problems arise, instead of being deterred by them. A student’s ability to adapt is carried by their motivation for an activity, which sets the goal and justifies the energy needed for its accomplishment.
A Study Space
Most online students do their studying at home. A place once reserved for time spent in relaxation. Staying focused and good time management is dependent on keeping different spaces separated. For this reason, every online student should develop a personalized study space within their home that is used solely for academic work.
These spaces work best as an entire room that is isolated from outside noise and other distractions. Kitchen tables may make for a convenient work station, but tend to be located in a high traffic area surrounded by frequented cabinets and cooking. Guest bedrooms, or sectioned off portions in an attic or basement are better solutions for a secluded space.
The most peaceful study rooms are absent of road-facing windows. It’s best to avoid road traffic noise, which can be a difficult task to accomplish in today’s busy neighborhoods. However, even the slightest distracting noise can have a major impact when it comes to pushing through with homework discussions and test taking.
Study spaces should be inviting, personalized and non-threatening environments that students are comfortable spending large amounts of time in. They should be decorated in a style that coordinates with a student’s study habits. For example, easily stressed students may want to consider a color scheme made of calming blues and vibrant greens, whereas, warm yellows and reds are best suited for laid back students who may need some extra stimulation in their studies.
Think clutter-free, but comfortable. Schoolwork and essential supplies should be kept organized and made easily accessible. Making it less likely students will skip lessons due to games of hide and seek with course materials. However, pillows and maybe even fluffy chairs can be scattered around to make the experience and the long hours more comfortable for studying.
Technology provides what can be an intimidating education that uses a cold medium, which is vacant of physical human interaction. It also provides the tools necessary in battling the challenges of an online education, such as a scattered schedule and isolated learning conditions.
Online education is often chosen by students for its allowance of a more flexible and personalized schedule. However, this relaxed scheduling can make it harder for students to check in everyday for syllabus updates and emails. IPhones and Androids, which keep the internet at a student’s fingertips, are the perfect solution, making it easy to both check in and stay organized while maintaining a hectic lifestyle.
Online technology also holds the key to good note taking and organization habits. Note taking software, such as Evernote and OneNote, allows students to optimize the role of their notes as study tools. Great to use when reading online textbooks, this software allows students to take, share and organize their notes.
After taking notes, there are several online discussion groups and note sharing websites that can be used in combination to verify, understand and find information. Note sharing websites, such as Web Note and Jot Cloud, place a student’s notes under public scrutiny, serving as the perfect way to verify information as well as fully understand it. For any questions that arise, Yahoo and Google Groups offer thousands of discussion boards that cover everything from classic literature to computer science.
There are also several online resources that are beneficial to studying and completing assignments. These are websites that help students create bibliographies and flashcards. Automatically formatting citations, EasyBib.com is a popular source for constructing bibliographies for different types of papers. Helping students memorize terms and definitions, Flash Card Exchange and Flash Card Maker are online flash card makers that allow information to be created, shared and studied.
Motivation is different for every student. Some are grade oriented, while others seek an instructor’s approval. Online education with its physical barriers makes a student’s motivation more difficult to maintain. There are no approving head nods or other immediate rewards for a student’s efforts. Students must find their satisfaction and their motivation from within themselves.
Successful online students have a strong sense of intrinsic motivation, which is a desire to complete tasks solely for the pleasure of seeing them completed. This is because virtual learning is self-paced. It requires more self imposed discipline, direction and confidence.
Intrinsic motivation is developed by keeping one’s coursework connected to its larger meaning, purpose and function in future goals. It’s easily maintained by reaching and celebrating little victories with each assignment along the way. With each assignment, students learn something new. Individual assignments can be applied to self worth and used to evaluate how each one works to develop students in a specific way and grow as a person.
Keeping a list of what each assignment requires is a great way to stay organized and visualize small victories. The ability to cross off each component as it’s completed is rewarding and keeps the end goal of the assignment in perspective.
Setting unrealistic expectations that promise failure is the easiest way to murder intrinsic motivation. Goals should be realistic and support a visually positive outcome. Students should never plan on researching and writing a 1,500 word paper in a single night. Chances are they will never even start it due to a hopeless perspective. Overworking is also a major threat to intrinsic motivation. It’s important that students remember to reward themselves for completing assignments and reaching personal goals.
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